Mike Martin’s coaching career ended Wednesday night when Florida State fell to Texas Tech, 4-1, in the College World Series. Here’s what the college baseball legend had to say after his final game with the Seminoles.
For a .pdf of the full Florida State press conference transcript, click here.
MIKE MARTIN: I think the main thing that I want everyone in this room to know is how proud I am to be a Seminole and be a part of a program that is so important to me, but yet to see these young men display the leadership that they did when things were not going right for us six, eight weeks ago, I’m just so pleased that they took the bull by the horns and brought us to Omaha. I don’t want what they accomplished to go unnoticed. For them to go out and play in a very tough ballpark in Athens and an even tougher ballpark in LSU — great fans, let’s get this clear. It’s just tough. Catcher can’t even hear you from, gosh, 20 feet away.
But what they accomplished is close to unbelievable, but yet they’re disappointed, as we all are, with the outcome. But what’s the outcome? We finished fifth or sixth in the College World Series? Our season ended in Omaha. There are a whole lot of folks that wish their season ended in Omaha.
I’m proud as everything of each and every one of our young men, but especially these two. Just know that I can fake a smile with the best of them, and I’ll get through this, the rest of this night, with a smile, because I got to watch young men grow up. I got to work for Florida State for 45 years. And I’ll never forget the times that I’ve had out here in Omaha. Yeah, I’ll go ahead and say it, 17 times. I ain’t going to say we never won one, because you know, just getting out here is just so much fun to be with people that are living in the heartland of America and creating something that every college baseball player aspires to, and that’s to get to Omaha.
Well, we got here. We got beat, but it does not take away from any of our enjoyment as a result of what the young men did in order to get here.
Q. Mike, you guys struggled offensively in these three games. Any ideas about what went wrong?
MIKE SALVATORE: I think that’s just baseball. We faced some good pitching, some good teams, and just some things didn’t go our way.
Q. Drew, obviously it’s a tough loss, the end of Coach Martin’s career. What did he say to you guys following the game, and just what’s your reaction now?
DREW MENDOZA: Really the same as it’s been for the last three years. Just how proud he is of us, how much this season has meant to him, how much we mean to him, and just how proud he is to be a part of our team and we feel the same way with him.
Q. Drew and Mike, what was it like to play for him? What was it like to play for 11? Was it what you thought it was going to be when you signed with Florida State?
MIKE SALVATORE: It’s obviously something that you’ll never — not many people get to say they were a part of his journey, and especially these last two years, how meaningful they were, and how much I learned as a baseball player and as a person will really stick with me for the rest of my life. So basically it was an honor to play in this uniform for him.
DREW MENDOZA: It’s been an honor. You know, coming here, there was a feeling that it could be the end of his career. 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. 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 him at the helm, it’s been everything I could have dreamed of.
Q. Coach, when it was all said and done, what was your interaction with “Meat”? What did you say to him, what did he say to you? It’s been 22 years with him on staff. What was that like in those last moments?
MIKE MARTIN: Carol raised a young man that doesn’t like to lose at all. He didn’t have a whole lot to say. He needs time to cool off. He’s the backbone of this club. He did an amazing job. He was obviously very disappointed because he wanted so much for me to get that elusive championship. Remember, he came out here twice as a player himself in the three years that he was at Florida State. He’s an intense competitor.
They talk about the 10-minute cooling-off periods. He needs two weeks to cool off. (Laughter).
Q. Where does this season rank in all of your 40 seasons?
MIKE MARTIN: Thank you so much for asking that because that is something that — the fact that it was the last season at Florida State, how can I find anything wrong? I saw guys grow up. I saw freshmen — we started four freshmen. That’s so invigorating to see a freshman have success in front of great fans. Many of our guys, shoot, we had more attend Fan Day than they played for the whole time they were in high school.
So it’s just a year that I’ll always remember because there was so much accomplished by this team, culminating with getting to Omaha.
Q. Obviously you’ve seen a lot of transformation in college baseball, but what do you think college baseball needs in order to take the next step as a sport? What do college baseball coaches need moving forward?
