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FSU's Martin sets NCAA record with 1,976 wins

Past and present Major Leaguers reflect on his impact
MLB.com @matthewhleach

Good luck finding anyone with a cross word about Mike Martin. Widely recognized as one of baseball's gentlemen, Martin's genteel manner and gracious temperament have won him admirers throughout the sport.

But don't let it fool you.

Good luck finding anyone with a cross word about Mike Martin. Widely recognized as one of baseball's gentlemen, Martin's genteel manner and gracious temperament have won him admirers throughout the sport.

But don't let it fool you.

You don't win 1,976 games without a tough side. On Saturday, the man known to many as "Eleven" (his uniform number) set the all-time NCAA record for career baseball head coaching wins, passing the late Augie Garrido.

The Florida State head coach did it in fine fashion, too. The win came at the expense of one of his team's top conference rivals, the Clemson Tigers, at Doug Kingsmore Stadium in Clemson, S.C.

Tweet from @FSUBaseball: That does it! FSU beats #9 Clemson 3-2 in 13 innings for head coach Mike Martin's 1,976 win, the most in college baseball history! pic.twitter.com/gGSXdxiOqY

Martin set the record at a time when his team needed a win, as the Seminoles are pushing to host a regional as the season winds down. And he did it to a chorus of celebration from his former charges across the sport. Buster Posey, J.D. and Stephen Drew, Doug Mientkiewicz, Devon Travis, Eduardo Perez and Luke Weaver are just a few of the big leaguers who learned the game under Martin.

"The only way you stick around and stay involved with a program as long as he has is because of the passion that he has," said Posey, who played for Martin from 2006-08. "Not only for baseball but also for the university.

"He's somebody that I respect tremendously for the impact that he had on my career. He was kind of a no-nonsense, tough guy. He wasn't afraid to tell anybody the hard truth at times. He did it in hopes that it would be the best for them and best for the team."

Martin, 74, took over as Florida State's head coach in 1980, succeeding Dick Howser. He had never been a head baseball coach before, but he found immediate success, going to the College World Series in his first season.

That started a remarkable run. He won at least 50 games in each of his first 12 seasons. He has won at least 40 in every year he's been at the helm in Tallahassee, and is on his way to extending that streak in 2018. Saturday's win was the Seminoles' 32nd this year.

Florida State has never missed the NCAA tournament under Martin. He's won 18 conference championships, made 16 trips to the College World Series, and been named his conference's coach of the year 13 times. The program's consistent excellence under Martin is unmatched, and of course it's also resulted in a string of fine big league ballplayers.

"Coach Martin made me into a baseball player," said former Major League star J.D. Drew, who enjoyed one of the greatest careers in college baseball history while playing for Martin from 1995-97.

"He was instrumental in me becoming the player that I became."

But that doesn't mean he was always sunshine and rainbows, even for a player as skilled as Drew.

"I can't tell you how many times I've been screamed at with the bullhorn from the middle of the infield," Drew recalled, "but that's where I learned to play outfield, with Number 11 standing in the middle of the infield, going 'What do youuuuuuu think youhhhhhhhhh doinnnnn?'"

As Drew recollected the experience, he fell into an imitation of Martin's high-pitched accent. He can't help it. The man makes an impression.

"He's known as THAT guy," said Weaver. "When you meet Mike Martin, you know you're going to have a good conversation with him, and he's going to leave a lasting impression that you just don't see with other coaches."

And it's not only on the field. Martin has created a family feel at the program, a community that spans decades.

"Just an incredible human," said Travis, who played at FSU from 2010-12. "I'm just so happy for him, all the success he's had, and to go down as the greatest NCAA coach in college baseball history, the most wins, that's unbelievable. I'm sure it's something that when he started his career, it wasn't necessarily something he was shooting for, but he has left his mark on plenty of players for the rest of their life."

Matthew Leach is the National League executive editor for MLB.com. Ian Browne, Chris Haft, Joe Trezza and Gregor Chisholm contributed to this story.