Fondly remembering those two years I worked at the side of a baseball legend

Somebody has to be No. 1. Some man or woman has to be the one person that has more college wins than any coach ever in any sport.

That man was the 40-year legendary baseball coach of the Florida State Seminoles, Michael David Martin Sr.

In his 40 years as head coach of the Seminoles under coach Martin, they went 40-for-40 in making the NCAA tourney and yes that is beyond remarkable. His 2,029 wins are more than any college baseball coach ever and more than any NCAA coach ever in any sport on any level.

The Seminoles won 19 conference titles under Martin's leadership, and he was a 13-time conference Coach of the Year. He was the National Coach of the Year in 2012 and 2019. 

Martin had 20 players selected in the first round of the MLB Draft and 60 former players reached the Major Leagues. Eight former players were named National Player of the Year with four – Mike Fuentes, Mike Loynd, J.D. Drew and Buster Posey – recognized with the Golden Spikes Award, college baseball's Heisman Trophy.

I said he was the coach of the Seminoles because he retired after the 2019 season and for the last few years he dealt with the impact of dementia.

Last Thursday, the legend died.

There were tears from Tallahassee to Harford County. I know because I shed a few for this legend that I got to work closely with for two years as the FSU baseball radio broadcaster in 2005 and 2006.

Back late in the 2003 O’s season, my boss then at WBAL Radio at that time decided he no longer had use for my services, and I was devastated. But before too long I decided I needed to stay close to baseball and first took a job broadcasting games for the O’s farm club in Aberdeen.

When another legend at FSU, long-time baseball radio broadcaster Lee Bowen died way too soon and suddenly in the summer of 2004, I got a call from then FSU assistant basketball coach Mike Jaskulski, the former head hoops coach at my alma mater, Towson University, asking if I would have interest in the job.

I would and I did and long story short and after rounds of interviews including an all-day event in Tally, I got the job. I broadcast Seminole baseball play-by-play for two wonderful seasons where we came up short of the College World Series, but I had an absolute blast. I would quickly realize how important baseball was there and via reading about him I already knew their coach was beloved and already a legend.

It's not often you work alongside a man, who has many years still to go in his career but has already achieved legendary status. Mike Martin was that when I arrived in Tallahassee.

He was out of town the day of my in-person interviews, so I got the job without even meeting him. But we soon would meet as I nervously told him it would be my task to be a very easy broadcaster to work with and one that would take what Lee started in that broadcast booth and keep it at a very high level.

Within days of the beginning of the 2005 season, I knew I was in the right place. This program, with their amazingly passionate fan base led by the Animals of Section B, embraced me in every way possible and could not have been nicer in my welcome. And coach Martin led the way.

In two years in the job, I learned this – he was a brilliant and most respected coach and baseball man who loved his players, but his kindness was what really stood out. This man loved the game and I mean loved the game. He was known to applaud visiting fans and often praised a team that just may have handed him a devastating loss. He appreciated good baseball and the passion for it even if it came more from the other side of the field on a given day. But that didn't happen often for FSU under the legend. 

I learned so much baseball working for those seasons at his side. But I learned that the man they called 11 was great in ways I had no idea about.

No one in Tally calls him Mike or coach Martin. He is known by his uniform number and all you need to say is 11 to any person connected with FSU and they know. In my first few days on the job, I called him coach Martin during our pregame interviews. But I quickly realized I was a lone wolf. No one else referred to him that way. I got with the program and quickly got used to it.

He just cared about all of us like we were one of his three kids. For reasons I can never remember exactly why, the fans at FSU came to call me “Moose.”

“Steve, do you like that name?” 11 asked me one day.

“Coach it may not be my first choice, but it’s done because they like me, and I like that part very much. It’s just fine by me,” I said.

I marveled that this legend with so much on his mind took time to ask me if I was okay with the nickname the fans gave me. 

I will remember watching him roll ball after ball the night before a big visiting series down the first and third-base lines to see how bunts might move in those ballparks. He left no stone unturned.

But again, the kindness of the man and his family was what stood out to me – day after day after day. I knew I was working with a living legend, and he treated me just as he treated his players or family.

My condolences go out to my friends at FSU, and I still have many I am proud to say. And especially to Carol Martin, 11’s wife of 59 years. They met when they were both at Wingate Junior College before 11 transferred to Florida State for his junior season and led the Seminoles to the 1965 College World Series. 

Miss Carol was about as wonderful to me as the big man himself. And condolences also to Mike Martin Jr. an assistant coach in the two years I was there, and he succeeded 11 as head coach for three seasons. Also, to my dear friend Chip Baker a long-time assistant known to all FSU baseball fans for his own legendary status within the program there. We broadcast many games together and I learned so much from him while also realizing he had my back for well, everything. 

The one line unfinished on 11's remarkable resume is that his teams made 17 trips to the College World Series and never won it.

In my two seasons there the Seminoles lost in the Super Regionals to Florida (and Darren O'Day) my first year and to Georgia in a regional my second season.

I worship my time at Florida State, it was an amazing baseball experience. I had the chance to return to local radio in 2007 in Baltimore at AM 1300, which later became 105.7 FM the Fan. I jumped at the chance to work there and return home as part of the management team with a small on-air role. Another long story short, but that move led to my job here at MASN and with the Orioles.

That night I called 11 to tell him I was leaving my job there, he understood completely and made that call easy for me. As much as I loved my time with FSU baseball, it was Baltimore and the Orioles that truly had my heart. 

This following quote got me on the night of 11's passing. It is from an ESPN story on 11 and his amazing career after his last game at the 2019 College World Series.

In an interview with ESPN then in 2019, Martin reflected on the bad luck that seemed to follow him at the CWS. He said, "There might be a lot of voices saying, 'You have a nice house. You have the most unbelievable wife a man could ask for. You have three healthy children. You have just about anything a man needs, and you're griping about never winning a national championship?'" Martin said.

"How about the number of young men that came up to me at that celebration and hugged my neck and said, 'I love you, 11?' That's a lot more important. That's what I get out of coaching. Do I want to win it? Dadgum right. I wouldn't work so dadgum hard. But I'm not going to say woe is me."

Yep, reading that again gets me.

Just a few weeks after he caught the final out as the Boston Red Sox won the 2004 World Series, Doug Mientkiewicz was with me in the radio booth in Tally.

I asked him about playing for 11. The words he said that day with emotion in his voice, I can almost still hear as if it were yesterday.

“The biggest regret of my life,” he said, “is that I didn’t put a ring on that man’s finger.”

Click here for that ESPN story on 11 and here is an absolutely wonderful story from Aaron Fitt at the DI baseball website on this legend. I believe neither story needs a subscription.

In his story, Fitt wrote, "His ultimate legacy is the impact he had on so many lives."

So true and I am so lucky and blessed that mine was one of them.

For even more: Click here for a nice video about Martin from the FSU baseball Twitter/X account. Click here to note he is even recognized in Cooperstown.

Note from Steve: No this was not Orioles related and I hope you understand this was something I felt I must write. I'm forever proud of my association with FSU baseball. I have no connection beyond that to Florida State, but I will always root for the people in that baseball program.

Please understand you are encouraged to leave O's comments here today as always and they do not have to be about this story. Martin also loved a good baseball discussion, and he would understand, believe me, he would. He would encourage it. 

In the last few days, if you missed it, we wrote about various aspects of the Corbin Burnes trade here and here, here and here





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