MIKE MARTIN: I’ve seen college baseball jump so much in the last five years. I think the competition on the D-I level is going to be one in which there’s going to be a lot of interest in fundraising to, so-called, keep up with the Joneses. I think there’s a lot of that going on, just like it is in other sports in our jobs.
I think baseball has improved drastically in five years. Look at the number of men that were throwing in the low to mid 90s, some higher than that. So you’re seeing a sport just really taking off. I don’t know if there’s anything that is so-called needed because you have so many outstanding coaches in our profession doing a great job, as evidenced by the ones that were here.
Q. You’ve had a lot of special moments with your fans over the last couple weeks, especially over the past season, but to come back out one more time and greet the crowd that was there waiting for you, what was that moment like for you, and how special was it to be able to share a moment like that one more time before walking off the field?
MIKE MARTIN: That was neat. A lot of those great Seminoles were not from Tallahassee, they were from all over the state and other states. We had a great turnout of Seminoles. And when they started calling for me, I wasn’t about to ignore that because — well, I owe that to them to go back out there because they acknowledged me, and I just am very proud that they are great supporters of our program as well as other programs at our university.
Q. Coach, you’ve left so many memories and such a positive impact on this game. Your legacy is going to go on forever. Everybody remembers you differently based on their interactions with you, but how do you specifically want to be remembered for your time in this game?
MIKE MARTIN: That’s one of — this is the only time it gets hard. I want to be remembered as a guy that did it right, that put education first, that made sure that guys understood what’s expected of them, that they’re coming to Florida State to get a degree first. We’re not a school that just wants baseball players. We’re a university that demands that you do what you’re supposed to do in the classroom, and that’s give it your best shot.
I want to be remembered as a guy that played the game hard but made others around him feel good when they whipped my fanny. And y’all never want to talk about L’s. I got some L’s. But that to me is — it’s what was so humbling to hear for the last couple of days from a few coaching staffs, because there’s a certain way that I think the game of — we’re dealing with college baseball players. This is not professional baseball. I don’t throw at hitters. That’s not college baseball. College baseball is one in which a student-athlete — and there’s no better description of a baseball player than a student-athlete. They have responsibilities. But their maybe responsibility is giving it their best shot in the classroom and on the field.
Q. Did this feel different, the 17th, because you knew it was your final one, and did you allow yourself to enjoy it? I know you’re competitive and you’re here to win a championship, but did you allow yourself to enjoy it while it was happening?
MIKE MARTIN: I wouldn’t give myself an A. (Laughter).
Inside I got a little sincere attitude. It’s life. When it’s over, I had a chance to gather my thoughts and realize what the team accomplished. That made it easier for me to talk to them, because our program is about the players.
We have a sign in our clubhouse, “It’s all about us,” and it is. That’s what we are. We’re family. From our administration to our soccer program, to every program that we have, we care about each other, and I’m so proud to be a part of that.
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Q. Just kind of to look back a little, what did you learn going up against guys like Ron Dedeaux and Ron Fraser and Augie Garrido and those guys that you butted heads with so many times?
MIKE MARTIN: I could tell you so many stories about everyone that you named. Fraz, let’s remember where Ron Fraser got his degree, ladies and gentlemen. It wasn’t any — the university is very close to the state — to the Georgia line, but it’s called Florida State.
We talked all the time. I flew back with him one year. He was a guy that I learned a lot from, doing it the right way.
Dedeaux, there’s not enough time for me to tell you what he’s done for me, what he did for me before we lost him a few years ago. There’s so many — don’t forget Augie Garrido. There’s so many people that I learned from, competed against all of them. I sincerely appreciate you mentioning that because we all learn something from someone. The key is sift through and use what you think is right.
Q. What will you miss the most about coaching?
MIKE MARTIN: Dang, that’s a good question. The teaching part. I mean, for the last at least 30 years, when the guys take ground balls, I’m in the outfield watching. It was as recent as six hours ago when I was right there and they were taking ground balls.
I believe that repetition is crucial to becoming the kind of program that you want. You cannot take things for granted. And I’m out there, and another very important part of our program is it’s got to be fun. That doesn’t mean “ha ha” when it’s time to bear down. It means that you still got to enjoy. You look forward to coming to practice, you look forward to playing a game, you look forward to certain situations and get out of an inning, because you worked so hard with the infielders, the pitchers. Clyde Keller did a great job with our pitchers this year.
