Editor's Note: This is the first article in a two-part series about new Baker School Principal Mike Martello’s lessons learned as a Gator student-athlete and his vision for Baker's athletic program.
BAKER — Mike Martello was a third-team all-state football player, an all-state tournament basketball player and a four-sport letterman at Baker School.
He played on a state championship football team and a basketball team that made the state final four. Upon graduating from Baker in 1988, Martello played two years of junior college basketball.
Now, Martello, a first-year principal at his alma mater, is the will tell you he wasn’t the best athlete in his family. In fact, he says, his three siblings — brothers Vince and Chris and sister Tina — were all better athletes than him.
“Believe it or not,” Martello said, “with all those accolades, I was the member of the family with the least amount of athletic talent.”
Martello’s oldest brother, Vince, who died of cancer at age 23, was a McDonald’s All-American basketball player at Baker. Chris, the second brother, played on a national championship basketball team at David Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn. And his sister, Tina, was a star basketball player and track athlete for the Gators. She played basketball at Chipola College.
Their father, Gerald, was a longtime basketball coach and school administrator.
Not in his game plan
Martello — a Baker School lifer, attending kindergarten through 12th grade at the school — never planned on getting into education, although it seemed to be the family business.
“Believe it or not, when I left school, I had no aspirations of getting into education,” he said. “I had big dreams of getting into the corporate world. And I did that a little bit.
“But the game (basketball) is actually what called me back. After college I started officiating basketball and that reignited the fire that I had. I officiated for six years while we were in South Florida and that eventually led right back to coaching, teaching and now administration.”
In a twist of fate, Martello’s first coaching job was as an assistant basketball coach at Laurel Hill School where his wife, Lee, is now the principal.
After a few years of helping Kent Zessin with the Hoboes, Martello replaced his high school coach, Monty Russell, as Baker's boys basketball coach.
“Coming back 10 years ago and coaching basketball was a great experience,” Martello said. “And now to be given this responsibility for the whole school — it’s an honor and pleasure to be here.”
Lessons learned in athletics
Being a multi-sport athlete taught Martello many lessons he incorporated into his coaching and will now utilize as principal.
“I think it helped from a lot of different perspectives, but the most important perspective was how hard work pays off,” he said. “I felt John Ensor (his football coach at Baker) was one of the hardest coaches I ever played for. But it was all for a purpose and all of that eventually paid off with the success that we were able to have.
“That’s one thing I hope to carry over into this job — that our success will directly correlate to the effort we put into this job.”
Martello also learned from watching his dad as a coach and administrator.
“The first thing (the senior Martello taught him) is to know the game inside and out and the little nuances that give you an advantage,” Martello said. “You don’t have use them all the time, but there is going to be a situation once in a blue moon that you are going to need that, so know the game.
“I think that correlates directly into this job. Know what the responsibilities are. Know what the focus and the goals should be and therefore get everybody on the same page working toward that same goal.”
Best high school memories
Martello might not have been the most athletic member of his family, but he probably played for the best Gator teams.
It’s the memories of those great teams that he recalls, more than 20 years after last suiting up as a Baker athlete.
“I came in at the end of the three years of state championship teams in football,” he said. “That would have to be one of the best memories. Secondly, it would have to be my years we were not even expected to win the district (in basketball) my junior year and we ended up going to the state tournament.
“So I think those would be my two fondest memories. Winning the state championship (in football) as a sophomore and making it to the state tournament as a junior.”
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.