Beyond the ACCtion: FSU-Arizona Matchup Features A Reunion of Old Friends

June 15, 2012

Steve Phillips, Associate Director of Communications for the Atlantic Coast Conference, takes you Beyond the ACCtion in Omaha for the 2012 College World Series. Check theACC.com for more entries.

OMAHA, Neb. (theACC.com) – When Florida State opens play in the 66th College World Series against Arizona tonight, it will be more of than a meeting of two of college baseball’s storied programs.

Two long-time friends will be going head-to-head. Arizona head coach Andy Lopez makes no secret of his affection for Florida State counterpart Mike Martin. Lopez made no secret of it during his seven seasons as head coach of Florida from 1995 through 2001, much to chagrin of some Gator faithful.

“One time we got in trouble because someone called my radio show and said it was a 'love fest,'" Lopez recalled. “We’d talk before the game, I'd give him a hug, (and) he would give me a hug. I'd ask about his wife. He'd ask about (Lopez’s wife) Linda, and I'd ask about his kids. Someone called up the radio and said, ‘It looks like a love fest out there.'"

Lopez knew all about the intensity of college rivalries, particularly one the magnitude of FSU-Florida State … but come on, he thought.

“I was like, ‘Gee, I didn't know I had to hate the man,’ “Lopez said. “I've always admired Coach. He's a phenomenal baseball coach, which is really pretty special. He's a great human being. He has tremendous perspective on what we're doing. What kind of significance do you make in young lives?”

Martin (1,721) and Lopez (917) have combined for over 2,600 Division I coaching wins. But one of Lopez’s fonder coaching moments is of a night in which he was ejected from a road game at Florida State.

“I got thrown out one night in Tallahassee for some reason,” Lopez recalled. “I'm not even sure why. I sat behind home plate, and (former FSU All-American) J.D. Drew's family was there, and they were talking to me through the whole game. I actually walked away thinking that wasn't a bad experience.”

The friendship between the coaches actually began a few years before Lopez set foot in Gainesville. Lopez’s first Division I coaching job was at Pepperdine, where he led the Waves to the College World Series title in 1992. That summer, Martin paid Lopez a visit.

“He came out to Malibu for some reason,” Lopez said.

“I came out to see what it was like to win a National Championship,” joked Martin, who hopes this year’s 15th CWS appearance by Florida State under his watch will finally be the charm.

OUT WITH THE OLD …

All 14 of Martin’s previous trips to Omaha as Florida State’s head coach were for College World Series played at historic Rosenblatt Stadium.

With Rosenblatt two years removed as the host venue and scheduled to see the wrecking ball later this summer, Martin felt a little nostalgic as the Seminoles prepared for tonight’s CWS opener against Arizona at TD Ameritrade Park. But not that nostalgic, he soon decided.

“I was going to take the family back to Rosenblatt tomorrow because I know they're demolishing it next week,” Martin said Thursday. “I've changed my mind, because I don't want to see Rosenblatt like it is now.

“I want to remember the hill, the beautiful ballpark. I was told that that I wouldn't want to hit my golf ball out there in centerfield now, because I might not ever get it out, it's so thick. I'm going to remember Rosenblatt like it was.” And Martin, who has never been one to live in the past, found ample reason to dwell on the present as the Seminoles practiced at TD Ameritrade on Thursday morning. FSU did not make it to the new ballpark’s coming out party in 2011, but Martin read and heard the rave reviews. On Thursday, he added one of his own.

“I guess the only way I can describe it is I started driving a '49 Ford, and now I'm driving a Denali,” Martin said. “This place is phenomenal. I tip my hat to Dennis Poppe (of NCAA Baseball) and the City of Omaha. I've had the pleasure of walking around, checking it all out. Mama (Martin’s wife, Carol) wanted to know where she was going to be sitting tomorrow night. But it's extremely well done. Gosh, to be able to get a hot dog and walk around to centerfield and never lose sight of the ballgame going on, that's quite a feat.”

BY THE NUMBERS

  • When FSU takes the field for its CWS game against Arizona, the Seminoles will be taking part in their 219th NCAA tournament game. That leads all Division I programs.
  • With their presence in the eight-team 2012 College World Series field, Stony Brook and Kent State have captured the imaginations of those who love to embrace the underdog. But the CWS usually includes at least one team that has beaten the odds to some degree. All eight top regional seeds have never advanced to the College World Series. Only twice (1999 and 2001) have seven No. 1 seeds advanced. Six national seeds advanced in 2011, but only four are left standing this year.
  • The Seminoles will be trying to buck recent history against on several fronts against Arizona. After winning its CWS opener in 1999, FSU dropped its opener on its next three trips to Omaha, most recently in 2010. Arizona holds a 6-5 advantage in its all-time series against FSU, including a 4-1 mark in College World Series play. FSU’s lone CWS win vs. the Wildcats came by a 4-0 score in 1970. Tonight’s game will be the first between the teams in Omaha since 1986.