So I think the big thing is keep things in perspective but never lose sight of the important little things. That’s the difference in winning and losing.
Q. Last night you took your family out to dinner. It’s the night before an elimination game, possibly your last game. What was that like, and was there any reflection going on there between you and your son?
MIKE MARTIN: Yeah, he ordered a dadgum calamari plate that cost me 50 bucks. I ate half of it, though, so anyway…
We had a great time. I had, of course, my girlfriend of 55 years — holy smoke, it will be 55 years next week. But my daughter was here, my granddaughter was here, and of course my son. So it was a great — my two grandsons and my granddaughter were there, also. It was a great family evening. We had a tremendous meal. It was a meaningful experience, one that I will always remember because one of those grandsons is not too bad, boys. You might see him out here one day. (Laughter).
Q. There’s no secret that all the coaches throughout this week have talked beyond admirably about you and your career. What sort of lessons do you hope they can take away from your career, your time here in Omaha, not just this time but all the other 16 times you’ve been here, and what sort of things do you hope they carry on from your coaching days and your legacy?
MIKE MARTIN: I just hope that they know how important it is to do things right, whether it’s dealing with a young man, getting across to them the importance of education. Some of the best phone calls I’ve ever received are from guys that — well, they had to run some steps, and boys, Doak Campbell Stadium is a tough chore to get up and down. But I’m getting cold chills just because I’ve had calls to say, “11, I can’t believe I’m making this call because I hated you so many times when I was going up those steps. But I got a job, I’m working in this area.” And then one of them said, “And I’m making 53 grand a year.” And that was years ago.
It’s phone calls like that that make me feel so good, that maybe, just maybe we did do that right, that that young man got the point. You come to school to get an education, and if you don’t do what you’re supposed to do, there are repercussions. I can’t even walk up those steps anymore, much less run up them.
Q. Building off how baseball has changed so much over the years, what is the biggest change that you’ve seen at Florida State over your career?
MIKE MARTIN: I would say the number of pitchers and the velocity that they have come up with in the last — I mean, five years ago if we had three guys that threw 90, holy smoke, we really thought we had this thing all figured out.
Now we have seven guys that can throw 90 or better, and they still have a lot of secondary pitches that they’ve got to perfect. But you’re seeing velocity take charge of the college game, but changing speeds is still the most important in my opinion. So that’s what I’m seeing.
I mean, the young man Floyd that came in and relieved for Texas Tech was throwing sidearm, and he was high 80s. It’s really getting challenging year in, year out. That and you have specialty people that can come in and face a couple of people. A stronger bullpen, you used to not have four or five guys that you could bring out there in the course of a game.
Let’s see, we used five pitchers tonight, and all of them had pretty good outings. J.C. was the only one that was not J.C.
Q. Have you had time to think about what you’d like to do next, maybe play some golf? Will you still be involved in baseball?
MIKE MARTIN: We have a great remaining summer lined up. We’re going to go on a Mediterranean cruise with a number of Seminole boosters. We have another — I guess you’d call it a boat ride. It was given to me. We have a trip to the Holy Land that we’re really looking forward to going to. We’re going to Greece. It’s just — it’s about a 12-day, if I’m not mistaken, experience that — 16? That’s a lot of golf I’m going to miss, woman. (Laughter).
Just kidding. It’ll be a lot of fun to be with Seminoles and make new friends and see parts of the world that I never dreamed I would get to see.
If there are — I just want to tell y’all, from Mike Orlando and Aaron and all the Tallahassee writers and writers from the state of Florida and the writers from out here in the great city of Omaha how much I appreciate the great job that you have done in promoting this great sport of college baseball. You people do an unbelievable job in keeping us informed. I just can’t say enough of appreciation for keeping baseball moving upward. We need you. We appreciate you. And I’m proud to say that, heck, we used to play a double-header 40 years ago and it got in the paper two or three days later.
So I just can’t tell you how much we appreciate the efforts that you people continue to make to keep baseball in people’s forefront, in their eyes.
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