TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – One of the quirks of Mike Martin’s final season is that, over the course of the next few months, Martin will likely do dozens of small things for the “last time.”
There will be a last Opening day, a last home game and, eventually, one last out.
The first of those lasts came Friday afternoon, when Martin led the Seminoles onto the field that bears his name for his last first day of practice.
Martin, the Seminoles’ coach since 1980, will retire at the end of the 2019 season – his 40that the helm.
Florida State opens its campaign at home against Maine on February 15.
“I woke up very early this morning, and the first thing that popped in my mind said, ‘For the first time in 45 years, I’m looking at something for the last time,’” said Martin, who began as an FSU assistant in 1975. “And that ‘last time’ is the first practice of the season. …
“It’s going to be an adjustment, guys. There ain’t no two ways about it.”
But while there may be some differences for Martin this season, his enthusiasm is still the same as it ever was.
He’s excited to watch a young team grow together and improve, and he’s excited to chase another trip to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.
“I really and truly did feel like a little kid (Friday morning),” Martin said. “I was so excited to be getting started again. It’s a beautiful day to play baseball. A little on the brisk side, you might say. But still, it’s an exciting time of year.”
Once it officially begins, Martin will embark on a year that figures to be unlike any other of his career.
Whether at Dick Howser Stadium or at parks across the Atlantic Coast Conference, Martin will more often than not be the center of attention.
There will be ovations and tributes to his legendary career, along with final handshakes and hugs with longtime competitors.
And then there’s the matter of the milestone.
Already college baseball’s “winningest” coach of all time – he surpassed Augie Garrido late last season – Martin needs just 13 victories to reach 2,000 wins for his career.
There will no doubt be a celebration for that, too.
But while Martin doesn’t shy away from what lies ahead, he also wants to be clear about one thing:
This season’s goal and focus is the same as it’s been for each of the previous 39 years. The Seminoles want to reach the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., and they want to win the program’s first national title.
“My only concern is for the young men,” Martin said. “This program is not about me. It’s about them.”
Added junior starter Drew Parrish: “He doesn’t want this season to be about him. He’s a real unselfish coach, and he knows that regardless of (whether) it’s his first year or last year, we’ve still got to come out and win.”
Which isn’t to say that Martin won’t enjoy his final lap.
He thanked both the ACC and the University of Louisville for gifts they gave him last year, when he broke the all-time wins record, and he joked that, should anyone want to give him anything this season, he’s all set on golf clubs.
“But,” Martin added with a laugh, “I do like Cadillacs.”
Cadillac or not, Martin’s last ride will begin in a few weeks. And he knows exactly where he’d like for it to end.
“Yes, this is my last season,” he said. “But it’s not something I want our guys to focus on. I want them to focus on what is a dream of every young man that plays college baseball – and that’s to get to Omaha.”