Should Georgia win the Athens regional this weekend, it’d mean that one of the other three teams in Athens this weekend would not only see its season end, but also the iconic career of long-time skipper Mike Martin.
For a coach whose career has been marked by classic contests in the ACC, against teams like Miami and near-misses in Omaha, Foley Field would seem a random place for such a career to end. In many ways, he’s a strong parallel to Andy Landers of Georgia women’s basketball - a great coach with a lot of wins that’s revered in spite of the near-misses when it came to national titles.
In a way, however, Martin’s final hat-tip to crowd being in Athens would bring him full-circle.
As a matter of fact, Martin’s career, hall of fame-caliber already, almost took a turn toward Athens in 2001, leaving one to wonder what kind of success Georgia would have had under him.
Then, when Ron Polk rolled into Athens and took the Diamond Dawgs to Omaha in his second season, a sleeping giant of what UGA baseball could be was awakened. Seeking to capitalize on that momentum after Polk returned back to Mississippi State, then-athletics director Vince Dooley did all he could to keep that momentum up and heavily courted one of college baseball’s biggest names - Martin.
As ESPN noted in a 2015 conversation with Martin...
“Vince Dooley [then athletic director at UGA] called me,” Martin explained. “Ron Polk had just left Georgia. Coach Dooley called me on the phone and wanted me to come up for an interview. I went home that night and looked at my bride of now 50 years and told her, ‘I think he’s going to offer me the job.’ And like she’s done for 50 years, she said, ‘Well, we can sell this house no problem.’ But then she asked me the question that I’ll never forget.
”She said, ‘Are you going to be able to turn Vince Dooley down?’ So that night I got to thinking, ‘They’re gonna offer me $100,000 more than I’m making here; they’re gonna offer my assistants $50,000 more than they’re making here.’ But to be honest with you, it was a very easy decision to turn that job down. It really was.”
And this is where his Seminole heart shows.
”This is the only job that I have ever really wanted,” he said. “This is where I went to school. This is where my family was raised. This is home. And I thank God that I stayed here.”
Of course, success was plenty to a degree as David Perno replaced Polk, but would the program have reached an even higher point and claimed another national title?
The timeline did not end there - in fact, the paths of Georgia and FSU crossed a few months beforehand. To get to Omaha, there were the heroics of the Athens Regional. While the thrilling win over Coastal Carolina and the postseason hitting tear of Jeff Keppinger when he hit .500 are still tales of Diamond Dawg lore...
It all set the stage for the best-of-three Super Regional against Florida State.
The intensity of the atmosphere was not lost of Martin, one of the premiere ambassadors of college baseball. In a nod to the fans, he joked after Georgia’s win that “I hope we never have to play here again.”
Flash ahead to 2006 when Georgia hosted a regional and here came the Seminoles again. Martin revisited those comments, emphasizing that it was a tribute to Georgia’s fans. After the Dawgs won the regional, Martin could not leave without again complimenting the Georgia fan base as he ended his post-game press conference.
“Thanks guys. Hope to never see you again.”
Somehow, it just feels right that if this is as expected, Martin’s final hat tip to the crowd, it comes in Athens.
2019 NCAA Baseball Athens Regional Schedule (All Times Eastern)
Friday, May 31
Game 1 - No. 2 Florida Atlantic vs. No. 3 vs. Florida State at Noon (ESPN3)
Game 2 – No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 4 Mercer at 7 p.m. (SEC Network)
Saturday, June 1
Game 3 - Loser of Game 1 vs. Loser of Game 2, Time: TBA
Game 4 - Winner of Game 1 vs. Winner of Game 2, Time: TBA
Sunday, June 2
Game 5 - Winner of Game 3 vs. Loser of Game 4, Time: TBA
Game 6 - Winner of Game 5 vs. Winner of Game 4, Time: TBA
Monday, June 3 (If Necessary)
Game 7 - If Necessary, TBA