Mike Martin is flirting with something many coaches don't want to have associated with their name: one of the best without a ring. However, even looking into the start of his 34th season as FSU's baseball head coach, the man widely known simply by his uniform number is still not worried about his critics and the chase of a National Championship.
"The only urgency that I have is for these young men to experience Omaha," said Martin. "If we get to Omaha, I'm very, very satisfied. I know how tough it is to get there. I know how tough it is to win the National Championship. I will never allow myself to even think of putting winning the National Championship above the goal of watching our young mens' faces after the final game of the Super Regional when they have accomplished that final goal."
Martin has been the main man in the FSU dugout for 1,723 of the school's 2,623 in the 66 years the program has existed. #11 sits third all-time among NCAA Division I coaches for wins and second among all active DI coaches in win percentage at .743. The humble 1966 Florida State graduate has been a part of the program for 41 years as a player, assistant coach, and head coach, being involved in 2,705 of the program's 3,598 games played.
Still, no matter how mindboggling the numbers may be, Martin never lets the lure of the ring get in his way of building a national contending program year in and year out.
With the assistance of the returners and some new faces filling major holes, the Seminoles will try once again for their quest to finish in Omaha.
"It is immeasurable because of the leadership [the seniors] give to our team," Martin said. "Leadership in the way of showing the younger players that getting a degree is extremely important. Coming back for their senior year of showing how to play the game the 'Seminole way' and what's expected of me as a Seminole baseball player; to respect the game and to play the game as hard as I possibly can."
When talking about the younger players on the team, Martin felt confident, but still unsure of what to expect.
"I'd like to have nine guys that I'm familiar with," said Martin. "I don't know what to expect out of Brett Knief, and Marcus Davis, and DJ Stewart, or John Sansone. Dang that's a lot of people! But I don't know how they're going to react. I was comfortable last year with the infield because they had been with us for a year. It's something that you just have to play by ear on a yearly basis. It's going to be a little challenging you might say. There are some guys that I feel confident with, but yet it's a confidence because I feel like I know what they are going to do, but I really don't."
Martin understands the difficulty of winning it all. After going to the College World Series 15 times and making it to 33 consecutive NCAA regionals, Martin knows the game has changed and made it harder to win it all.
"No doubt [the game has changed]," said Martin. "You won't see the team that won the National Championship last year; possibly, you won't see them in the College World Series. You may not see three teams that were in the College World Series back. The parity in college baseball is probably 50 percent better than it was twenty years ago and probably 65-75 percent better than it was when I started coaching."
Even after coaching 84 All-Americans, seven of which were National Player of the Year award winners, when all is said and done, Martin chooses not to reflect on his accomplishments on the field, rather the ones made off the field.
"I think to see guys come in here as boys and leave as men [is more important than a championship]. Seeing guys come in here and learn that the most important phase of their college experience is not baseball, it's their education," Martin concluded. "They're gonna live with their education for the rest of their life. They are not going to live on baseball for the rest of their life."