“Maybe Mike Martin should retire and play golf.”
This is a familiar refrain among Florida State baseball fans. But this narrative and its implications should wait.
Florida State Seminoles baseball Head Coach Mike Martin gave 52 years of his life to the ’Noles baseball program as a player, an assistant, and as a wildly successful head coach. 11, as he is affectionately referred to by fans, players, and media alike, is truly an icon of FSU sports history. 11 belongs among Bowden, Ward, Dunn and others enshrined in FSU sports lore.
Martin will be remembered for his charming dugout interviews, his 38 years of 40+ win seasons, and leading 16 ’Noles baseball teams to the College World Series. 11 coached such illustrious names as J.D. Drew, Buster Posey, and Shane Robinson, among others.
Winning 1,943 games as a college baseball manager affords due respect; Mike Martin Field is featured at Dick Howser Stadium. While Martin and the baseball program remain literally and figuratively in the shadow of Bobby Bowden and Doak Campbell Stadium, Martin has left an indelible imprint on Tallahassee and Florida State sports.
Martin will also be remembered for that which he did not accomplish. One would be remiss, especially in the wake of another appearance in Omaha, not to note that Martin has not summited the Everest of his sport.
Mike Martin never won the College World Series.
Martin met frustration in the College World Series finals twice: against Arizona and Jerry Kindall in 1986, and vs. Miami and Jim Morris in 1999.
Frustration is an apt word to describe the letdowns and false hope in modern FSU baseball postseason play. From the glimmer in James Ramsay’s eye to the shimmer in Scott Sitz’s mustache, FSU’s 2012 CWS appearance with an extraordinarily fun squad never reached the light at the mountaintop. The calamitous loss of grip this past Saturday of a lead and 3 errors forced the Noles into submitting to Jared Poche twice in five days.
I still weep a single tear each time I see Kyle Schwarber don a Cubs uniform. To this day, I believe the 2013 FSU team was built for the then-new TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha. Martin and the ’Noles simply ran into the power-hitting buzz saw of Indiana at the wrong time and wrong park.
Through frustration and misfortune, missed opportunities through bad coaching and bad luck, Martin has been Florida State baseball. For better or for worse, Martin and the ’Noles have been the bridesmaids of NCAA Baseball. And while it’s great to be in the wedding party, it’d also be nice to get a ring.
So maybe 11 should just hang up the cleats and play golf.
Just 9 Holes Shy
Mike Martin is 32 wins from surpassing the NCAA baseball all-time wins record held by legendary coach Augie Garrido. 11 shouldn’t stop and hit the links until he eclipses Garrido.
Martin and Garrido both coached in an era with significantly more games; a college baseball power in the 1980s could have played more than 80 games in exceptional seasons. No coach is likely to break these records, barring significant and improbable rules changes.
The stage for Martin’s magnum opus was set with the 2016 retirement of Garrido: win the College World Series, or surpass Garrido’s all time wins record. The close of the 2017 CWS at the hands of LSU seems to have ruled out the former.
11 can, and likely will, eclipse Garrido and have his name etched into the history books as the winningest college baseball coach of all time.
Then, and only then, should FSU be ready to let Martin’s legacy pass on from the field named for him to the record books of the NCAA.
Unlike Johnny Miller’s 63 at the US Open, Martin’s record will stand the test of time. And Erin Hills. Or Golden Eagle, for that matter.
The close of the 2018 FSU baseball season will probably usher in two major changes in college baseball:
- The retirement of Mike Martin
- Mike Martin surpassing Augie Garrido as the winningest college baseball coach of all time
This will also bring about another major change: FSU seeing off the greatest baseball coach in its history.
No one knows with clarity what direction FSU baseball should go. No one knows the next coach of the program, though Mike Martin Jr. seems to be the projected choice. No one knows whether FSU will continue winning over 40 games, or if the next coach will usher in an era of 40+ losses per year.
The one known (well, almost): if Martin finishes one more year as the coach of FSU baseball, he will be the winningest coach of all time. 11 deserves that final season to solidify his legend and only then ride on a golf cart into the sunset.
And with the right coaching, legendary coach Mike Martin can take the next step of his career in the most dignified way possible: reaching an 11 handicap.