Kevin Cooney is entering his 17th season as head coach at Florida Atlantic University and 21st overall. Each week, he’ll share some of the highs and lows of running a college baseball program - one that continues to grow as a national power. Cooney, who starred as a pitcher before taking Montclair State to a Division III national title, has guided the Blue Wave to a 226-89 record and four NCAA Regionals the past five years. His 1999 squad won 34 straight games, tying the NCAA mark set by Texas in 1977.



Jan. 28, 2004

FAU Living in Land of Hope and Dreams




My apologies to 4H Club members out there. Right now, my area of interest runs to only my own four H’s.


What exactly is “hype?” The dictionary describes it as excessive and exaggerated praise or promotion. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the hype is not accurate. I was relieved to hear that, since there seems to be an awful lot of “hype” about Florida Atlantic as we enter the 2004 season.


It seems that every poll or preview has had high praise and expectations for our team and some of the individual players. We have three players mentioned as pre-season All-Americans, a freshman predicted to be the top newcomer in our conference, the projected conference player of the year and rankings as high as 19th in the land. Never before has our program received so much attention at the start of a season. Thanks to the hard work of our recruiting coordinator, John McCormack, we appear to have a talented roster poised to do big things.


My hope is that we live up to all of this.


My normal feeling is that our team is never as good as people say, and it is always hard for me to be confident. Perhaps it is just the perspective of knowing our faults better than outsiders, or just the feeling that if it’s my team…how good could it be??? As I cleaned out my mother’s apartment this December, I found some old clippings from some high school teams I coached. The comments I was making more than 20 years ago were the same as the past few years. “I didn’t think we were this good…nobody told the kids…they overcame the coaching.” I guess that’s just my way. But as I kept writing out lineups the past week, it’s evident that we have some talent. The long haul of the season will tell.


Bruce Springsteen was labeled as all hype when he was on the cover of Time and Newsweek simultaneously prior to the release of Born To Run. Time has shown that there was some talent there. Let’s hope the same holds true for FAU.


Speaking of Bruce…I saw the DVD of the Barcelona concert. My two little kids are big fans, and we watch a little each night before bedtime. Can you say brainwash? Anyway, “Land of Hope and Dreams” always reminds me of a team getting ready for the journey of its season. A college team is made up of such a disparate mix of people from different backgrounds. Some have had real hard lives with little family direction, others have never wanted for anything - and have never made a decision on their own. We have players who are nasty and some who are too nice, hard-nosed competitors and kids who are a little soft. Some guys have been in great programs and have never lost, while others have suffered and have rarely won. College coaches have the job of pulling this mix together and forming it into a cohesive unit focused on a common goal to reach that land of hope and dreams we call Omaha.


Our trainer Elaine is a real nice young woman. Ordinarily I would welcome a call at home from her, but not at this time of year. Our 2003 MVP - Rusty Brown - fouled a pitch off his ankle during Saturday’s intrasquad game, and Elaine was calling to say that the X-ray showed a hairline fracture. If it was the size of my hairline, we’d be OK, but it looks as though Rusty will be out two to four weeks. At worst case, that would be our first 10 games. Best case, only our opening series. Here’s hoping that Rusty is a quick healer.


As for healing…


Mike Elliot played for us in 1999 and 2000. A big, raw-boned, ever-smiling giant, Mike is one of the nicest kids you would want to meet. We learned last week that he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblast leukemia. This is a tough fight, and chemo seems to be the best option. The positive side is Mike himself.


We spoke last week and he assured me that he was going to win the battle. He says that none of the statistical analysis on this disease was taken from a 23-year-old in Mike’s physical shape. Mike was always very religious, and he told me that this has brought him even closer to God. His attitude is so upbeat; I could see him smiling through the phone.


Those of you who pray, please add Mike and his family to your list. Those who don’t…why not start with Mike?



(photo courtesy of FAU Media Relations Office)