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Inside Pitch Magazine, Spring 2013

Inside Interview: Florida State's Mike Martin

By Lee Gordon
John Savage and the 2013 National Champion UCLA BriunsFlorida State's Mike Martin is now in his 34th season as the Seminoles' head coach with a career that has covered five presidents and over 1,700 wins. Martin's 33 consecutive regional tournament appearances and 15 trips to the College World Series appearances may never be duplicated. "11," as he is known by most in baseball, was inducted into the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2007. He will go down as one of the most successful coaches in college baseball history – but would love to leave Omaha with a National Championship, a trophy that has eluded Martin in his career.

Inside Pitch: Do you still get the same excitement today that you did when you first broke in to coaching?

Mike Martin: I get a huge enjoyment out of watching guys have success and with this team that we have, it's certainly a challenge because we know we have so many young guys that are experiencing something for the first time in their life; the attention and that affects players. As a coach you have to be sure that the young men know how to handle the attention and success but more than that, the failure. I get a charge out of watching them get better.

Inside Pitch: Many of your players have gone on to have success in the big leagues (Buster Posey, Deion Sanders, J.D. and Stephen Drew). Do you get the same level of satisfaction watching their success as you do guys who don't play pro ball but are successful in life?

MM: I can't tell you what enjoyment that is. You have guys you really doubt and it happened just awhile back. You doubted whether they would amount to anything. They got out of school and made themselves a successful businessman. That gives you as much as enjoyment because maybe you said something that triggered him to align himself with the right people and become a great citizen and American.

When you have a guy like Buster Posey, you know that no matter what he goes into he's going to be a success.  He's smart, articulate and in control of his emotions-so you really feel that no matter what you say or do with a Buster Posey, he's going to be a success in life. So maybe you point him in the right direction which we did. We didn't do anything but put him in the right place. We didn't have anything to do with him winning the MVP or the NL batting title, we tried to make a suggestion and have him make the decision. That's the way we look at it.

Inside Pitch: You've been to Omaha 15 times but have yet to win a College World Series title. Is that the missing piece to your career?

MM: I’ll be very honest with you; 20 years ago I was obsessed with winning it. Now I know how tough it is. To see the expression on our guys faces when they get to Omaha, when they experience the fact that they are going to Omaha, that’s what I get out of it. As honest as I can answer, that doesn’t hide the fact that yeah, I want to be a part of a National Championship team. I’m not going to look at that as an unsuccessful career. I’m going to judge it from the enjoyment from watching guys become great people. Gosh it’s so hard, every year you are dealing with possible injuries and luck. You have to be lucky. I could go back and tell you stories of people winning and how they did it and laugh.

IP: Many young players (and their parents) think they will be professional baseball players; how do you teach them about success and failure at an early age?

MM: What we try to get across to the guys in dealing with failure is that you never want to take the easy way out when things are not going right. For example, don’t make excuses. There is always a reason that you can rationalize when things aren’t going your way. You have to be mentally tough and fight through it and be ready to go the next day. We have to get that across to our guys that if they are not working, the guy across town in going to be working. They better work because if they don’t they will get passed by.

IP: Has your coaching style changed in the past 34 years?

MM: I haven’t changed that much in the teaching aspect of the game. You have players that are hungry and want to better themselves. The bats have changed, and we may not think that a guy can hit the ball out like they did 20 years ago.

IP: When you took over the program in 1980, did you think you would still be the head coach at FSU in 2013?

MM: I never envisioned that I would be a head coach. I thought Woody (Woodward) would stay for 10 to 15 years and if something good happened I would have a chance to go somewhere else, but after four years he decided to leave. The only time I really thought about leaving is when I didn’t get the job in 1979 and then Dick Howser called
me and said I know how you feel, I finished 2nd before but I want you to stay and get them ready. I stayed and worked with him for a very valuable year and the next October he became the manager of the New York Yankees.

There was one other time which was 2001 after the season Vince Dooley called me and wanted me to come to interview at Georgia and I knew if I went up there he would offer me the job and the money would be close to twice what I was making here and twice for my assistants. But I did not go up there. God had other plans because we ended up building a new stadium and having a situation that could attract great talent as a result of these facilities. It was the best decision to make – it was my love for this University and Tallahassee, Florida. This is home. I’ve been here two-thirds of my life. This is where I live. This is home.

IP: Who would you pay money to go see?

MM: Buster Posey, James Ramsey and any Seminole that I’ve coached play in the big leagues.

IP: Who was your favorite team as a kid?

MM: Brooklyn Dodgers. I’m a big time Dodger fan. I cried when I read The Boys of Summer. I literally cried.

IP: In your 34 years, what was the one or two plays that stick out that you will never forget?

MM: The Marshall McDougall [six home runs in one game] miracle in 1999. There were a lot of funny things about that day. I took some guys out in the fifth inning and he hit his fourth home run in the sixth. I was going to take him out but I said, I can’t, I don’t have anybody but a pitcher to replace him. I had taken everybody out that I could take out and couldn’t take McDougall out. He already had five home runs and for him to hit for the seventh time – so much had to happen. Our pitcher had to get on, an outfielder had to drop a ball. All that happened and then he hit his sixth of the game. That has to be the most phenomenal feat I will ever see on a baseball field.

Inside Pitch Magazine is published six times per year by the American Baseball Coaches Association, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt association founded in 1945. Copyright American Baseball Coaches Association. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any way without prior written permission. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained herein, it is impossible to make such a guarantee. The opinions expressed herein are those of the writers.
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