Florida State’s Mike Martin gets last shot at CWS title
Florida State’s Mike Martin improbably has one last chance to capture a College World Series title that has eluded college baseball’s winningest coach during his 40-year career.
Martin, 75, is retiring at the end of the season. His final team earned one of the last four at-large bids into the NCAA Tournament and is on a six-game win streak.
He will be coaching in the College World Series for the 17th time when Florida State (41-21) faces Arkansas (46-18) on Saturday in Omaha, Nebraska,
“For me to say that winning a national championship doesn’t mean that much to me, that would be a bunch of bull,” Martin said. “Obviously anybody that’s coaching wants to win a national championship. But I also understand the nuances of baseball. Anything can happen.”
Former players say it would be poetic justice for Martin to cap his career with an unexpected championship after enduring so much postseason heartbreak.
“That’s the way he deserves to go out,” said Baltimore Orioles outfielder DJ Stewart, who played at Florida State from 2013-15. “He’s the greatest coach in college baseball history, no ifs, ands (or) buts about it. His record shows it. His resumé shows it. Not only is he the greatest coach, he’s one of the most unbelievable human beings ever.”
Martin is 2,028-734-4 at Florida State and has the most wins of any NCAA coach in any sport. But he’s just 21-32 in the College World Series.
The Seminoles were one win away from a national championship on two occasions under Martin only to lose to Arizona in 1986 and to Miami in 1999.
Former Florida State first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz said there is a “burning sick feeling I have in my stomach” whenever critics cite Martin’s lack of national titles.
Mientkiewicz played at Florida State from 1993-95 and spent over a decade in the majors. He won an Olympic gold medal and helped the 2004 Boston Red Sox win the franchise’s first World Series title since 1918. But he couldn’t help Martin capture a national championship.
“My biggest regret in life is not being part of a team that brought it to him,” said Mientkiewicz, now manager of the Detroit Tigers’ Triple-A team in Toledo. “I was fortunate enough to go on and win all kinds of things. The one ring that’s missing for me is the one that I probably wanted to win the most.
“I won a national championship in high school. I won a gold medal. I won a World Series ring. I’ve won minor league championships as a manager. I’ve been to the playoffs a million times in the big leagues. I’d give all of it back to have been able to let that man hoist a trophy over his head.”
Martin’s teams have won at least 40 games in each of his 40 seasons. This team wasn’t as steady as his others and spent much of the season on the NCAA Tournament bubble before winning a regional at No. 4 national seed Georgia and sweeping a super regional at LSU.
“You’ve got to give the credit to the players,” Martin said. “They’re the ones that battled and would not give in because I’m just telling you, two months ago, we were in jail. We were in San Quentin, baby. We knew that we had to do some things in order to get in the tournament. And we did.”
AP Sports Writers Dave Ginsburg and Ralph Russo and Associated Press writer Bob Ferrante contributed to this report.