Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Less Hatred, but Familiar Electricity; Baseball Rivalry Different from Football, but Both Sides Expect Wild Series for CWS Berth

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Less Hatred, but Familiar Electricity; Baseball Rivalry Different from Football, but Both Sides Expect Wild Series for CWS Berth

Article excerpt

Byline: BOB THOMAS

TALLAHASSEE -- It only took North Carolina native Mike Martin three months on the Florida State campus to understand the enormity of his new schools' rivalry with Florida.

"From the time that [the Gators] walked into Doak Campbell [Stadium] in 1964 with 'Never, FSU, Never' on the back [of their football jerseys], there has been a special feeling about this rivalry," Martin said. "It's different in baseball, there's no question about that. You play a three-game series. You don't have the same feeling you have when it comes to football in baseball. Baseball is just different."

Different in that there has been no antagonist to incite the rivalry the way former Florida football coach Steve Spurrier did in that sport. In fact, Martin counts Florida baseball coach Pat McMahon among his friends, just as he does former Gators coaches Andy Lopez, Joe Arnold and Jay Bergman.

Don't expect the vitriolic passion of the fans to spill onto the field when FSU and UF open their best-of-3 NCAA Super Regional series Friday night in front of a sellout McKethan Stadium crowd. Not even with a College World Series berth on the line and a national television audience tuning in for the biggest series between the schools since the first of 190 meetings in 1956.

"The fans bring up football stuff when you're out there on the baseball field," FSU senior relief pitcher Kevin Lynch said. "All they know is what uniform you're wearing.

"Players are out there playing the game. You don't hate the person. I think the fans get after each other. We play the game as hard we can and [the Gators] have respect for us, just like we have respect for them. . . . We're all out there trying to win the ballgame and they're not going to jump on our Seminole head to try and tick us off."

That's perhaps the greatest difference between the trio of in-state rivals -- Florida, Florida State and Miami -- on the baseball diamond. Trading barbs is part of the build-up when those programs collide on the football field. The only smack baseball players seem to be interested in involves bat meeting ball.

"The fans decide who the rival is," Florida starting pitcher Tommy Boss said. "With us and Miami, I don't have as many friends. But so many of the guys have so many friends on the FSU and Miami teams. I guess that's where it comes from. We kind of grew up together and now we're playing each other."

As elite high school players, many have traveled the same summer circuits as teammates and rivals. Florida shortstop Justin Tordi and FSU All-American center fielder Shane Robinson were teammates with the Hyannis (Mass.) Mets last summer in the Cape Cod League.

And there are cross-over relationships that extend beyond the players. Tallahassee native and Florida left fielder Gavin Dickey's father Sylvester, works on the grounds crew at Florida State's Dick Howser Stadium. …

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