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.
Feb. 2, 2004
Well, today is Groundhog
Day again. As I walked out the front door with my dog Katie, I saw a groundhog
bolt back into his burrow! I don’t know if it was the beautiful Boca Raton
sunshine, or Katie’s menacing 80 pounds, but that groundhog was moving fast. Now
every baseball coach's worst nightmare is realized. We face another six weeks of
For all of us in South
Florida, that means we still might have to turn on the heat in our homes a time
or two, sweatpants can still be worn occasionally and all the snowbirds will be
cramming the restaurants and roadways a little longer. I don’t expect much
sympathy from some of the coaches on our schedule. Although we have struggled
for a few days with wet weather and cancelled practices, there isn't much to
fear about the results of Groundhog Day.
We had planned to
intrasquad Thursday and Friday night and again Saturday afternoon in preparation
for this weekend’s opening series with Florida A&M. However, heavy rains washed
out Friday and Saturday. It was still too wet to play Sunday, so we let the boys
loose so they wouldn't miss the halftime show of the Super Bowl. What was that
all about? Thankfully, I was giving Maggie and Luke their bath, and we weren't
exposed to the show. It’s shaping up to be a rough year for the Jacksons.
Frankly, the days off might
help more than anything else. We are pretty banged up right now. It’s actually
taking some imagination to field two teams. The biggest setback was not getting
[Matt] O’Brien and [Mike] Crotta their innings on the mound. I would have liked
those two starters to have been stretched out a little before the weekend. We’ll
go at it this afternoon, but will probably have to rein them in a bit.
Everyone is getting antsy
for things to start.
FAMU took two of three from
Florida International. Does Coach [Danny] Price have a dome down there? Coach
Roig [Blue Wave pitching coach George Roig] saw the doubleheader and said that we’ll
have our hands full with the Rattlers. Any team that goes in and wins a series
at FIU must be tough.
Painting the Corners
Randy Beam walked only 17
batters in more than 100 innings last season. So he seemed a natural to do some
volunteer painting Saturday. This time, Randy used a roller instead of a
Rawlings as he and some teammates put a new coat of paint on The Caridad Health
Clinic in Boynton Beach.
The Migrant Association of
South Florida uses The Caridad Health Clinic to provide quality healthcare and
assistance to the indigent and homeless population of South Florida. What
started as a service to a unique - and almost invisible - population (the
migrant workers who pick the produce and fruits that feed our families), has
grown to include people from more than 70 different nations. These people number
over 1,700 patient visits per month! More than 700 healthcare and administrative
volunteers provided more than 19,000 free medical and dental visits to migrant
families who have no insurance or access to Medicaid or Medicare. Go to
www.caridad.org to learn more.
Our guys were part of a
group of people from St. Joan of Arc Parish in Boca. Twice a year, “Project
Restoration” identifies needy families whose homes could use some landscaping,
repair or painting. The clinic was a great candidate. I know that our kids felt
good helping people who spend all their time and energy caring for others.
Every Friday Afternoon
A country singer named
Craig Morgan has a great song out called “Every Friday Afternoon.” It’s about
the divorced dad of a little boy who learns that his former wife is moving to
Boston with their son. He sings of the specter of a long-distance relationship
and the pitfalls of trying to remain in his son’s life. What about birthdays?
Anyone who has endured the
pain of divorce, whether as the parent or the child, can relate to the hurt in
this song. I know that for me, it is always tough listening. The part that hit
home was the line, “Who will coach his Little League team?”
Parents are justifiably
concerned about who will be their child’s coach. It starts in Little League and
extends to college. I have always told parents that I understand how they feel.
My sons were coached by men 1,300 miles away in New Jersey. My hope was always
that Jim and Jeff would be lucky enough to have a coach who cares for them as
kids; someone who recognizes the charge and responsibility that he has been
given; someone who would make them his own.
I was lucky. My two boys
had good men working with them from the youngest age through high school. (The
only shaky one was when I coached Jim here at FAU.)
As I was painting the
baseboard in our bathroom yesterday, I was listening to “Every Friday Afternoon”
on the radio. Just then my son Jim walked and told me his mom had called with
bad news. Al Audick of Long Valley, N.J., died this week of a heart attack. Al
was one of the good men who helped form my young son’s life in my stead. He was
a big man who loved baseball and took the game seriously. His son Alan and Jim
were teammates for years in Little League and Babe Ruth.
Al always treated Jim as
his own. He had read Tom Seaver’s book on pitching, and tried to impart some of
that to my son. The few times I got there to see them practice or play, Al would
make me feel welcome, and try to fill the hole in my life. He would tell me of
big hits, or great plays at first base, stories of good pitching performances,
and all the things I was missing. Al would be sure to provide. He always made it
a point to tell me how proud he was of Jim and his career.
Losing your Dad at any age
is tough. But 23 year old Alan Audick can be proud that his Dad touched so many
lives, in so many ways...every Friday afternoon.
FAU Living in Land of Hope and Dreams (1/28/04)
(photo courtesy of FAU Media Relations Office)