Kevin Cooney is in 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. 23, 2004

Washington's Birthday


When I was growing up, the country celebrated our founding father’s birthday on February 22.


Someone had the bright idea to combine Lincoln and Washington’s birthdays into one big holiday, so Sunday’s date is not as significant as in the past; unless, of course, you are a descendant of George. Revisionist historians have dramatically increased the size of that family over the years, so there will be many who see Sunday as a special day.


I hadn’t looked at Sunday’s date in that context when I scheduled George Washington University for this weekend. Hopefully the Colonials won’t receive any special juice for their game against us.


Last night, we played well and had a close game until the eighth, when we tacked on four runs to grab a 7-0 lead.


Randy Beam had a great game against a team that put up good offensive numbers last season and took a very impressive batting practice. I hated to pull him after eight with a shutout going; I was a pitcher in a former life. But now that we all monitor pitch counts and try to have good closers in our pens, that move only makes sense. Ten Ks and no walks, along with five hits makes for a pretty good night for the big redhead from Sarasota.


Derek Hutton homered in the first to get us off to a good start. He wound up only a double short of the cycle. Maybe it was the new stirrups and high pants.


Tim Mascia stayed hot with a 3-for-4 night.


We thought Rusty Brown would be in the lineup, but he was a late scratch as his ankle got worse after pregame. We did get Jordan Hafer back from his ankle injury, and Robbie Orton was again behind the plate. I think we’ll still continue to bring Rob along slowly. It’s a long season.


Time to get dressed for work; O’Brien will be on the hill, looking to continue a solid start to the season. Matt will face a good challenge tonight. GW had four left-handed hitters and three switch hitters in last night’s lineup, so I think Matt will be facing at least seven left-handed hitters.


Sunday Morning…


Baseball is a tough game to figure. Friday night, we go into the eighth embroiled in a tight 3-0 game, and 24 hours later, it’s 29-1. Last year, GW won 37 games, its best season ever. Most of its offense is back, and it returned all but one pitcher. Its starting catcher is out until March, and there were a few balls that got by the catcher that extended some innings for us.


In 1999, we had a real good offense and a number of solid backup players. We called the nonstarters, “the bomb squad,” and managed to get them a lot of playing time. This year is different. Because of some injuries, academic casualties and two projected starters choosing at mid-year not to play this year, we only have four position players on our bench. One of them is freshman Mike McBryde, who is also a pitcher. Mike threw the ninth for his first outing last night.


So, normally, the bench is cleared and the dogs are called off. But we can only sub three guys, and they all start at one time or another anyway. We just go up and swing the bat, don’t bunt or steal, tag up and advance only on real deep fly balls, try not to take the extra base. There are some courtesy things you can do in games like that, but not much else.

If baseball holds true to form, today’s game will be a close one.


FAU 7, GW 5…


Anyone who’s been around baseball for a while knew this was going to happen.

The close game was not a case of us coming out flat, Washington’s Birthday, or underestimating your opponent.


It was a case of GW pitcher Anthony Smith setting the tone early for his team as he did a great job in his first college appearance. We kept knocking on the door, but couldn’t deliver a knockout punch.


Meanwhile, his teammates kept battling and finally grabbed a 4-2 lead in the fifth. But we weren’t done and came right back and tied it in the bottom half of the fifth.


Then Craig Hughes came out of the pen and started carving up the GW hitters.


Craig Hughes, who only this morning had learned that a good friend had tragically died the night before.


Prior to the game, a tearful relief pitcher explained why he was late. This isn’t the first friend Craig has lost. We talked about how so much of life makes no sense, and that many people are handed great burdens in their lives. I reminded him how Christ carried His own cross, fell and got help. Craig’s help needed to come from the thing he does so well, staring down hitters with the game on the line. He did that and more for us today. It’s the other times of his life where he now needs some help.




Previous Entries

Dugout Talks and Scouting Reports (2/21/04)

Not a Happy Valentine's Day (2/16/04)

Opening Weekend (2/9/04)

Almost FAMUs (2/2/04)

FAU Living in Land of Hope and Dreams (1/28/04)


(photo courtesy of FAU Media Relations Office)