Florida State athletic director David Coburn’s opening remarks were the first of a volley of candid statements and funny quips that surprised and entertained the crowds assembled to receive Mike Martin Jr as Florida State’s baseball coach.
Coburn’s candor comes as no surprise to those who know him.
“Most of my close friends, and certainly my wife, Mary – who is here – will tell you that going into this process in the fall I was a bit of a skeptic about (Mike Martin Jr),” Coburn said, with Martin sitting to his left. “So I spent a lot of time studying this team in the spring and I managed to spend the last three and a half weeks with this team in Athens and Baton Rouge and Omaha. I had an opportunity to observe him interacting with the players, and interacting with the boosters, the fans and interacting with the press. And I had the opportunity to observe his work ethic, his attention to detail and to be honest I came away very impressed.”
Coburn’s opening comment set the stage for FSU’s new head coach to promptly establish his own identity.
“I am Mike Martin Jr. I am not Mike Martin Sr.,” FSU’s new baseball coach said. “There will never be another Mike Martin Sr. Nobody will do it as long or as well as he did.”
The new head coach articulated a litany of changes he plans to make but not before he listed those core principles his father established.
“We are going to treat people the right way,” he said. “We are going to work hard. We are not going to berate guys. We want the whole person. We want them right mentally, physically, spiritually, socially and we will go to the ends of the earth to make sure they have every opportunity to be right.”
His voice was strong when he shared his vision and plans.
“But there will be things that will done differently,” he said emphatically, listing the following:
- Not taking as many pitches in strike zone
- Moving the team dugout back to the third-base line
- Taking names off the back of jerseys
- A faster, up-tempo brand of play
- More focus on mental health
He dropped the mike with this very un-Martin like statement.
“I don’t want another pitch taken on the inner third of the plate,” he said. “I don’t want another one taken, a fastball in the middle part of the plate, ever again in this program. Right, wrong or indifferent, I got to find out.”
The generational difference was no secret; this only aired it. A reporter doubled down with another question about it and Martin responded candidly and with humor.
“Well, he’s an offensive guy as well. But I’m an assistant. An assistant makes suggestions,” Martin said. “Look, I’m not going to roll the guy for crying out loud. I stayed in my lane but we had some doozies.”
In addition to answering the burning questions about his vision for the program, Martin demonstrated he does have skills behind the podium with the press and later at the booster reception.
Some of his better one-liners included:
On where his father will sit next year: “Hopefully, not within earshot. You know how he is. He can’t help it. I’m sure I’ll get some texts, phone calls. I just want him to go with Mom. It’s Mom’s turn.”
On a faster tempo: “We will play a faster brand; the tempo of the game,” he told the boosters. “And, yes, I will get to the mound a lot quicker than my dad. I promise you that.”
On hitting: “Sure, I got an awful lot of Martin in me but I also have some Dellinger,” a reference to his mother’s maiden name.
Looking at Coburn, Martin said, “By the way, the Dellingers are frugal.”
Amid laughter, Coburn replied, “I really appreciate that.”
“I thought you would,” Martin replied.
Pressers are usually like a Chinese buffet, a lot to consume but not very satisfying an hour later. Not this one. Martin touched a lot of bases that Coburn and the FSU fan base had expressed, what Martin termed, understandable skepticism.
He spoke with passion about his approach to recruiting. “In recruiting, I want to recruit faster. I want to recruit earlier. I will be out on the road. All of my staff will be out on the road,” he said. “The old saying act like a head coach and work like an assistant. That’s how it’s going to be.”
He also made it clear he wants to hire assistants who will widen his recruiting net and promised boosters he and his staff will be available while on the road.
Over the past 48 hours, Martin Jr. has been on the phone with signees and kids waiting to see who would become FSU’s next head coach before committing. But the most important of the commitments he received came from Chip Baker, FSU’s long-time Director of Baseball Operations, who former players will tell you is the glue at FSU.
Baker was contemplating retirement so count his commitment as an endorsement of FSU’s new head coach.
Those 150 boosters who attended the reception each received an unexpected door prize from the new head coach, his cell phone number and open door to participate in the development of the program.
“I want them to contact me if there is a great player seen or a potential baseball donor found,” he said.
He revealed more about himself when talking about the removal of names from jerseys.
“I want the guys to understand: you make (opponents) know who you are. Make them know what your last name is,” he said. “I want this team, my team, to take on my personality. I was told I was only on this team because of my dad. I caught my first game in Division I at 150 pounds. I want my team to play with a little edge. We will obviously bring enthusiasm but a little edge.”
There has been question about why Martin stayed on as an assistant for 22 years. Why didn’t he leave to take a head coaching job where he could establish his own identity and where he could implement his own ideas.
“I interviewed and I’ve been told a lot, ‘Hey, you are our guy. Sorry, we can’t hire you. We are not going to be a stepping stone job. A trustee or whomever else rejected it,’ ” he said. “I’ve had it happen quite a few times. I wasn’t afraid to leave. Then I got divorced and I ain’t leaving my boys.”
For years, he and everyone else thought this might be the year 11 retires but he kept winning.
He also revealed why his father was so successful and one of the many things they saw eye to eye on.
“Kids don’t care about what you know until they know you care,” he said. “That was something he was really, really, good at. His players would run through a wall for him. He got them to play hard.
“He was incredibly driven. You knew what you were going to get every single day: a consistent personality.”
We also learned about the derivation of his nickname “Meat.”
“That’s all I’ve been called since I was four years old,” he said. “I’ve always been skinny, needed meat on my bones. In the back yard with my old man was throwing to me, he’d use that derogatory term, ‘You can’t hit me, Meat.’ You combine the two and that’s all people have ever called me. I signed my papers “Meat” in elementary and high school.”
Mike Martin Jr. was establishing himself; the shadow of his father conspicuously absent from the press room.
That, Coburn said, was by 11’s design: “He wanted his son to have his day.”
Meat said his parents would skip the press conference but meet him at the reception. “Mom said she’d just cry and be a distraction and 11 said (pause) I guess I can call him Dad now. Dad said, ‘I’ve heard you talk enough over the years. I don’t need to be there.’ ”
So, the media asked, should we still call you “Meat”?
“Oh, yeah,” he said. “I won’t turn around unless you do.”