Baseball is definitely Tallahassee’s favorite pastime, and nobody does it better than Florida State. With fans who pile into Dick Howser Stadium by the thousands each week during baseball season, you could say the proof is in the pudding. The reason they come is tradition, a winning tradition that is the essence of the Florida State baseball program.
But tradition doesn’t last too long without people. People have made Seminole baseball a winning tradition.
In 50 seasons of intercollegiate play, through six decades and eight head coaches, Florida State has never had a losing season. The Tribe has made 20 consecutive trips to NCAA Regional competition, the second longest current streak in Division I baseball. Since 1948, 35 of FSU’s 50 teams have advanced to NCAA Regional or District competition. Fifteen times, Florida State squads have won those tournaments to advance to the College World Series.
Along with the many achievements of Florida State’s teams, Seminole players have picked up many individual awards. A trio of Seminole standouts, Mike Fuentes in 1981, Mike Loynd in 1986 and J.D. Drew in 1997, won the Golden Spikes Award, presented annually to the top amateur baseball player in the country. Three players ,Terry Kennedy in 1977, Jeff Ledbetter in 1982 and J.D. Drew in 1997,were named Player of the Year.
Over 158 Seminoles have signed professional contracts after leaving Florida State. In the 1990s alone, FSU has sent 45 players into professional baseball. In 1997, J.D. Drew became the 13th Seminole chosen in the first round of the major league baseball draft and eighth in the 1990s.
The 37-man list of Florida State stars who went on to play in the major leagues ranges from past major leaguers Ken Suarez, Woody Woodward, Jim Lyttle, John Grubb and Juan Bonilla, to current pros Paul Sorrento, Luis Alicea, Deion Sanders, Eduardo Perez and Paul Wilson. Every year, more former Seminoles are working their way up the professional ladder and into the limelight of professional baseball.
Undoubtedly, Florida State’s winning tradition has been fueled by its fans. Over 98,622 people packed Dick Howser Stadium last year, an average of 2,595 per game.
Florida State enjoys the support of the entire University and the Tallahassee communities. And no matter where the Seminoles travel, they can expect the same rousing cheers they receive in their home stadium. Florida State baseball fans are the most loyal and knowledgeable fans in college baseball.
With that type of fan interest, Florida State baseball attracts extensive media coverage around the state and country. FSU baseball is first page news in Tallahassee, and 10 major newspapers in Florida cover the Seminoles on a daily basis. National baseball publications keep weekly tabs on the squad as well.
And if fans can’t travel to watch their Seminoles play, what better way to find out about the action than on the radio. Florida State boasts the most extensive radio package in college baseball. Every game, home and away, will be broadcast live across the Tallahassee area this season.
Media coverage of the Seminoles extends to the television screen. In the past nine seasons, over 100 games have been broadcast on cable networks across the Southeast and the country. Already, 12 games have been scheduled for broadcast in 1998, including three of Florida State’s games against intra-state rivals Florida and Miami.
Local television stations offer extensive coverage of the team, beginning in January with preseason practices and continuing through tournament time. “Seminole Uprising” and “The Mike Martin Show”, a pair of half-hour shows focusing on Seminole baseball, air twice weekly on statewide cable and on local television.
While the Florida State baseball winning tradition began long ago under the first Seminole coaches, there is no question that tradition has reached unprecedented heights under current head coach Mike Martin. In his 18 seasons at the helm, Martin has led Florida State to nine College World Series appearances, including seven in the last 11 years. All 18 of his teams have appeared in NCAA Regionals, and 16 of those 18 teams won at least 50 games. FSU teams coached by Mike Martin have won nearly 75 percent of their games. His career record of 969-330-3 makes Martin the second winningest active coach in Division I baseball.
Athletics and academics go hand in hand at Florida State University, and that is evidenced by the opportunities afforded to each and every student-athlete who attends FSU. The Florida State coaching staff and administration stress the pursuit of excellence in both baseball and academics. To help balance the two, all FSU student-athletes work with the academic support staff, which provides tutorial assistance, career development, scheduled study hall sessions, and computer facilities. One of the Seminole assistant coaches works closely with the academic support staff to monitor class attendance and resolve any conflicts which may arise with scheduling, travel, etc. during the season.
Facilities don’t necessarily make a winning tradition. Tradition in Florida State baseball has made the facilities great. Dick Howser Stadium is, simply put, one of the finest college baseball stadiums in the nation. The setting, with pine trees lining the rightfield wall, a 2,500-seat concrete grandstand and bleacher seats along both lines, is beautiful. The playing field itself is meticulously groomed year-round.
Located behind the Seminole dugout is a lockerroom and clubhouse facility. The spacious, carpeted rooms include a large player room, an office with video equipment where players and coaches review videos, and a training area/weight room.
The Moore Athletic Center, adjacent to Dick Howser Stadium, houses the Seminole weight room and training complex, in addition to the baseball coaches’ offices. In the state-of-the-art weight room, FSU baseball players have the opportunity to condition themselves under the direction of strength coach Dave Van Halanger and his assistants, who run an off-season program for Seminole athletes. In the training room, athletes receive the finest care from the professional training staff, led by head trainer Randy Oravetz.
In the past 50 years, thousands of coaches, fans and administrators have contributed to the winning tradition of Seminole baseball. But it is the players who have built that tradition, one person at a time, one season at a time.