As a lifelong baseball fan, Florida State coach Mike Martin is well aware of the role that numbers play.
Perhaps like no other game, a dizzying array of calculations is what defines baseball's participants at every level. And for his part, Martin has amassed mind-boggling numbers during a Hall of Fame career.
Zero. That's his NCAA titles despite 12 College World Series appearances.
"When I was beginning in this (profession) in my early 30s, I was consumed by it; I wanted so much to win a national championship," Martin said. "And maybe it was for selfish reasons. Not any more. Now, my exhilaration is for these young men who have the opportunity to experience what college baseball is all about. They are arriving at the top. There is no other stop."
The Seminoles, making that stop for the first time since 2000, the 13th time under Martin and 19th time overall (without a title), open against Stanford at 2 p.m. today at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Neb.
Martin, 64, a former Seminole standout (1965-66) who's more often than not simply referred to as 11, his jersey number, might just have a team that can end the school's and his own 0-fer in Omaha.
FSU (54-12) features a potent lineup — led by junior catcher Buster Posey — that's hitting .354, a school record and tops in the NCAA this season, and is averaging 9.9 runs.
"Guys on this team believe in each other," Posey said. "Although the players don't talk about it, they all share a common thought to do something special:
"Everyone wants to get 11 that championship," senior rightfielder Jack Rye said.
Every sport is replete with successful coaches and brilliant players who have done everything but win the big one.
Think Ernie Banks. Dan Marino. Charles Barkley. John Chaney and Ray Meyer.
Who wouldn't want to be one of those guys?
Same for Martin. His record is 1,538-518-4 in 29 seasons at FSU, which puts him third on the Division I list for wins. He has helped groom 14 first-round major league draft picks, including Posey this year (No. 5 to San Francisco), and don't forget about his scores of All-Americans.
His players who stay graduate, and Martin is a tireless promoter of the game.
And it's not as if the team hasn't come close to a championship. FSU finished second to Arizona in 1986 and to Miami in 1999.
If you ask his former players, all of whom do an impersonation of Martin's drawl and folksy vocabulary (he actually says "dern"), each will say Martin doesn't need to win the elusive CWS ring to cement his legacy as a winner, both on and off the diamond.
"That would be a big plus, but he's made Florida State baseball what it is," said Red Sox catcher and ex-Ray Kevin Cash, a member of the 1999 FSU team. "He did everything he possibly could for us to succeed and win. When we lost, it bothered us, but it bothered us more for him."
Atlanta outfielder Matt Diaz, a one-time Rays prospect and another standout on the '99 team, is sure Martin's place among the greats is secure no matter what happens in the coming days — or years.
"I grew up a Dolphins fan, and everyone said that about Marino, that he didn't win a championship," Diaz said. "Looking back now, everyone considers him one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. I think that's how the baseball community will view 11.''
For his part, Martin isn't worried about that.
"Winning would be great for all of us," he said. "But I don't want to be anything other than what I am, and that's just a guy who really loves his job and loves to see young men have this opportunity. … We want very much to win it. But I don't want to be wanting it too much. That's not what it's about."
Brian Landman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3347.