College baseball has long carried a reputation as a regional sport – specifically a Southern sport, where warmer weather in winter months allows teams to get a jump start on training while snow falls in other parts of the country.
This year's College World Series field has plenty of Southern representation – traditional powers Florida State, Florida and two-time defending national champion South Carolina are all in the mix – but also features teams that suggest college baseball's footprint is expanding.
Consider two of the teams in this year's tournament, Stony Brook and Kent State, schools from New York and Ohio, respectively, who sent shockwaves by surviving their regionals and Super Regionals en route to a place among the final eight teams in the country.
Asked if parity is on the rise in college baseball, FSU coach Mike Martin responded, “I'm saying it's already here.
“Because you look at the teams we played this year .. you say, 'That's a good club.' Where's Rhode Island? Rhode Island had an outstanding club, had us beat,” Martin said. “ And you look around, well, Maryland has had trouble making the conference tournament, but yet they go to UCLA, who happens to be the two-seed, and win two out of three. It's here. Parity is here.”
Martin recalls history with Arizona coach Lopez
FSU's CWS opener against Arizona will have an air of familiarity for those that have been with the program a while.
Wildcats coach Andy Lopez used to make regular appearances at Dick Howser Stadium as the head coach of the Florida Gators, who he led from 1995-2001.
"Andy is a great, Christian man. He's a fierce competitor. I knew him when he was at Florida, got to be good friends with him, kept up with him,” Martin said.
Lopez finished with 278-159-1 record at UF and led the program to two College World Series appearances, but was fired following a 35-27 campaign in 2001.
“I can remember the day that he left Florida, he called me on the way back from vacation – I can remember the service station I stopped at – talked to him for a good while,” Martin said. “He's a good man. He was very frustrated at that point in his career … one thing led to another, and Arizona came after him. He's one of the top coaches in the country, no question about it.”
This will be the program's second CWS appearance since Lopez took over in 2002.
Fans can see team off to Omaha
The Seminoles will depart for Omaha Wednesday at 9:30 a.m., and fans are welcome to see the team off on its journey to the College World Series. Those wishing to take part should be in the parking lot between Doak Campbell Stadium and Dick Howser Stadium by 9:15 a.m.