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Column: Hard to fathom Mike Martin never winning college baseball’s national championship

The column reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of AllOnGeorgia.

My first recollection of Florida State baseball was Richie Lewis blowing fastballs past batters in the 1986 College World Series.

Lewis stood only 5-foot-6 and he was one of the shortest players to ever pitch in the major leagues following his All-American career with the Seminoles.

I remember watching on television as Lewis stood on the mound in Omaha in that all-yellow uniform that Florida State wore at the time and fanned batter after batter with his bulldog mentality and that heater he had.

Last night, I sat in my recliner, turned on the television and saw that Florida State and Clemson were playing Game 3 in their series on ESPN2.

I’ve had a hard time getting into major-league baseball thus far this spring to be honest, other than listening to bits and pieces of Braves games on the radio while driving home from work or going to the grocery store to pick up something to eat for dinner.

But this college game caught my eye, what with it pitting the sixth and 13th ranked teams in the country with the Tigers having the better standing in the polls at present time.

I figured it was about as good a time as any to really start scouting the CWS contenders so I can begin to think about who I might take to win it all in my bracket. (Yes, a good friend and I fill out brackets like we do in March for the NCAA basketball tournament to see who gets the bragging rights for the next year).

The College World Series is one of my favorite sporting events. I was fortunate to cross it off my bucket list in 2001 when I attended every game of the CWS that year at old Rosenblatt Stadium with three of my buddies.

Really, we had about as much fun in Omaha those 11 days as any of us have ever had on a sports-related excursion.

That year, we had planned to go since January and were on the phone ordering our ticket packages the morning they went on sale.

Our journey to Omaha actually began in Athens where we got more than we bargained for when the regional was turned upside down on the first night as Georgia lost to Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech lost to Coastal Carolina, which was in the beginning stages of building a powerhouse program.

Georgia would eliminate Georgia Tech first thing Saturday morning and Coastal Carolina toppled Georgia Southern to get to the championship. The Bulldogs then nipped Georgia Southern in the final game late Saturday night to reach the regional final where it had to beat the Chanticleers twice.

The Dogs won 9-3 and then 8-7 on Sunday afternoon with one of the best individual performances I’ve ever seen from Georgia shortstop Jeff Keppinger who blasted three homers in one game to help Georgia survive.

The next weekend, Georgia hosted Florida State in a super regional and won the decisive third game to go to Omaha. The Dogs lost their first two games and made a quick exit, but it was cool to be there when my alma mater was there, too.

I would have been OK had the Seminoles been there and remember wishing they weren’t matched against Georgia in the super regionals, so maybe they could have been there that year as well.

That’s because in high school I took a liking to the Seminoles as they were regular participants in the CWS.

It also helped that I kind of liked Bobby Bowden and his FSU football team that featured Deion Sanders who would go on to pull double-duty in the early 1990s with the Braves and Falcons.

Truthfully, I dreamed of maybe playing for the Seminoles, but as close as I got to doing so was attending a select camp in Tallahassee while playing high school baseball. We got timed in the 60-yard dash in the outfield grass at Dick Howser Stadium and a Florida State assistant liked my execution in the “stance-trigger-stride-and-pull” drill that sometimes I still do today.

Wikipedia – Mike Martin

But here I am now watching FSU take on Clemson in an Atlantic Coast Conference series many years later. This game is taking place just two days after longtime Florida State coach Mike Martin passed the late Augie Garrido for the most wins in college baseball history.

The Seminoles’ 3-2 victory over Clemson in 13 innings on Saturday gave the 74-year-old Martin his 1,976th win – all of them at Florida State over the last 39 years.

The numbers Martin has posted while coaching his alma mater are staggering. In his first 12 seasons, FSU won 50-plus games each year. That streak ended in 1991 but they have had at least 40 wins in every season.

His FSU teams have made the postseason every year and 16 times the Seminoles have made it to Omaha to play in the CWS.

But, then there is the one number all true college baseball fans know. It’s zero, as in no national championships for Martin and his Seminoles. Twice his team has been the bridesmaid – 1986 and 1999 – and many other times FSU was considered the team to beat but didn’t win it.

Speculation is this may very well be Martin’s final season in the FSU dugout now that he has the wins record which may never be broken.

If that’s perhaps true, the Seminoles would be the sentimental favorite to win the national title if they can get through to Omaha again.

Martin, who they call “Eleven” because of his jersey number, is one of the good guys in college athletics and certainly one of the best interviews a la that legendary former FSU football coach.

The FSU skipper seems as if he will be a peace if he leaves without winning it all. He certainly has already cemented his status as a legend in the college game, regardless.

Life isn’t always fair, but think about how cruel it would be for him not to hoist the NCAA championship trophy at least once.

That would be like Bowden not winning one in football, Dale Earnhardt not winning the Daytona 500 which did take awhile or Phil Mickelson not ever winning a U.S. Open which may not actually happen, either.

It just ain’t right.

So, here’s hoping FSU can get their coach to Omaha again, so he can at least have a chance at that elusive title.

And dadgumitt, I’ll surely be rooting for him to get it done if they do.

Kevin Price is a freelance writer for AllOnGeorgia with more than 20 years experience in journalism and communications.

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