OMAHA, Neb. -- On the night before it ended, Mike Martin took his family out to dinner at Sullivan's, an upscale steakhouse in a city that has brought him so much happiness and even more heartbreak. His teenage grandsons were there, and Martin spent part of the night, according to his son, Mike Jr., "teaching them manners." Carol Martin was right by his side, as always. Martin calls her his girlfriend of 55 years.
Martin's Florida State baseball team was facing an elimination game Wednesday night in the College World Series, so it should've been a time to be reflective. But one of the biggest conversation pieces wound up being the calamari his son ordered that Martin thought was pricey.
Maybe they didn't want to think about it -- that after 40 years and 2,029 wins, Martin was eventually going to walk up those steps of the dugout one last time and enter the unknown, a world without coaching.
Twenty-four hours later, after a 4-1 loss to Texas Tech, the walk began. Martin took off his glasses and made his way to the handshake line. The crowd shouted "11," his uniform number. The 75-year-old smiled and tipped his hat.
"Thanks so much for being here," he said. "I love y'all."
And so ended the career of a man who had the most wins of any college coach in any sport but didn't get the thing he wanted most -- a national championship. He made it to the College World Series 17 times -- and finished second twice. This year's team was particularly memorable: The Seminoles barely made the NCAA tournament, then had to win at Georgia and LSU to make it back to Omaha.
They cried in the locker room as Martin spoke. He told them that you don't always get everything in life that you want. He said he would never forget this team.
"I'm just really proud to say I played for Mike Martin," said pitcher Conor Grady, who took Wednesday's loss. "I knew coming in who he was. I mean, who doesn't?"
There will be questions in the coming weeks. Will Mike Martin Jr., his longtime assistant, get the head-coaching job? Can anyone replace 11?
All the Seminoles knew was that Thursday morning, for the first time in 40 years, Martin wouldn't be preparing for another season.
His son was asked what dad would be doing next week. The younger Martin said he didn't know.
"Whatever Me-Ma wants to do," he said, referring to Carol Martin. "Hopefully, it's time for her."