The focus of so much attention is on Mike Martin, his last season and how it will end in Omaha.
All of it is appropriate for a head coach of 40 years, all of them at Florida State, and all of them ending with 40 or more wins.
But Martin will do everything he can to deflect attention, to praise the players and the assistant coaches.
“It was a year of ups and downs, but I did learn a lot this year, that it is amazing how far our program can go when I stay out of it,” Martin said. “And I did a good job of that, guys. These young men battled when things were not going well, and I really think the key to the season was when the guys that had been out here (at the CWS) in ’17 had a little meeting and kind of explained to the guys that – well, we’re in San Quentin. We’re in jail. If we don’t turn this thing around, we’re not even going to get to a regional. And their experience permeated our young men.”
Martin has been the center of attention at the College World Series, where questions to other coaches were softballs over the middle: Could they coach until they were 75? Could they accumulate 40-win seasons? For the record, Auburn’s Butch Thompson said: “My brain really can’t wrap around it in a world that I feel like that we live in, for that model of consistency.”
FSU indeed has achieved a level of consistency unseen in college baseball. Even when in March, April and even May it didn’t look like the Seminoles could hit 40 wins in 2019 – let alone make the NCAA Tournament. The Seminoles survived the roller coaster with cast-iron stomachs and then delivered a gut punch to Georgia and LSU. And, yes, recorded win No. 40 in Game 1 of the Super Regionals to give the program 40 wins for 42 straight seasons.
Now, perhaps fittingly, FSU will try and find success against another SEC team, Arkansas, in the CWS opener on Saturday at 7 p.m. (ESPN). While FSU has struggled against Florida in midweek contests for years, dropping 11 straight games to the Gators, the Seminoles dominated Georgia and outlasted LSU.
Martin, who was named the national coach of the year by Perfect Game, has made sure to give credit to the players – he thinks star third baseman Drew Mendoza called the midseason players’ only meeting. He also noted the work done by assistant coaches Mike Martin Jr., Clyde Keller and Tyler Holt – all of whom are former Seminoles who played in at least one CWS – for helping turn things around.
“I can’t say enough about our coaching staff,” Martin said. “They really just jumped right in on all of this with the players, and it turned out to be that we got it done in the end, and it makes all of us proud to be here.”
Martin has frequently mentioned that this team went through growing pains with a roster that is about 50-50 veterans and newcomers. But after the grind of the regular season and the maturity of the postseason, the Seminoles’ freshmen have experienced plenty.
Will they be wide-eyed when the lights are on the biggest college baseball stage on Saturday? Martin doesn’t think so.
“I think the big thing is there are no freshmen on our team now,” Martin said. “They’ve played, gosh, 60 ballgames, so no excuses in that area. I think the preparation is done, as I mentioned, with what has transpired with our team, the way they came together. But you just – you just don’t know what’s going to happen. You just want to go out there and be prepared on a daily basis, and I think that’s what our guys need to understand when we play. Just be prepared, understand the nuances of the other team and be prepared for it.”