Around The Horn

Florida State's baseball team is off to a solid start heading into this weekend's three-game home series against Appalachian State. TheTerritory caught up with assistant coach Mike Martin Jr. for an update. Click here to read that conversation. "We just have to continue to strive to get better. ... You are not going to have the bats every night. You are not going to have the pitching every night. You have to have balance to win consistently," Martin Jr. said.

On the stadium: "They did a heckuva job to get it somewhat fan friendly and everyone is working hard. It's supposed to be completed by January 2004. Right now, the batting cage facility is basically done. Our clubhouse will be part of the second phase. The concession stands and the bathrooms will be part of the second phase. They have all the chairback seats in, and everybody gave a big thumbs up. Those ol' aluminum ones were very cold when you sat on them. Now they are really comfortable with cup holders. The sidelines are done well. The netting is thinner - it's a big league net. The bleachers down the left-field side are not up yet. They are supposed to put those up for the Florida (weekend). All and all, it's coming along and we are very excited."

On team strengths: "Probably our pitching. I think it's obvious we are going to run more of a pro style pitching staff, which means we are going to match up from the sixth inning on. Try to turn the ballgame into a six inning ballgame or maybe a seven inning ballgame if the starter is doing really well. From that point, we have four from each side coming out of the pen and we will constantly run guys in and out and match up against left and right-handed hitters. That's the one thing that we are really excited about, how guys have shown they come in and get a hitter out or two hitters out depending on the batting order. Really give us a boost to get out of a tough situation, which we did at Stanford. We were able to get it done out there, which is not easy to do. But our pitchers did it for us and kept us in the game. We got some clutch hits late in the game. That's what we are most excited about and that's our arm."

On starting lineup: "It's going to be a big year for (catcher) Tony (Richie), I think. He has learned an awful lot. He has matured. He's gotten stronger. He's gotten himself in great physical shape and he's taken on the leadership responsibilities for us. He turned it on late the last two years and we are trying to make sure he continues the way he's doing right now. To have a solid year all the way through.

First base, Jerrod Brown, he brings an awful lot to the table in terms of intensity to fundamentally sound work ethic that rubs off on some young players and he's going to be a solid middle order guy for us. At second base, Chris Hart is playing very well right now. He's a fifth-year guy who understands the system and what we are trying to accomplish and he has played a very solid second base for us and he's swinging the bat very well. He has a .600 on-base percentage for us and hit a big home run out at Stanford.

(Shortstop) Stephen Drew, he's still 10 pounds lighter from when he got sick and he's trying to get his weight back. He had a bad case of the flu and it was kind of rough on him. He's going to be fine. Eddy Martinez-Esteve at third base is still learning. We just have to continue to work with him, let him get his feet wet playing third base. Offensively, he's going to be a force for us. I think the transition to third base has slowed his bat down a little bit because we have been spending an awful lot of time trying to teach him third base since it has been basically a year and a half since he has played third base.

"In the outfield, we are going with Derrick Smith. He has really been a pleasant surprise defensively. Offensively, he can swing the bat but I know his numbers aren't great right now but he hit a home run (Sunday) against Evansville and played very well at Stanford and he's come a long way. Matt Sauls is a very solid center fielder who is struggling a little bit with the bat. But I found out he started out junior college 0-for-25, which made me feel a little better (laughing), maybe he's a slow starter. But he's going to be fine. Great baserunner. I am talking about the top five or 10 baserunner we've ever had at Florida State. He can flat out run the bases. Tony McQuade is in right. Not off to a great start, a couple of line outs and a blooper drop in, we would all feel he's going to hit .380 again for us. I don't worry about him at all. He's a polished hitter that plays a very solid defense.

"We are excited. We still have a lot of work to do. We have to continue to learn and grow together and get some of these new guys some reps."

On young players: "It (playing time) goes a long way. Eleven (Mike Martin) has always been, early in the season, wants to find out not only what the kids are like and how they are going to react, but also to help them to when so we do need them. You are not going to go through a season where you are going to keep everyone healthy and there's going to be a time and a place for everyone to step up. If they have never been in that situation, then you are behind the eight ball. He does a great job of getting guys some time and letting them see how fast the game is. A lot of people don't realize the jump from high school to college baseball at this level. It's the speed of the game. It's always good to get some guys some work."

On lineup: "People forget we are playing without Blake Balkcom, who was the junior college player of the year in the state of Florida last year. He's an offensive force. And it's just not offense. He has as good of arm from the outfield as anybody we've ever had. That's why we penciled him in right field. Golly, he would probably have 15 assists if we could get him in a full year in the outfield because he throws so well with balls coming off that screen. But we do have some good balance. We have some guys who can run. We have some guys who can hit the ball out of the park. We just have to continue to strive to get better in the bunting game, in the running game. Just to be able to beat people in different ways. You are not going to have the bats every night. You are not going to have the pitching every night. You have to have balance to win consistently."

On coaching third base: "They (Animals) have treated me fine (laughing). I kind of missed one foul ball (last weekend) and they kind of got on me pretty good. Obviously, it's more stressful down there. I don't feel like I can say what I want to say to the hitters. I have to jot a lot of things down and talk to them between innings because of taking care of guys on second and third makes it a little more time consuming. All and all, everything is fine. I had some time over there in practice. No question, the hardest place to be a third base coach is in Howser Stadium. I can tell you that, coaching at third base. In big parks, standard parks, 330, 375 and 400, it's pretty easy compared to when you get to Howser and it hits the screen, shoots dead right or other time it goes right back to the outfielder (laughing). It makes it more difficult."

On College World Series: "I like what I am seeing. I think we are a good group that has a chance to be very good. We still have to get everybody on the same page. There's a lot of peaks and valleys in the season. You have school work also. We've had to address that issue already a couple of times. To injuries to keep everyone focused in terms of guys hitting .210 as opposed to those guys hitting .410. To keep everyone driven and on the same page to get that love and that passion for each other that makes a great club. It takes a good club to a great club. We are going to continue to work on that. Hopefully, we are going to have a bunch of guys (pitchers) with 20 appearances this year and that's what we are striving for this year. Then to turn it over to (Daniel) Hodges in the ninth inning and we will take our chances."

Nole Digest Top Stories