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Seminoles’ Mike Martin seeks 16th CWS appearance at expense of Gators

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Mike Martin and the Florida State Seminoles are set to play in another Super Regional. They have been there before. To reach the College World Series in Omaha, the Seminoles must defeat arch-rival and number 4 national seed, Florida.

Fairly or unfairly, Martin is scrutinized for his program’s success at maintaining a championship-level program without winning a championship. He has led the Seminoles into the NCAA tournament for 35 consecutive years and has made it to the College World Series 15 times. Unfortunately, every year the championship trophy leaves Omaha bound for a destination other than Tallahassee.

Martin is somewhat comparable to former big-league manager Gene Mauch. Mauch managed for several successful seasons in the Major Leagues, most notably in Philadelphia and Anaheim.

He had a number of good clubs, but never won a pennant. His teams gave up untimely home runs, made an error or, in the case of Philadelphia, blew a six-game lead in the last 10 days.

Neither Martin nor Mauch made those errors or gave up the season-changing hit, but critics point to the head guy. Keep in mind the comparison ends when we remember that Martin has at least reached the championship round 15 times more than Mauch did.

In both cases, the players always wanted to win one for the skipper, but perhaps the fundamental joy of playing the game turned into a tense, must-win atmosphere. Bad things can happen.

History aside, Martin is most certainly not looking toward Omaha. He and the Seminoles will have their hands full of Gators this weekend. Gator Coach Kevin O’Sullivan, his staff and team have their own plans for glory.

As for this year’s Super Regional, Florida State and Florida are playing each other on the baseball field for the fourth time this year and the 234th time in history. This year’s previous three games and the 230 before that, dating back to 1956, mean nothing as far as predicting the winner of the Super Regional at Florida’s McKethan Stadium beginning Friday.  Both teams won at home while Florida State took the rubber game at the Baseball Grounds in Jacksonville.

Friday’s game marks the 15th time the schools have met in NCAA regional play. The Gators have won 10 of the previous 14 regional games. The last time the two teams met at McKethan during the post season, Florida swept Florida State in the 2005 Super Regional.

The most recent meeting came at the 2010 College World Series in Omaha, where the Seminoles took an 8-5 decision. That was the only time Florida State prevailed over Florida in Omaha as the Gators won the other three meetings.

The Seminoles and their fans would certainly prefer to play these games in the friendly confines of Dick Howser Stadium in Tallahassee. Gainesville is a tough place to play.

The Gators are clearly favored, but after the dismal ending to the regular season, no one expected FSU to win the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.  Both teams are playing well.

While it’s true Mike Martin has never won the big prize, he certainly wouldn’t mind a 16th bite at the apple. With a new two-year contract signed yesterday, he can still say “if not this year, then next year.”

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Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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