Mike Martin Jr. met with the media as fall baseball practice began late last week. He spoke about a variety of subjects from rosters rules and scheduling to his excitement about the influx of freshmen pitchers.
“Talent-wise I think this recruiting classes a little bit better than people think, especially because of the arms,” Martin Jr. said. “Some of these arms, they made jumps, took advantage of the time off and really got their bodies in great shape, arms in great shape. They’re going to be pushing the older guys, I can promise you that.”
Among the freshmen pitchers who enrolled at FSU are right-hander Carson Montgomery, the No. 34 overall prospect — the highest-rated player to enroll in Tallahassee.
Here are some highlights of what Martin Jr. said:
On the importance of fall baseball
The Seminoles only played 17 games in the spring, including a road win over No. 1 Florida. But there were months where players were limited to working out on their own. FSU will practice throughout October, with the team playing more scrimmages than normal this fall.
“It’s critical,” Martin Jr. said. “You combine the fact that a lot of them haven’t done anything in a long time to get their bodies back in shape and their arms back in shape. But you do a ton of teaching and get a foundation out of what we’re expecting out of them during the fall period. Wish we could play practice games, exhibition games, or whatever they want to call them, in the fall. But I get it, that they’re trying to keep everybody away from each other.”
There are two fall Garnet and Gold games tentatively scheduled for Nov. 4-5.
The NCAA’s roster rules are complex and as of right now unsettled. Every player who was in college in the spring received an extra year of eligibility. College baseball rosters have swelled, too. But the NCAA is standing by the 11.7-scholarship limit, although seniors do not count toward that total. FSU will have three seniors back for the 2021 season in right-hander Chase Haney, left-hander Clayton Kwiatkowski and infielder Nico Baldor.
“I know that there’s discussion that this is going to have to be a two-year relief to let this stuff clear out,” Martin Jr. said. “We still don’t know about next year’s draft, how many rounds we’re going to have. We’re at 48 (players) right now. And believe it or not, that’s on the low end, of everybody that I’ve spoken with. It’s a backlog of players. That’s going to create very good baseball, it creates a lot of good competition within our team. But we really do need a couple years.”
Scheduling in spring 2021
There’s uncertainty about roster size. And there’s also questions about what a schedule would look like, if FSU can even play non-conference games in the spring.
“We don’t know how it’s going to look,” Martin Jr. said. “We’ve had discussions with other coaches about what they’re hearing.”
FSU is somewhat isolated geographically but Martin Jr. was asked if games could be slated within the ACC based on proximity. And FSU could play games against nearby non-conference teams like Florida, Jacksonville, North Florida, Stetson, Mercer, Troy, Auburn and others.
“Yeah, you’ve got a chance of that, being able to play outside of the conference,” Martin Jr. said. “But we don’t have a vaccine. I think it’s going to be a conference only (schedule). Play four games (per weekend). Friday, two on Saturday, one on Sunday. There’s your 56 games right there.” Under that scenario, Martin Jr. is suggesting 14 weeks of college baseball with only games on Friday-Sunday, including a pair of seven-inning doubleheaders on Saturdays.
Martin Jr. thinks it’s critical to play a number of games along the lines of 56, compared to 30 or 40. He fears pro scouts will use that to an advantage down the road, encouraging prospects to go pro and be developed in the minor leagues and have the chance to play nearly every day.
The health of college baseball
Four schools have eliminated baseball programs due to budget cuts related to the pandemic: Boise State, Chicago State, Furman and La Salle. Bowling Green also cut baseball before a fundraising push prompted a reversal. It’s worth reminding that no Power 5 programs have been cut or that any are in immediate jeopardy, but the financial health of college baseball is a concern for coaches.
“It is worrisome,” Martin Jr. said. “I think the text chat we’ve got gone with a bunch of coaches, everybody’s starting to feel a little bit better. Playing football really helps. As long as we can keep them on the field, money coming in, I think we can make it all work. Sure, we’re having to work a little bit harder, trying to raise money.”