TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Mike Martin didn’t have to sell Florida State’s rich baseball history in his search for a top-flight pitching coach with Division I experience.
Mike Bell was a part of that history and now he’s back in Tallahassee where he helped the Seminoles earn a pair of College World Series appearances on the mound.
Martin announced Monday that Bell has been hired to replace Jamey Shouppe on the Seminoles’ staff.
“We’re just very excited to have Michael back, and his Seminole family,” Martin said. “Mike was great leader when he played here and he’s shown those skills everywhere he’s been [as a coach].”
Bell’s resume speaks for itself. In seven seasons at the Division I level, including the last four as the Oklahoma pitching coach, the Sarasota, Fla. native has helped recruit and develop 22 pitchers who were selected in the Major League Baseball draft. That includes three first-round selections – including 2006 No. 1 overall pick Luke Hochevar – during his three seasons at Tennessee, where he helped the Volunteers reach the 2005 College World Series.
“Deep down inside, I’m garnet and gold,” Bell said. “It’s a total dream come true, being fortunate enough to play for Florida State and participate in the College World Series, and now being able to come back as a coach and help fulfill those dreams of other young men.
“[Mike Martin] has been a father-figure and a coaching figure to me in every aspect …. I wouldn’t be where I am today without him.”
In four seasons at Oklahoma, Bell’s pitching staffs have established a number of new standards. His 2011 group posted a 3.00 ERA, which is the Sooners’ lowest since 1978. Four of his hurlers earned All-Big 12 honors, including second-team All-American Michael Rocha. The Sooners posted a 41-17 final record and were ranked No. 15 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll. In 2010, his pitching staff was instrumental in leading OU back to the College World Series for the first time since 1995.
The 2010 Sooners registered a program-record 583 strikeouts and produced three drafted pitchers. His 2009 staff included first-round picks Garrett Richards and Ryan Duke. Duke was also named an All-American—OU’s first since 2000.
When Bell arrived at Oklahoma as coach Sunny Golloway’s assistant, he had a blank slate to fill, but set out to build a staff based on the same principles he plans to apply at Florida State.
“You recruit the best guys possible – the best fit for your program – and the draft will take care of itself,” said Bell, who said he begins looking for proven winners who can win on a high level. “We want power stuff, proven stuff and projectable, but we also want winners. Stuff is very important, but that proven winner with stuff is what we’re looking for.”
Bell said it is important to identify and sign starters, relievers and closers when building a staff.
It certainly doesn’t hurt that Bell has enjoyed successful stints with programs in both the SEC and Big XII – two of the nation’s top baseball conferences – while having experienced the ACC as a player. The crossover of recruiting in the Southeast and the Midwest should also serve him well.
“That’s what’s unique about the journey I’ve gone through,” Bell said. “After being a player in the ACC in the mid-90s, to coach in the SEC and take them to CWS and then the Big XII and got to the CWS, it has definitely molded me into who I am today.”
Beyond his Division I experience, he spent two seasons as the pitching coach and recruiting coordinator at perennial Division II national power Florida Southern, where the Mocs twice finished in the top 20 nationally in ERA. He launched his coaching career in 2002 at Brandon High, where he led the team to a district title and a regional runner-up finish as the head coach, earning Hillsborough County Coach of the Year honors.
A left-handed pitcher and first baseman for the Seminoles, Bell helped Martin’s teams reach the 1994 and 1995 CWS in his only two seasons. He was a two-year teammate of FSU assistant coach Mike Martin, Jr., who handled the catching duties for those squads. Bell posted a two-year record of 14-4 with a 3.00 ERA and was twice named to the ACC Academic Honor Roll.
Selected in the 20th round of the 1995 draft by the Montreal Expos, Bell spent six years in the minors, including the final three with the Baltimore Orioles’ organization where he reached the Double-A level.
Prior to enrolling at FSU, where he earned his degree in 1996, Bell spent two seasons pitching at Pasco-Hernando Community College, where he was a two-time All-Suncoast Conference selection.
Those playing experiences were instrumental in shaping Bell’s career as a coach.
“I could see that [coaching acumen] in him when he played here,” Martin said. “He was a student of the game, whether it was hitting or pitching. … He was constantly trying to learn about all phases of the game. He brings a lot to the table.
“He’s a tireless worker. He knows the state of Florida extremely well, having been raised in the Sarasota area. He’s going to be a great addition in bringing top talent to our program.”