By: J. Daniel Pearson
For Positively Osceola
An anticipated exhaustive search for the right candidate to replace retiring Osceola baseball coach Scott Birchler lasted just a few days, as Kowboys Athletics Director Rick Tribit named former Tohopekaliga skipper Nikko Martell to the post on Tuesday afternoon.
“When he applied for the job I was intrigued by the possibility,” Tribit said. “From my days at Winter Springs, I know how difficult it can be to start a new program – especially in baseball where you are often behind the eight ball in terms of facilities, equipment, resources and even players. Nikko has done a fantastic job of building the program at Tohopekaliga. In a very short period of time, he not only transformed the Tigers into a competitive program but a winning one.”
Entering his 11th year as a high school coach, Martell spent five years as an assistant coach at Gateway. When Tohopekaliga opened for 2018-19 school year, Martell became the first head baseball coach. A 4-15 initial season was followed by a 3-4 Covid year and a 5-12 mark in 2020-21.
He posted his first winning season in 2022 with a 10-9 season before winning a school record 12 games last season. That achievement — combined with the culture he created — earned Martell the prestigious “Mike Fields Distinguished Leadership Award.” Named after the former St. Cloud and Harmony baseball coaching legend, the award recognizes athletic achievement, sportsmanship and community service. Under Martell, Tiger baseball players and staff volunteered to work numerous campus events, including handling parking duties and interacting with campus visitors.
For the past couple of years Martell has organized and run the XT Preseason Classic, an honorary baseball tournament to remember his friend Xavier Torres; he also works closely with the Latinos in Action, helping create a Roberto Clemente Community Service Award for high school athletes who do volunteer work inside the community.
Martell says the decision to leave Tohopekaliga was not an easy one. “Leaving was not something I was even considering. I love the school, the players and the time I spent there. But when this job opened, I felt it was a unique opportunity to take over a storied program with a rich history,” Martell said. “Opportunities like this simply do not come open very often. Coach Birchler built a first-class program with a winning culture and I am honored that the Osceola administration has the faith and trust in my ability to keep that going.”
In replacing Birchler, Martell is tasked with the taking over a program that won over 300 games in 21 years and two stints under the Osceola coaching legend. That included eight District titles and a 2014 Regional Championship. Although he says he is mindful of the culture and tradition Birchler has built at Osceola, Martell says he will have his own coaching style. “I have my own coaching style and the first step will be to convince the players to buy in to how we want to do things. Coach Birchler built a fantastic program and a great culture and that is something I will try to emulate and continue. It’s an incredible opportunity.”