Mike Martin, who dedicated 40 seasons to coaching baseball at Florida State University and became the most successful coach in college baseball history, passed away on Thursday following a courageous three-year battle with Lewy body dementia. He was 79 years old.
Survived by his wife of 59 years, Carol, and their children Mike Jr., Melanie, and Mary Beth, along with grandchildren Hannah Elizabeth, Tyler, Thomas Joseph, and Lexi, Martin leaves behind a legacy deeply etched in the annals of baseball history.
In 2019, Martin culminated his remarkable career with his 40th NCAA tournament appearance, marking his 40th winning season and his 17th College World Series appearance, tying the record for the most all-time. His unparalleled achievements include holding the title of the winningest coach in NCAA history across all sports, with a remarkable record of 2,029 wins, 736 losses, and 4 ties.
Martin, whose jersey number 11 became synonymous with Florida State University, was honored with inductions into prestigious halls of fame including the Florida Sports Hall of Fame in 2005, the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2007, and the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 2018. Following his retirement, he was further celebrated with induction into the Florida State Athletics Hall of Fame, and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association bestowed the honor of naming its Coach of the Year trophy after him.
Just a month before his passing, Martin was recognized by the ABCA with the Lefty Gomez Award, a testament to his significant contributions to baseball locally, nationally, and internationally.
Born on February 12, 1944, in Charlotte, North Carolina, Martin's journey to coaching greatness began after graduating from Garinger High School and attending Wingate Junior College. It was at Wingate where he met Carol, his lifelong partner, before transferring to Florida State University. Following his education, the couple settled in Tallahassee, Florida, where they spent six decades together.
Martin's coaching career commenced with roles at Cobb Middle School, Godby High School, and Tallahassee Community College before joining FSU as an assistant coach in 1975. His ascension to the head coaching position in 1979 marked the beginning of an illustrious era for Florida State baseball.
Over the years, Martin led the Seminoles to 17 College World Series appearances, capturing 19 conference titles and earning numerous Coach of the Year accolades. His impact extended beyond wins and losses, exemplified by his players' success both on and off the field. With 20 players selected in the first round of the MLB draft and 60 former players reaching the Major Leagues, Martin's influence on the game is undeniable.
Yet, Martin's legacy is not solely defined by his coaching achievements. His bravery and selflessness were highlighted in 2001 when he and assistant Chip Baker averted a tragedy by safely guiding a team bus to the side of a freeway after the driver suffered a fatal heart attack. Additionally, Martin's dedication to mentorship and his involvement with organizations like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes showcased his commitment to shaping young lives beyond baseball.
In recognition of his outstanding contributions, Martin received numerous honors, including delivering the commencement address for Florida State's summer graduates in 2017 and being named a Distinguished Alumnus by both Wingate University and Florida State University.
In 2015, the Martin Family's philanthropic endeavors were honored with the dedication of the "Mike Martin Family Playroom" at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare.
A public celebration of Martin's life will be held at Mike Martin Field at Dick Howser Stadium, where his enduring legacy will continue to inspire generations of athletes and fans alike. Further details will be provided in due course.