Be Sure to Watch Part 1 Here
Patience and Plywood
The steering wheel is ragged, the ageing cover hangs tattered, loose strands swinging as the wheel is turned and the truck bounces down the road. The diesel engine pugs away, pulling the truck forward, inching past 572,800 miles as Alex Martinez tells his story. Explaining how it was that he was able to become a paintball patron.
The world only knows names like Michelangelo and Mozart, because someone believed in their talent enough to pour money into the products of their minds, to produce something the world would remember.
Paintball is no different.
Behind every team is patron who allows them to attempt to create a paintball story people will remember. Even if it’s just them, sitting around decades from now, over beers and hazy memories. It may be a owner of paintball company, a field, or parents who just love the game and understand what it can bring into peoples lives, how it enriches their character.
Alex Martinez is a Mexican American man, mid forties, 46 to be exact, with calm demeanor, salt and pepper hair. He is the oldest pro player in the PSP and it’s amazing he’s still able to play at this level.
We’re following him around on a typical day of work. One that involves miles and miles of driving around the city of San Antonio, endless phone calls as he checks the progress on multiple sites, manages multiple crews, secures new business. As we drive a light rain falls, speckling the windshield. There are Texas flags flying in every direction you look.
This part of Texas is a sea of sagebrush and semi arid dessert, ribboned with rivers that make the landscape a livable green where they flow. The adventurous folks who settled this area, expanded their towns from the riverbeds, little fertile nooks and crannies of a harsh landscape. Only recently, in the past 50 years, have people moved here en mass and spread over the land, it took the advent of air conditioning to make this part of our world comfortable.
Men like Alex Martinez are how these cities got built. Before the housing crash, his company was framing 600 houses a year. Now they average around 250-300.
This empire began during an amazing three-year stretch in which Alex was working 80 to 85 hour a week. He alternated between framing houses and working at Sony. Then he got an opportunity to change his life. A connection needed a house framed, 4000 square feet in twelve days. His construction boss at the time passed on the job because his other crews were already busy. But Alex felt he could get the job done, so he called up his friends and family, put some people to work, took vacation from his other job, and busted his ass from sunrise to sunset, to get the house finished. It was the beginning of what would become his life’s work. After that job, he started his own framing business, knowing if he put all that time and effort into something that was his, he couldn’t fail.
He leads us around the suburbs of San Antonio, to the locations he has built homes. As he talks about his craft, it makes you think how the world was physically created from the power of the human mind to solve puzzles and build. Everything you look at in a city, from the placement of the trees to look of a garage, to the power lines threading their way overhead, the unseen sewer system underneath, everything was jigsawed together by thought and action.
He takes us to a house on a display row where builders showcase their products, and he leads us through the construction site. Workers stomp around us on stilts, towering above, finishing the walls, shooting us curious looks, probably hoping we’d get out of their way.
The house his company just finished up framing is massive; the master bedroom has a shoe closet bigger than most people’s kitchens. Another closet has an elevator.
“How do you get the wood to do that, to get it to look like it’s sculpted,” I ask, admiring the detail work surrounding a bathroom ceiling. Alex smiles and says, “Patience and plywood.”
Throughout the day, he has been liberal with his hard learned life lessons. He dispenses them in a deliberate way, but they don’t come out as proclamations, more like random thoughts given to you by an older brother or awesome uncle. Someone who cares enough about you and your life to share real, honest, bare bones experiences and the lessons learned from them.
“You know, I always tell the guys, when they’re having trouble, life’s not going the way they want, focus on the work, whatever is you do. If you focus on the work, it will get your mind off the girl, or whatever, just focus on the work and everything else becomes much clearer. Once you’re focused, where you need to go and what you need to do to get there, becomes obvious.”
His paintball adventure started, innocently enough, at a birthday party for his oldest son Shawn. He set the deal up for the kids and they played a private game. At some point during the day, the guy running the field told him he could play too. He was a little tentative to get out there and shoot the kids, but it didn’t really take too much prodding. It was addictive. Then they had another party, Alex didn’t even know you could just go to a field and play but at this point, he was hooked. It was all paintball after that.
But that was long ago, and now the story is moved forward by motives much deeper than a heavy dose of fun.
Alex stands in what will someday soon be someone’s living room, surrounded by wood beams arching into a grey, cloud filled sky, taking about the current situation confronting his team. Alex did not want X-Factor to go out on a low note, so they’ve had a different training tact for 2012. If the team didn’t give it their all, it was over.
“If you’ve been here from day one, then you have a spot, but the only way to keep that spot is through work, through practice” Alex lays out the mandate he gave his team at the end of 2011, in the aftermath of another season of tame performance. “If you miss a mandatory, then we’re going to have a problem.”
When Alex tells his paintball story, he mentions his kids, and their place in the story, often. His oldest, Shawn, bowed out a few year ago, wanting to focus on college and other interests. Alex kept going, and now wants to play at least one point with his youngest, Ryan, 14. But he understands that is years away and he doesn’t know if he can play that long. He’s been plagued by back injuries.
Many times, there is a second life, another chapter for pro paintball teams. Once you first achieve the goals you set out to conquer, where do you go? It takes awhile, sometimes, to get clarity on this, to stand away from yourself and look at things objectively.
Paintball teams are a brotherhood in a very real sense. Most people shirk at the bro love that’s brought up when this is being discussed, unless they’re a part of it, as grown men talk about their teammates and gush about how amazing they are. You might be feeling it right now, but it’s the whole motive behind the hundreds of paintball teams around the world.
That’s why it’s such a hard hook to let go, such a tough thing to leave behind. You get to travel and fight and focus your energy on something for a common cause. You have to deal with other people and see them succeed, see them fail. You fail and succeed together, celebrating your wins and drowning you sorrows, as you travel to different towns, seeing the world. These are all hard, tangible, lesson brought to you by the grind.
As much as people talk about paintball and real life as if they are separate things, when you choose to give in the lure and commit to a team and the time, paintball IS regular life. It’s part of your day to day, talking to guys on the team, scheduling practice. It invades your thoughts and, the lessons learned along the way coloring your personality forever.
“We’ve got to do a lot over the years, travel to different places around the world, see and do things some people never get to experience. They’re all doing well, most have college degrees and jobs.” Alex says, talking about the crew that makes up X-Factor.
So as much as Alex talks about how he does all this for his kids, and I’m positive that’s still a huge part of it, along the way it also morphed into his ability to help his crew through life, to see them succeed not just on the field, but off it as well. These guys who have fought along side him for all these years have, in a very real sense, become part of his family.
Because although X-Factor would never have existed without Alex Martinez and his work ethic, they never would have won tournaments without the crew he assembled, a crew who calls themselves the Best Kids in Texas.
Come back next week as we find out how well the boys from X-Factor did at the Chicago Open, and read part 3 of their story.
Make sure you watch them in action on the free, live webcast, June 22nd-24th right here on PaintballAccess.com