Mike Martin is the greatest coach to have never won a title.
I don’t mean the greatest college baseball coach, I mean any sport in any era. He is a giant of the game, and the last of a generation from a long since forgotten era of college baseball. Mike Martin guided Florida State to a College World Series berth before Skip Berman even got the head coaching job at LSU.
Hell, the college baseball world got sick of waiting around for Martin to finally retire that they jumped the gun and inducted him into the College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007. He has been to Omaha four times since then.
And now it is LSU’s job to send him into retirement without that elusive title. Frankly, it sucks. Every person connected to college baseball who is not an LSU fan should be rooting for Mike Martin this weekend. He’s a legend of the game, a man who not only built Florida State baseball but the sport of college baseball itself.
Mike Martin almost walked away last season. Florida State earned a top-8 seed in the tournament, a year after he guided the Noles to Omaha. But AD Sam Wilcox told him, “Two thousand’s not a bad number.”
So Martin came back for one last run. Forty years of excellent baseball, and in that time he has earned 2,022 wins. That’s more than any coach in any other NCAA sport. Mike Martin stands as the winningest coach of all-time, but the ultimate prize has eluded him.
He’s come close, to be sure. Florida State has made Omaha 16 times under Martin, and finished as the runner-up twice. FSU has had 94 All-Americans and 62 Major Leaguers. They now play on a field that bears their coach’s name (Mike Martin Field at Dick Howser Stadium).
And here they are, making one last run at it. Florida State eked into the field of 64, then shocked nationally seeded Georgia on their home field. The Seminoles are playing jacked up, trying to give their legendary coach one last run.
And we have to root against it.
I want Mike Martin to only have two games left in his career. I want to see him walk from the dugout to offer Paul Mainieri his sincere congratulations while a team in purple and gold dogpiles behind them.
But what you won’t catch us doing is trying to minimize Martin’s career. I’m sure there are some knuckleheads out there that take perverse joy in Martin getting so close yet never quite to the top of the mountaintop. As if that makes him any less of a coach.
In forty years, Mike Martin has never missed an NCAA tournament. There isn’t a more consistently excellent program in college baseball. In that same timeframe, LSU has missed the postseason nine times, including every year from 1980-84.
I would love it if Mike Martin could go out a winner. If only he was playing any other team but LSU. Everyone else in the country will be pulling for Mike Martin on his one last ride.
Everyone except us. Sometimes, you’re the villain of the story, and our job is to bring the fairy tale to its end.