New York — Tino Martinez was at the top step of the dugout, yelling at the South Florida batter at the plate.

New York — Tino Martinez was at the top step of the dugout, yelling at the South Florida batter at the plate.

"Good job, good job," the former All-Star first baseman hollered during a big at-bat.

Martinez is back in baseball, spending the past several months as a volunteer hitting coach for South Florida. Two years after his last game in the majors, Martinez traded Yankee pinstripes for the dark green and white of the Bulls, whose coach, Lelo Prado, is also his brother-in-law.

"I love college baseball, but I didn't know how much I would like to be back on a schedule after I had so much free time," Martinez said. "I started liking it more than I thought. I was really enjoying working with the kids, teaching and watching them improve. When you see them improve, you feel good about it. I just got hooked on it."

Martinez was in New York again this week, assisting South Florida during the Big East tournament in Brooklyn. The Bulls' season ended Friday night when they were swept by underdog Connecticut, but Martinez's impact on his new team is clear.

Immediate impact

"He's helped me a lot with my hitting," shortstop Walter Diaz said. "Other than mechanics, I feel like he's helped me with my confidence and letting me know that I'm a good hitter and I can do it. He's been there, not only for me, but for the whole team."

Martinez didn't just pop into practice every once in a while during the Bulls' 34-26 season. He was a full-time presence and made almost every road trip. A year after South Florida hit .268 and scored just 299 runs, the Bulls batted over .280 and outscored opponents 362-328.

"He's done so much for our club," Prado said. "We've hit more than we did last year and we've scored more runs and things like that, and I have to give him a lot of the credit."

The family connection

Prado spent the previous 11 seasons as Louisville's coach before being hired by South Florida last June. One of Prado's first moves was to ask his brother-in-law if he'd be interested in helping. Martinez was working with ESPN's "Baseball Tonight" broadcasts but put that aside after the major-league season.

"It really wasn't something I had planned on until he got the job this past summer and asked me to be a volunteer coach," Martinez said. "So I said yes, to try help the program go in the right direction and help them build the team and recruit and stuff."

When Martinez first joined the team, the players were in awe. Once they got over being star-struck, they picked his brain about the Yankees, hitting and baseball in general.

"When he tells you something, you've got to listen," Diaz said. "If you don't listen, you're just stupid. How are you not going to listen to that guy?"

Martinez is married to Prado's sister, Marie. He and the South Florida coach have been longtime friends. Prado was an assistant at the University of Tampa in the mid-1980s when Martinez was developing into a future major-league star.

Martinez went on to hit 339 homers in 16 seasons, helping the Yankees win four World Series rings. He was one of the most beloved Yankees during their championship run in the mid- to late-1990s. He also was one of their best clutch hitters and an outstanding first baseman.

Welcome to my world

Martinez took the Bulls for a tour of Yankee Stadium on Thursday. He talks regularly with ex-teammates Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada and is well aware of the Yankees' struggles this season.

"I think from what I've seen, there's a handful of guys — three or four or five guys — who have that fire, but they need more," he said. "They need eight or nine guys at a time. They just can't do it with three or four or five guys. You need the whole team to want to win and to feel bad when you lose — and think it hurts. I don't see that yet, but I'm not in the clubhouse so I can't speak for the team. That's just outside looking in."

Where from here?

At 39, Martinez still looks as if he could go out and play first base for the Yankees. His face has aged just slightly and he's still in great shape. His timing at the plate might be a little off, though.

"One time, we got him to hit at batting practice," Diaz said with a big smile. "He whiffed on the first three, but then he hit a bomb. I guess he hadn't swung in a while."

Martinez isn't sure what's next now that the Bulls' season has ended, but he has embraced the idea of being a college coach.

"You do get enthused about it," he said. "You get caught up in the game and you want to win, and you compete out there. Even as a coach or a head coach, you compete in your mind and you want to win so badly. I think maybe down in the future. I'm not sure yet. Right now, it's nice to be home on a more consistent basis, but down the line, I wouldn't rule it out."