Q&A- Florida State's Mike Martin

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(FSU's Mike Martin has had his share of disgruntled fans, impressionable recruits and ornery umpires over the years )

Mike Martin entered his 29th season of coaching at Florida State just a mere 145 wins shy of Augie Garrido's NCAA Division I record of 1,629 wins. That's not that many wins in FSU terms, roughly the equivalent of three seasons. I mean, when you consider Martin's fewest victories for a single spring was 44 in 2006, that's not too bad.

He may be 65 years old, but you can't accuse him of slowing down. Not Mike Martin. Too many things to do, too many recruits to meet.

At least that's what I discovered when I tried to set up a quick back-and-forth with the Florida State Seminole head coach this past weekend. With the help of Jason Leturmy, the FSU baseball media contact, I was able to get a few minutes before Sunday's Miami game to talk to the legendary, 28-year head coach of the garnet and gold.

But I have to say, I had to wait a little while. When Jason took me down to the dugout 45 minutes before game time, there was a handful of high school recruits sitting there next to him, listening to his sales pitch intently. After a few minutes, I was given access to Coach Martin. Obviously, I didn't mill around, I hit the ground running with him, knowing my time was limited.

Me:
Hi Coach, I'm Eric Sorenson, from CSTV and CBS College Sports Tonight.

Coach Martin:
Hi, good to see you. Take a seat. (He motions to the dugout bench)

Me:
Just wanted to ask you five or six questions, mostly going back a ways, more than just about this series. And I swear I'm not going to ask you when you're going to retire.

Coach Martin:
(Laughing) Well good.

Me:
First off, is it true that you used to play golf with Rod Dedeaux?

Coach Martin:
(with serious look on his face) Ohhhh, gosh yeah. One of the real big thrills of my life was the day that he took me out to Lakeside, out in California. He treated me like an absolute king. But he was the real King out there. Everybody knew him. It was one of the oldest clubs in California. Lots of movie stars played there, but everyone knew Rod.

Me:
Let me guess, he called you Tiger, right?

Coach Martin:
Never called me anything but that.

Me:
Ironically, same with me. Umm, you walked into a great situation at Florida State a long time ago, what was your predecessor Dick Howser like? What was his influence on you?

Coach Martin:
Dick was a guy that was a consummate baseball man. Taught me a lot about the game. The main thing he taught me was the patience factor, 'coz he knew I was never one to have a lot of patience. He was always relaxed and cool and I was always impressed with the way he treated players. It was a good learning experience. I mean, we used to talk baseball all the time. No matter what it was, we were talking baseball.

Not only was I an assistant to him, but I was a friend. The families would get together, we'd have five or six couples come over for dinner, or at somebody else's house, and eventually we would all end up in the kitchen talkin' baseball.

Me:
(Laughing) Much to the wives chagrin I'm sure.

Coach Martin:
They were unaffected. (wry smile)

Me:
Okay, how big was Seminole baseball when you started in 1980. I mean, you've had two straight nights of record crowds here this weekend. I know you guys were always successful, but how big of an event was it when you began here?

Coach Martin:
Well, you know, we're one of those schools that is deep in tradition and when I came here in 1975 as an assistant and when I played here in '65 and '66, baseball was always very important to the university and certainly in our community. We're one of the few baseball programs in the country that sells out the entire grandstand before the first pitch is thrown each season.

Me:
You haven't had a "bad" season since you've been here, does that make it tough as far as fans expectations and stuff like that?

Coach Martin:
Well there's always expectations that go with this program. But you have to understand that there are going to be years where things don't go your way. You've gotta be patient. It's been hard work. It's obviously been very challenging, but I'm very blessed to have this position, I love what I've learned and love this great university.

Me:
Okay, the 1986 pitching staff... Is that the best staff you've ever had?

Coach Martin:
Well we've had some very good pitching here. I guess in '02, where we had three lefties (led by ace Matt Lynch), they were very, very intelligent and very good. Unfortunately, we got beat right here (at Howser Stadium) against Notre Dame in the Super Regionals.

But certainly, (Mike) Loynd and (Richie) Lewis was a very good 1-2 combination. Lewis wanted the ball every day. But it was also a year when, you're looking at a major leaguer in Paul Sorrento in right field, a major leaguer in Luis Alicea at second base and major leaguer in Mike Loynd on the mound. That was obviously a pretty good team.

(At this point, assistant coach Jeremy Shouppe brings another recruit up to meet Coach Martin, so I politely add that there are only two more questions I'd really like to ask... though that number could easily be about 50 or so.)

Me:
Okay, has there been any difference in the rivalry between you guys and Miami since you have become conference rivals now? Or has it always been intense, no difference?

Coach Martin:
Oh it's ALWAYS been intense, you're talking about guys that have played with and against each other since grade school. In fact, Elih Villanueva, who is pitching against Miami today is from Miami. He knows a lot of these guys.

Me:
Right. That's an interesting story in itself.

Coach Martin:
In fact, my first home run as a collegian was against Miami and my first win as a head coach was against them too. I've never forgotten that. But now that they're in our league, it takes on even more importance, because now we're trying to position ourselves against them for the post-season. And that's the most important part.

Me:
Okay, last question. You gonna try to catch Augie?

Coach Martin:
(Laughs) Well... let's put it this way. He needs to retire. THEN I'll catch him.

Me:
That's what I figured. Thanks coach.

With that, I watched as Coach Martin shook hands with the latest recruit to visit the Tallahassee campus. Then I thought about how many of these young recruits he's shaken hands with before games over the previous 28 years. Probably enough to give anyone a life's full of blisters. Then again, Coach Martin still has the pep and vigor of a younger coach.

Augie, you've been warned.

Comments

eeeeek. i like sorenson. his stuff is usually good. but man, this sounds like a larry king interview. could you possibly lob martin anything softer and fatter to answer than reminiscences of some ancient golf game? and why would we care? this sounds more like an attempt to enhance a personal relationship than an interview. that brings up a question. do you or do you not consider yourself a journalist? that's not an attempted insult. it's a fair question.

DA.

I hear ya' man. I "like Sorenson" too. His stuff IS usually good. And actually David, this isn't being a smart ass on my part, but no, I never have considered myself a "journalist." They're boring. I've always said I'm just a fellow stitch-head fan like you who happens to write about and talk about the sport we all dig. I s'pose I coulda asked about that whole Walkie-Talkie controversy vs. Miami from 2004 or why he walks so slow out to the mound during pitching changes. But I only had time for a few questions, so I picked those.

Thanks for readin' and writin'

E.

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Eric Sorenson Eric Sorenson
Eric Sorenson is CSTV.com's National Baseball Columnist, and also appears on CSTV as a baseball expert