By: Ryan Kelly | WCTV Eyewitness Sports
January 24, 2020
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- On Friday, the Seminoles of Florida State began practice for the schools 73rd season of baseball. For over half of that time, the program was overseen by Mike Martin, Sr.
Until Friday, when Mike Martin, Jr.'s first spring officially began.
A new era with some familiar themes.
The same park. The same colors. The same ping. But, even the least nostalgic among those at Dick Howser Stadium would say there's an odd feel without seeing that same #11.
"Obviously, we all miss Eleven him a lot," said Reese Albert. "He's a great guy."
But while the namesake of the field looks a little younger these days, the standard has remained the same; the Noles look to be among the nation's elite once again, bolstered by a stellar pitching staff, led by righty C.J. Van Eyk, who now seems poised to become the Tribe's Friday Night ace following a stellar sophomore campaign.
"I mean, there's nothing different, I'm gonna pitch my game [from] last year, cut down my walks, keep my same mentality every time I pitch," Van Eyk said. "It's a baseball game you've gotta have fun it's just a different night I'm pitching on."
"I think [this staff is] top five in the country. I really do," added Martin Jr. "I think we're gonna be there at the end of the year as well with the numbers to prove it. You've got front line guys, guys with experience, you've got young arms that are just pups but they're really really good and we're gonna use a lot of 'em. It's gonna make for a longer game but I want those guys to have as many opportunities when they get into postseason to have those extra three or four times."
But what the Noles have returning in pitching, they'll need to find at the plate, as sluggers Drew Mendoza and Mike Salvatore have moved onto the pros.
The continued development of bats like Matheu Nelson, Elijah Cabell and Cooper Swanson will be vital, as will the recovery of Albert, who played through injury much of last season.
But, luckily for Meat and company, he appears to be right on schedule.
"I'm definitely a lot more confident. I never have to worry about that in the back of my head when I'm about to swing and I'm really thankful for that and what the surgeon and what [Trainer] Brandon Stone is doing here with me," Albert said. "It couldn't be going better in my opinion."
"It's very comforting because you know what you're going to get. He plays hard and he leads by example," Meat said. "He's not a vocal guy but the fact that he's around swinging the bat makes your lineup look a lot better."
The road back to Omaha wont be an easy one, with tilts against FAU and Texas Tech, both teams the Noles played in the 2019 postseason, as well as consensus top 10 rivals in Florida and Miami, plus a home visit from Louisville and a regular season finale at Clemson.
But, the Seminoles are confident that their veteran leadership and exciting new talent will prove to be a willing formula under Meat.
"This is really critical that we all come out here and lock in on him because he's got a lot of good stuff to say all the time and if we pay attention and listen to him I think we're going to do really well this year," Albert explained.
Florida State opens their 2020 season with a three-game series against Niagara from February 14-16.