WATCH: The Seminoles preview Opening Day 2019
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – After more than 40 years in the dugout and, as of Tuesday, 75 years on Earth, Mike Martin doesn’t see much reason to veer from what got him this far.
Not even on the eve of his final season as Florida State’s head coach.
Martin’s Seminoles open their campaign Friday against Maine, and while Martin has already admitted that he expects this season to have a different feel, there are a few things that are still the same.
Martin still believes that Opening Day is the second most exciting day of the year for coaches and players, behind only the start of postseason play in late May.
And Martin still believes that, in an age of advanced metrics and analytics – which does, in fact, have an emphasis in FSU’s clubhouse – he still has to coach the game his way.
“I can’t coach but one way, and that’s by feeling,” Martin said Thursday. “Whether it’s the pitcher, whether it’s the hitter, if I’m thinking about making a move as a coach to get a guy at the plate. …
“You have to be yourself. The best advice I got – ‘Be yourself, accept yourself.’ I think, ‘Know yourself’ comes first. You can’t try to be somebody else. You’ve got to be who you are.”
WATCH: Mike Martin meets with reporters before FSU’s last practice of the pre-season.
Who Martin is more than speaks for itself.
The College Baseball Hall-of-Famer became the sport’s all-time “winningest” coach late last season, and needs just 13 more victories to become the first to ever win 2,000 games.
That countdown will begin in earnest Friday against Maine, a team that Martin believes will require the Seminoles’ full attention if they’re to be successful.
While acknowledging that the Black Bears might be a little behind in preparation thanks the northeastern weather, he also pointed to their history of aggressive base-running and a surprisingly rich baseball tradition.
Maine has made 16 NCAA tournaments, which includes a run of five College World Series appearance in six years in the mid-1980s.
“They’ve got very good tradition,” Martin said.
Opening Day is a tradition in itself, a fact further hammered home when Martin checked his phone Thursday morning.
On it was a text message from Mike Bell, a former FSU baseball player as well as the Seminoles’ pitching coach from 2012-18.
Bell left to become the head coach at Pittsburgh a few months ago, and he’ll experience his first Opening Day in that capacity on Friday afternoon, a few hours down the road from Tallahassee in Kissimmee, Fla.
“His words were, ‘Some guy told me a long time ago there’s only one Opening Day,’” Martin said with a smile. “Of course, he was talking about the young guy doing the talking now.
“But there is only one Opening Day. There is no other day like it. I’m excited. Thank God I’m still excited. And I’m looking forward to seeing how this young ball club matures as we go through a very tough schedule.”
As for that young ball club, Martin has solidified some answers while leaving a few questions to play out over the first few weeks of the season.
He knows his two Drews – All-America left-hander Drew Parrish and All-ACC third baseman Drew Mendoza – will serve as his two captains.
And he knows that Parrish will lead his weekend rotation, followed by right-handed sophomore C.J. Van Eyk and sophomore right-hander Austin Pollock.
He doesn’t yet know how a new-look lineup that could feature as many as five newcomers, four of them freshmen, will handle their adjustments to this level of competition and the rigors of a 56-game regular season.
For now, though, Martin is happy to let his players, veterans and newcomers alike, enjoy the energy in the clubhouse in the final few hours before the first pitch is thrown.
“They’ve worked hard,” he said. “They’re one day away from lining up and playing Opening Day at Florida State. The excitement, you can literally feel it in the air. And tomorrow will be more than it is today.”