I met Mary Beth Martin, now Mary Beth Buchanan, in 1985 shortly after moving to Tallahassee. While we didn’t necessarily always run in the same circles, we did have two things in common. We were in the same grade at Lincoln High School, and I am sure we probably had a class or two together over those three years, and both our fathers were coaches at Florida State. Her dad, Mike, was entering his sixth season as FSU’s baseball coach and my father, Wally, was entering his first season as FSU’s linebacker coach.
Being the son or daughter of a college coach is an unique way to grow up and still makes for an interesting experience even as an adult. In my case, I lived or died with every snap my father’s football teams took from the early 1970’s until his retirement in 2017. Mary Beth has lived and died and will do so for hopefully the next two weeks, with every pitch her father’s teams have made from the early 70’s through the Baton Rouge Super Regional against LSU. And she still has a couple of more games to sweat out in what has been a magical and improbable postseason run for her father’s last FSU baseball team. Daughters tend to be their father’s biggest fans no matter what profession their dad works in but especially when it comes to the coaching profession. Mary Beth is no different.
She was kind enough to take a few minutes after arriving in Omaha to talk with The Osceola about her father’s last season and what her experience has been like watching all of this unfold.
Mary Beth doesn’t remember the exact number of times she has been to Omaha out of her father’s 17 trips to the College World Series but she started her trip to Omaha with a jog down memory lane.
“I am jogging over the bridge right now going from Omaha going into Iowa,” began Mary Beth. “My brother (FSU assistant baseball coach Mike Martin Jr.) played pro ball for either the Mariners or Padres in Clinton, Iowa, so we used to go see Michael when he was playing in Iowa and FSU was playing in the World Series.”
While she feels like she is prepared for the emotional roller coaster that will be her College World Series experience she didn’t arrive in Omaha prepared from a clothing standpoint. It is a little chilly in Nebraska compared to Tallahassee, and she is warming up to her last trip to the CWS as a coach’s daughter.
“The temperature was 49 degrees this morning,” Mary Beth said. “I can run all day in this weather, but I brought nothing but sleeveless tops and shorts. I didn’t bring anything warm to wear, not even a jacket. When my daughter Lexi and I got off the team plane it was 60 degrees with a 40-mph hour wind and we were both freezing. But by game time on Saturday it will be around 90 degrees so I think I will just wait it out,” said Mary Beth when asked about Day 1 in Omaha and if a trip to the mall was in order.
She says the 2019 baseball season has been a time of reflection and excitement for her.
“In the beginning I was really concerned about the whole dynamic of retirement,” said Mary Beth. “The last 45 years of my life have been centered around baseball games and that fills up half of my year with travel and going to as many games as I can. It just doesn’t seem right that we aren’t going to be doing that all the time.”
Of course, there is one caveat that may allow for Mary Beth, her mom and her dad to continue the annual spring and summer ritual.
“If Michael (Mike Jr.) gets the job we will continue that tradition,” said Mary Beth.
While she knows her life will change with her father’s retirement, she can’t help but wonder what it will be like next year for her dad when he watches the Seminoles from the stands.
“I can only imagine how my dad is going to feel next year sitting up in the stands watching FSU baseball and not being able to call a play, said Mary Beth. “I can see him trying to give signs and yelling out to the players to do what he taught them to do. I know it’s his time and there has to be an ending, but for it to be a storybook ending like this is just amazing, really incredible.”
The improbable postseason run has caused her to pinch herself a time or two to make sure what was happening was real.
“I woke up the morning after the Baton Rouge Super Regional against LSU, I had to wake up, focus and ask myself if that really had just happened, did we really just win because it was so unexpected,” said Mary Beth of FSU’s advancement into the CWS.
An appearance in the CWS is always the goal for every college baseball coach and certainly was for Coach Martin and his team entering the season but there was something else that was on Mary Beth’s mind heading into the Baton Rouge Regional. Reaching the 40-win mark.
“There was a time when it didn’t look like Dad would get to 40 wins. He made 40 wins when they beat LSU in the first game. I started crying and got all choked up and so did my mom (Carol Martin), and neither of us are criers. We were just so proud that he had made it 40 wins, so that was big. I didn’t want him to retire just one victory short, with 39 wins, so when he reached that milestone, that was huge much less going to Omaha. That was just icing on the cake. It just been a whirlwind,” said Mary Beth of the family’s Super Regional experience.
It may be more appropriate to compare the Martin’s experience the last six weeks to a traveling circus simply because there was no guarantee, and there still isn’t, as to when her father will coach his last game.
“We went from the regular-season series finale in Louisville and flew straight to Raleigh for the ACC tournament. We then came home for a few days and then to Athens and then back home to work for a couple of days and then off to Baton Rouge and of course now we are in Omaha,” said Mary Beth. “It’s just been a crazy life the last six weeks, but it has been a wonderful experience.”
“Almost every game has had the potential to be the last one. Even my mom has said a couple of times that this could be the last time your dad puts on his uniform and now it has been extended because of the way we are playing,” said Mary Beth.
She also said that while there has been some high anxiety her father and her brother remain stoic if not calm.
“My daughter Lexi is probably the calmest, but Dad and Michael have it together. My mom is the nervous Nellie of the group. She is the one who always brings up the what-ifs. She is the one the does all the worrying,” said Mary Beth.
She believes she knows the reason why her younger brother seems so composed despite what must be churning inside.
“He doesn’t show emotion, except when an umpire calls a pitchout a strike. Now that will get him fired up. He is the least emotional, but I think that is because he has so much confidence in this team. He recruited this team and he knows what they are all about and what they are capable of and I think that is why he is the most composed of all of us,” said Mary Beth of her focused younger brother.
The only other time Mary Beth can remember being emotional other than after her father’s 40th win this season was after the 1999 slugfest against Stanford in that year’s CWS series semifinal, which FSU won 14-11 to advance to play Miami (who would go on to claim the NCAA crown with a hard fought 6-5 win over the Seminoles). The game against the Cardinal just happens to be her favorite memory of Omaha up until this trip.
“My favorite memory from previous CWS trips is when we played Stanford. We played them in an extra inning game (13 innings) and they would come to bat and hit a home run and then we would come to bat and hit a home run and that just kept repeating itself. It was an emotional roller coaster and we ended up pulling out the win. But I don’t remember being at a game that was as emotional as that one. It was unbelievable. I remember I cried after that game, I sobbed,” finished Mary Beth.
They say there is no crying in baseball and apparently that’s mostly true for the Martin baseball family but there is likely to be an exception to this rule for the first family of FSU baseball this time around. No matter what the outcome, there will be tears, but no matter the outcome, they should be tears of joy. It has been a remarkable run for Coach Martin and his family is enjoying the ride all the way to the last pitch with him.