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.



March 1, 2004

Winds of Change


Saturday February 28 - The Doubletree Diamond Classic


Tenth Avenue Freeze Out!!


What was the story with the cold and the wind? It had to be 38 degrees with the wind chill! Thank God for long johns and Rob Horst.


Last night was a good test for us as we faced an outstanding pitcher from the University of Minnesota. Glen Perkins was 10-2 last season, and is projected to be a first- or second-round pick in this June’s MLB Draft.


We hoped to be in better shape to face this left-hander because Rusty Brown was slated to make his first start of the year. Our leading RBI guy and last season’s MVP has struggled with a fractured ankle since the preseason.


To the delight of the home crowd and his teammates, Rusty singled in his first at-bat. But the joy was short-lived as I saw Rusty pull up lame at first base. The pain got more intense with each stride he took, so we had no choice but to remove him from the game.


Perkins settled in and did a great job on our hitters, as his offense scored twice in the third, and we trailed for only the third time this season.


But in the fifth, he walked two with two outs, bringing cleanup hitter Rob Horst to the plate. Rob had already struck out twice on good changeups, and Perkins went to that well once more.


This time Rob was ready and launched a three-run shot to left as our dugout exploded. I told the guys after the game that Horst guessed on his SATs and got into college. Tonight he guessed changeup and got us a W!


Matt O’Brien got better as the game progressed and left after six with a one-run lead, and our bullpen did the rest.


Lefty Mark Culp came in and got his three and was followed by Hughes and Saxton.


We added a run in the eighth on a double steal to give us a little breathing room.


In the opener, Notre Dame beat Winthrop 19-6, in a game where the score doesn’t really reflect the game. The strong winds wreaked havoc with a lot of balls, most of which hurt the Eagles.


Tonight, we have Randy Beam on the hill. After looking at Notre Dame’s stats from last season, we felt a lefty was a better matchup. O’Brien’s abilities make that an easier decision. Matt has been real consistent thus far, and it’s like having two No. 1s.


The wind is still blowing hard from the west, which is very rare here. The forecast is for them to shift to a northeast wind which is usually the norm. That shift favors our left-handed hitters.


So far, things have gone well. You always hope as a host that the teams and their fans feel welcome and enjoy themselves. I expect there will be a few sunburned Gopher fans this evening, as the sun has been out in full force for their game today.


“May You Have a Strong Foundation When the Winds of Changes Shift” - That’s one of my favorite lines from a Bob Dylan song called “Idiot Wind.”


Last night, the winds shifted as predicted by the weather man, but instead of helping us as I had hoped, the change killed us.


Notre Dame’s Matt Edwards hit two home runs, the last in the ninth to beat us 3-2. His first was wind-aided, but it was the same for both teams. We hit two balls into the teeth of the wind that would have easily carried five hours earlier.


But, that’s life in the fast lane. No one is likely to go undefeated in college baseball.


A great crowd was treated to a real heavyweight fight as each team battled all night with great defense and outstanding pitching.


We had a chance in the ninth as Tim Mascia singled to lead off the inning. Pinch-runner Mike McBryde promptly stole second base, and things looked promising for the home team. But Alex Fonseca’s ground ball was right at the shortstop, preventing McBryde from advancing. Anthony Albano walked and pinch-hitter Robbie Widlansky fouled off what seemed like a dozen pitches, before ripping a hard shot toward the Irish first baseman. The throw to second forced Albano, and McBryde slipped as he tried to stop at third and was tagged out to end the game.


It was a great college baseball game. Randy Beam threw real well, as did Notre Dame’s Thornton. We just weren’t able to get the clutch hit when we needed.


Our hitters took too many third strikes. I always say that you’re foolish to leave your fate in the hands of the umpire. But sometimes, you need to give credit to the pitchers.


So today we need to bounce back against Winthrop.


The third game of a weekend is always tough, but after an emotional loss, we’ll find some things out about our guys.


Sunday night...


A good bounce back from a tough loss, as FAU beat Winthrop 14-4. Our guys came out relaxed and confident, as all the coaches had hoped. Mike Crotta pitched another good game as he went six innings and looked sharp.


The good news was the 4-for-5 performance from transfer Anthony Albano. The big guy had struggled the first 11 games, but broke out against Notre Dame and then exploded against Winthrop. He got his first home run on Sunday. I guess he got tired of being called “Judy.”


Good things happen to good people. Anthony’s family is in town and should be proud of their son, though not for the obvious reasons.


At Tuesday’s practice, I was informed that two players were missing when their classes had been checked by our academic support people. As practice ended, I told the team that they were excused from the usual post practice cleanup duties. The two truants would be responsible for picking up trash, raking the field and putting on the tarps.


A few jokers laughingly started throwing tape and cups on the ground and waved goodbye to the two guys picking up rakes.


Anthony Albano approached and asked if there was another rake. I said no, those two have it covered.


“ there another rake?”


I said, “Anthony those two are being punished for not being in class. You don’t…”


“Coach...I need a rake. I'm in their class.”


I guess I’m a little slow, and I guess our academic guys don’t know Anthony by sight. He only arrived in January.


Like I said, his parents can be proud.




Previous Entries

Washington's Birthday (2/23/04)

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)