Mike Martin Named 2019 College Baseball Coach Of The Year
On the field of Alex Box Stadium, where Florida State had just walked off Louisiana State to win the Baton Rouge Super Regional and advance to the College World Series, the Seminoles gathered around coach Mike Martin in a team huddle.
Martin, 75, was in his 40th and final season as head coach of his alma mater before retiring. He has won more games than anyone else ever in college athletics. He has coached a record three College Players of the Year and a No. 1 pick in the MLB draft (J.D. Drew) and the NFL draft (Jameis Winston). He has coached fathers and sons and his own son, Mike Martin Jr. He has won at least 40 games and made the NCAA Tournament in all 40 seasons as head coach, streaks that will never be matched.
But Martin has never lost his youthful energy. And so, with the Seminoles making one last trip to Omaha with him at the helm, Martin celebrated the way he always celebrates a College World Series berth. At the middle of the huddle, he screamed “We goin’ back!” pounding his hands on a ball bucket in front of him and joining the mosh pit his players started around him.
As Martin now heads into retirement, the sport is unlikely to ever see another coach like him. His consistency is unparalleled as is his winning. No college coach in any sport had ever won more than 2,000 games, a milestone he passed early this season. He finished his career with a record of 2,029-736-4, a record that will never be broken. He has taken 17 teams to the College World Series and never missed an NCAA Tournament.
For his strong coaching job this season and in recognition of an unparalleled career, Martin is the 2019 Baseball America Coach of the Year.
Florida State’s regionals streak was in some doubt at times this season as the Seminoles often played with three freshmen in their lineup and leaned heavily on underclassmen throughout the team. Florida State’s RPI in April approached 100, well outside the range required for an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament. But Martin and the Seminoles righted the ship in the second half and then embarked on an impressive postseason run. They swept through the Athens Regional, defeating No. 4 overall seed Georgia twice along the way, and then swept LSU, the No. 13 overall seed, in Baton Rouge to make it back to Omaha.
At the College World Series, Florida State began with a 1-0 victory against Arkansas, the No. 5 national seed, before losses to Michigan and Texas Tech ended its season and Martin’s career.
Third baseman Drew Mendoza, one of the Seminoles team captains said it was an honor to play for Martin.
“To have the success that we’ve had in the last three years, the ACC championships, two trips to Omaha, 40 wins every year, just to experience that with him and be a part of his legacy, it’s been a dream come true,” Mendoza said. “Just to be with him day in and day out and just know the kind of person he is and to grow as a man with hm at the helm, it’s been everything that I could have dreamed of.”
Martin previously won Coach of the Year in 2012 and is now the sixth man to win the Coach of the Year award twice, joining Skip Bertman, Augie Garrido, Dave Snow, Gene Stephenson and Ray Tanner.
Martin, as he has always done, said the credit for the Seminoles’ success this season belongs with the players and he enjoyed watching them grow as a team.
“It’s like you’re involved in a dream when you see young men do things you knew they were capable of,” Martin said. “Now, they’re not the least bit intimidated by any surroundings, they’re just enjoying playing this great game of baseball.”
2020 NCAA Top 25 Preview: No. 2 Louisville
If Louisville simply plays to its talent level and experience, it will have the inside track to get to Omaha.
Martin is quick to spread credit for the Seminoles’ success throughout the program. He believes the key to their long-term consistency goes well beyond the field. He credits his assistant coaches over the years, as well as the support from the university and fans. It all goes to create an atmosphere that has kept propelling FSU to success year after year.
“It truly is a family atmosphere,” he said. “If that sounds a little corny, it’s nothing more than the truth.”
Whatever the secret is, it has worked. This year, the season never spun out of control even while the Seminoles went through a midseason slump as their young players adjusted to the rigors of ACC play. They figured it out at just the right time and played their best baseball in June, the most important time of the college baseball season. It was enough to carry Florida State to the College World Series for the 17th time under Martin.
Martin’s place in college baseball history has long been secured, as has the respect of his peers. Louisville coach Dan McDonnell, the 2017 Coach of the Year, has coached against Martin in the ACC for the last five years. He said the first time he was a little starstruck by Martin the first time they were on an ACC coaches’ conference call together.
Now, McDonnell has come to appreciate how Martin treats other people and how big a part of his success that is.
“Over the five years, it's been a real joy just coaching against them because you know if you beat him, he's going to be so complimentary, and if he beats you, he's going to be so gracious and never to make you feel bad,” McDonnell said. “It's one of the neatest handshakes you can have after a game, win or lose.”
Martin won a lot more than he lost in his career and it is only fitting that his career ended in Omaha. The winningest coach of all-time leaves a legacy that is about a lot more than wins and losses, but through it all he was a competitor and the fight this year’s team displayed was vintage Martin and Florida State, a perfect end to his storied career.