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
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
(photo courtesy of FAU Media Relations Office)