TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Officially speaking, Mike Martin became college baseball’s all-time winningest coach two weeks ago on a late Friday night at Clemson’s Doug Kingsmore Stadium.
But it wasn’t until Saturday that Martin could celebrate and be celebrated in front of friends, family and fans, and do it on the field the bears his name.
Pre-game festivities began about 20 minutes before the first pitch of the Seminoles’ game against North Carolina State, and included a pair of tribute videos, comments from FSU president John Thrasherand athletics director Stan Wilcox, and plenty of record-related memorabilia celebrating Martin’s achievement.
“This was a special day,” said Martin, who was joined on the field by wife Carol, son Mike Martin Jr., daughter Mary Beth and his grandchildren. “The university was just so gracious to provide a day like this for me and my family.
“I can’t say thank you enough or tell you how excited we all are to be a part of that. It was, truly, a celebration.”
One that spanned all four decades of Martin’s tenure at Florida State.
A video narrated by former FSU All-American Eduardo Perez went through highlights of the last 39 years, with plenty of clips of Martin’s trademark oversized sunglasses and bright yellow uniforms from the 1980s and 1990s mixed in.
Martin watched from his usual perch on the steps at the left end of Florida State’s home dugout.
“I was standing at the railing and looked back and saw when I had dark hair and dark eyebrows,” he said with a smile. “And I did shave every other day (back then).”
Next, Martin watched as a video featuring more than 40 of his former players – and one special colleague – paying tribute to who they believe is the greatest college baseball coach of all-time.
The video went through a who’s who of FSU baseball alums, beginning with Cardinals starter Luke Weaver,ending with Giants superstar Buster Poseyand along the way including the likes of Deion Sanders, J.D. Drew, Mike Loynd, Jameis Winston, Doug Mientkiewicz, Luis Alicea and dozens of others.
“That’s awesome to see all the former players,” senior right fielder Steven Wells said. “For what (Martin) has done and for how long he’s done it and just the consistency, it’s great to be able to look back and see all the former players and their success and what they’re doing now and just be a big family, like he talks about.”
The loudest cheer from the crowd, though, might have been reserved for former FSU football coach Bobby Bowden, whose career overlapped with Martin’s for nearly 30 years.
In a clip recorded from his home, Bowden, the winningest living coach in Division I football, praised Martin for winning three or four times more games than he ever did (Martin currently has 1,983 victories, Bowden retired with 377), then, in total deadpan, also teased Martin for losing many more than he did too.
“Is he not the best? He is absolutely the best,” Martin said. “Coach Bowden has influenced so many people in his life. I’m just proud to call him a friend. And yeah, he stuck the needle in real good.”
Saturday’s game served as a testament to the thousands that Martin has influenced, too.
In addition to the players to appear on the videoboard, several more – including 1990s slugger Jeremy Morris, ace pitcher Chris Chavez and All-America catcher Jeremy Salazar – made sure to be in attendance at Dick Howser Stadium for the celebration.
Salazar even drove across the gulf coast from his home in Louisiana to make it.
“That meant a lot to me,” Martin said. “That they would come back.”
During his remarks to the crowd, Martin, in his typical fashion, preferred to shine the spotlight on those around him.
He thanked Florida State for giving him a pair of life-changing opportunities, first as a baseball player and then as a coach.
He thanked all of his players, current and former, and the administration team of Thrasher and Wilcox, for putting him in position to claim the wins record.
Finally, Martin thanked the Florida State fans and supporters who packed Howser Stadium for so many nights over the last 39 years.
Understated for much of what he said, Martin’s voice began to boom as he looked out into the gathered crowd of more than 4,000 people.
“I mean this from the bottom of my heart,” Martin said. “Florida State baseball is what it is because of you.”