FIU THIRD BASEMAN MIKE MARTINEZ
Not in a million years will you find the movie, "Top Gun" in Mike Martinez's DVD collection. However, Martinez -- FIU's Top Gun in base hits -- does have a collection of Panthers baseball records. Last weekend Martinez became the all-time hits leader at FIU. Earlier this season the former walk-on from Killian High broke FIU career records for RBI and total bases and Martinez still has a shot at the FIU career doubles record. But records are not what motivate Martinez. What he's looking for is another Sun Belt Conference championship and a return to the NCAA regionals in his final season at FIU. Martinez, who says he has a way with words, knows the Panthers bats and especially gloves have to do the talking in the final seven regular season games and the conference tournament in order to reach a third straight NCAA postseason. Time to hit Out of the Cage with Mike Martinez . . . .
PP: You are having a pretty good year breaking all these records. What are your thoughts on the record-breaking season?
MM: It's a great honor. It's funny because when you are in high school you never see it as I'm going to go to this school and set some records someday. To be in the position I'm in, I'm so blessed to have a great support system between my family and my teammates. I couldn't get RBIs if my teammates weren’t on base and I couldn’t get hits consistently without the help of my coaches with my swing. It's been a heck of a ride.
PP: I know you and Tyler Townsend are good friends. Have you given him any grief yet about breaking his FIU career RBI record?
MM: I haven't spoken to him yet about the RBI record, but we do talk a lot. Hopefully Tyler keeps tearing it up with the Orioles organization this year, but I am definitely going to let him know that I broke his record. I know he's going to give me crap because he did the RBI record in three years and I have taken almost four years. But I'm going to say that he didn't have to use the BBCOR bats. So we're even.
To tell you the truth when I got the RBI record there was great relief. There was a situation earlier where I had bases loaded and no out and I flew out to the second baseman. After I finally got the record, I got congratulations and coach [Frank] Damas said to me, "You were definitely thinking about the record?" I said, "Heck yeah. Heck, yeah. That was on my mind." I'm glad I got it over with.
PP: Not every college player goes on to a successful pro career. So if pro ball does not work out, what line of work do you think you will get into?
MM: If pro ball doesn't work out I would definitely like to be a salesman. I have a way with words. A lot of people tell me I'm good with that or that I would be a good lawyer or recruiting coordinator at a college. I like to tell people what they like to hear.
PP: So you could be a politician as well?
MM: Yeah, I could probably be a politician. I can sell an idea, a product.
PP: Ok, let's try this out. How would you sell ice to Eskimos?
MM: When ice melts it turns into water and everybody needs water to live. So why not buy some ice from me. It's a start.
PP: Yeah that's a start. You mentioned pro ball. You have played several positions at FIU: first base, right field, third base and even pitched a little in your freshman season. But what is your natural position?
MM: Third base definitely. If it was up to me I would play shortstop. But let's be realistic I am not going to play shortstop. I love third base. I don't think major leaguers such as Evan Longoria and Alex Rodriguez get enough credit for how good defensively they are playing third base. It's probably the hardest position to play because you can be fundamentally sound fielding ground balls, but if you don't have the reaction time there is no shot you catch some of the ground balls hit at you there. I don't know how I catch some of the ground balls they hit at me. I put the glove down and it hits the glove and I thank God.
PP: While we are on the subject of defense, why do you think this team has had a tough time with the gloves this season?
MM: Coach [Scott] Pittenger is one of the hardest working coaches I have seen. It's ridiculous how much that guy cares about how we play defense. He takes it to heart. I don't think we are out of position. I think it's more of a mental thing. I think we are a good defensive team. Do we show it all the time? No, but I think we have the capabilities to be a real good defensive team. One thing I will say about our defense is that we won't stop working. We might be the worst defense in the Sun Belt, but we will not give up trying to improve. Coach Pitt really helps us out to get good angles on the ball.
PP: You own baseball records now at FIU. Music used to be on records. What do you listen to before a game and why?
MM: My top three songs are No. 3 - Levels by Avicii; No. 2 - Collie Man by Slightly Stoopid and No. 1 - Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen. Levels really pumps me up and I love the beat. It just gets you going. The second song calms me down a lot. It's a mellow laid back song and it's a great song even though I'm not sure what the lyrics mean. The first song is just my jam. It might be a little girly but man I love that song.
MM: I was just trying to switch it up from the typical walk-up songs. I used to be the biggest wrestling fan, but I grew up. I was a huge fan of The Rock. I was talking with [former FIU catcher] Sean Reilly and I told him I had to get a good song. I was clicking through You Tube videos for walkup songs and I saw "The Big Show" (right) and that was it. Of course, throughout last year I couldn't tell you how many times people made fun of me for it. When I played right field the opposing bullpens would get on me about it saying stuff like, "Yeah, you're real big."
PP: The majority of the people reading this have never been on an FIU baseball bus road trip. So how about we play FIU coach Turtle Thomas's favorite movie, "Top Gun" on the DVD on the next bus road trip?
MM: No way, whatsoever. I absolutely hate that movie. When it is on TV I will change it immediately. I told coach [Turtle] Thomas I have never hated a movie as passionately as I hate that movie and the movie, "Patton". I hate "Top Gun" because we have to watch it on the road trips at least once a year. And I hate "Patton" because on one road trip it was 3 a.m. and we were on our way back from Jacksonville and coach decides to put "Patton" on at the loudest possible volume that the TVs on the bus allow. We were all trying to sleep and you have grenades going off, cannons and machine guns being fired. We were like, "is he serious?"
MM: [Laughing] The thing is that "Top Gun" (left) is a good movie. But no one on the team likes it. I wouldn't doubt that the freshmen like the movie because they've only seen it once or twice, but by their senior year they are going to be on the same boat that I am on. They will absolutely despise that movie.
*Thanks Richard Lewis photo (Martinez); thanks Sam Lewis photo (Townsend and Martinez).