After 40 years and 2,000 wins Florida State baseball coach Mike Martin came within a couple of games of a perfect career, a perfect destiny. His parting words give us all a vision of our own destiny.
I don’t know about you. I don’t know how many of you are watching the NCAA College World Series.
But because of my own bias and proclivities I’ve watched all but a couple of innings this week, and in particular, the Florida State Seminoles. Understand, I’ve never been much of an FSU fan, in general, but where baseball’s concerned I’ve grown to admire the record and the career of retiring coach Mike Martin.
They’ve always been good, and short of actually winning a national championship the Seminoles, and Martin, have helped create the standard for college baseball excellence. He’s been there forty years, he’s won at least 40 games in each of those years, and overall owns 2,028 career wins…the winningest coach in NCAA history – all sports. But win or lose this year, this is Mike Martin’s final year as head coach. He’s stepping down to be replaced by his son, and assistant, Mike Martin, Jr.
Martin has never won a CWS, although he’s been there seventeen times. And, he’s been there with some awesome teams, and awesome talent. But awesome doesn’t always get it done. An error here, a hot pitcher there, or a walk-off home run has always denied him that one crowning achievement to 2,000 wins.
“I’m not gonna’ lie,” he said recently during the regional round of the tournament. “I want to go back one more time and I’d like to win that thing in Omaha.” The way he said it, with that passionate look in his eye and that North Carolina drawl in his voice, well…you just couldn’t help but pull for Martin and the Seminoles.
But it didn’t work out that way. Michigan outpitched the Seminoles in their opener, putting the Seminoles back to the wall in the loser’s bracket. And then, with no wiggle room on Wednesday night, Texas Tech stymied them again with another dominant pitching performance. Mike Martin watched it all, stoically, patiently…waiting for the talent of his roster and the fate that’s so much a part of baseball to turn things their way. But, nossir…!
“I’ve always said that it’s about the players,” Martin said in a video prepared this week. “You teach them how to play and watch them become successful. And when that day comes you want them to take credit for that success. It shouldn’t be about the coach. You want this for your players.”
ESPN took great pains to film Martin’s final steps as head coach Monday, graciously congratulating the Texas Tech players and coaches, and then as he descended the dugout steps and took that long walk up the ramp and down the long hallway to the clubhouse in TD Ameritrade Ballpark. No doubt, in that circumstance he felt every step of the past forty years.
In a video tribute this week to his time at FSU Martin was every bit the iconic figure that his coaching colleagues have come to respect and admire.
“I love this university, and I’m a Seminole through and through. I’ve given Florida State everything I have, and Florida State has given me everything it has. I came here from Charlotte, North Carolina once upon a time and they game me a chance to play. Then, years later they gave me a chance to coach, and that’s all I’ve ever asked for.
A chance…all anyone can ask for. Regardless of the outcome.