Miguel Luis Martinez, a UC Berkeley freshman and former track and field student-athlete, died March 10 of a pulmonary embolism. He was 19.
While he was a large man at 6 feet 3 inches and more than 200 pounds, Martinez was a soft-spoken and kind individual, friends said, with an outgoing personality and passion for helping others.
Martinez, who was born in New Jersey, relocated to the West Coast when he was six months old and moved around California several times before settling down in Sacramento. Martinez attended Jesuit High School, where he participated in football as well as track and field.
“He was someone I looked up to academically and physically,” said his high school friend Tom Sherry. “He was always bettering himself and being the kind of person that was always humble and willing to be there for you no matter what the circumstance was.”
Martinez was proud of his Latino heritage and was dedicated to bettering the [email protected] community. He spent much of his time in high school involved in La Raza, as well as several other social justice campaigns.
At UC Berkeley, Martinez hoped to pursue a doctoral degree and give back to his community. His charity work in high school expanded beyond his hometown and reached as far as Central America.
“He was a true man for others. A person who embodied a spirit of working hard, playing hard and praying hard,” said his father Cid Martinez in a Facebook message. “He spent time feeding the homeless in Sacramento and Los Angeles, built a baseball field for orphaned children in Nicaragua and worked with youth.”
The Society of Jesus, which does missionary work, was a big influence in Martinez’s charity work.
“He was extremely generous with his time in the community and always found a way to help a person out, no matter what the situation was,” said friend Christian Burnham. “Truly a beautiful example of what it meant to live a pious life of Christ.”
Martinez joined the Cal track and field team last fall as a nonscholarship tryout after a successful track and field career at Jesuit High School, where he was the fifth all-time leader in the shot put at his school. Shortly after the school year started, however, Martinez told director of track and field Tony Sandoval that he wanted to focus on his academics and left the team.
While he was only on the team for a short time, his impact was felt by his teammates.
“Miguel was a quiet kid on and off the field, but his heart was what spoke the loudest,” said Cal javelin thrower Scott Chiesa. “He always had this little smile on his face no matter what the situation was.”
Martinez is survived by his father Cid, mother Hilda Martinez and sister Gabriela Martinez. His funeral mass will be held Friday at 10 a.m. at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Sanger, California.