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.
April 27, 2004
To Bunt or Not to Bunt - That
is the Question
My apologies to William Shakespeare, but that was the question of the day
yesterday in Nashville. Not once, but twice. The decision regarding a simple tap
of the baseball to advance two base runners took center stage in the Music City.
Belmont and Florida Atlantic were up with the birds Sunday morning. We were
desperately searching for good weather and the improbable chance to finish our
three-game series. The day before, Coach Jarvis and his ground crew did a great
job in the face of enough rain to cause the animals to pair off and head for the
Ark. Despite the conditions, we had managed to play two games on Saturday with
FAU winning the first 1-0 and Belmont taking the nightcap 5-2.
When we left the park Saturday night, I told our players that we were 99%
sure to be heading for the airport at 7:45 a.m. the next day. The weather people
were predicting severe thunderstorms and flooding to commence overnight and
throughout the day on Sunday. We had an 11 a.m. flight and exams waiting. It
looked as if we would be there for both.
At 6:40 a.m., I opened the shades of my hotel room and looked out at a dry
The phone rang. It was Coach Jarvis. Everything was good at the field, it
wasn’t raining, and he asked me to bring him a bagel.
We immediately implemented the contingency plan devised Saturday night.
Catcher Rob Orton had already taken off on a 6 a.m. flight. He had a final
that couldn’t be rescheduled. We sent eight people to the airport for our
original flight home. We would play without them so there would be fewer tickets
to be changed later. I grabbed a bag of bagels from the restaurant, and we gave
the bus driver our new destination- Shelby Park…and step on it!
The coaches and umpires set an 11:45 a.m. curfew on the game. We agreed that
no inning would start after that time. The next flight we wanted to make was at
We must be morning people, because we scored four in the first on a big
bases-loaded double by Rob Horst, (old people don’t sleep late anyway) and a sac
fly from Rusty Brown.
Things looked good as Chris Saxton was throwing well in his first start of
the season. But in the sixth, Belmont rallied, and we were suddenly down two
runs as the clock kept ticking. I hate curfews, especially when we’re losing.
Now …back to Shakespeare.
We put the first two men on base in the seventh. Do I bunt Alex Fonseca to
advance the tying run to second base? Does a tie help us if the game is to be
stopped in 45 minutes? Should you ever bunt to tie on the road? I was asking
myself these questions aloud as I paced the dugout. Fons was swinging a hot bat,
and a tie is like kissing your sister.
Fons looked at me for a sign and I mouthed, “We’re not bunting…swing away.”
Alex took a rip and drilled the first pitch over the left-field fence. OK,
barely over the fence, but who cares? We’re up 8-7. I look at my watch, trying
to will it to run faster!
At 11:20 CDT, we start the ninth inning still leading by one run. Belmont
will get its last time at bat. Why didn’t I say 11:15 for a curfew?
Warpool and Soukop singled to start the bottom of the ninth. The tying and
winning runs were on for the Bruins. It was decision time again.
Third baseman Evan Brannon was playing deep and to the foul line, guarding
against the double. I moved him up to the bag, but still on the line. Coach Mac
asked me if I thought they were going to bunt. I didn’t think so, but I didn’t
want to invite the bunt by playing deep.
To bunt or not to bunt was the question for Coach Jarvis. The book says bunt.
Move the tying and winning runs into scoring position. Force the other coach to
decide whether to load the bases and play back for two, load the bases and play
up for the force at home or bring the infield in and pray for a pop up or
The Belmont boys had been running at will on the bases all weekend. They even
send guys who don’t really look like base stealers. They play an aggressive
style of baseball.
This decision was probably made the day they committed to this style of play.
Josh Brummett stepped in the box. Mike Crotta came set and fired a fastball
home. Warpool broke for third as Soukop took off towards second. They’re not
Brummett pulled a line drive toward third base as Evan Brannon reached down
and gloved it inches from the dirt. He tried to tag third and then Warpool. Evan
whipped a throw to Hutton at second for the second out. Hutton threw to Ich at
first for a game-ending triple play.
It seemed our entire depleted dugout was standing at third as those throws
were made. I never saw an out call on the line drive. I ran to the plate ump and
asked, ‘That’s it right? Triple Play right? We’re done?” “You’re done,” he told
me, “Go catch your plane.”
As a coach, you get paid to do a lot of things. One of them is to bunt,
swing, or run. We each made our choice. I don’t think either would change his
The saga continued as we raced to the airport, commandeered the men’s room
and changed out of our uniforms while Coach Mac got the first group on a 12:30
flight. George Roig charmed a gate agent and another group was sent out at 3:30.
The last bunch took off at 6:30 and finally returned to Boca for a few hours
sleep before exams today.
They say it’s a game of inches. You’ll get no argument here. But it’s also a
game of people and decisions. The decisions are made and the people make plays.
That’s what makes it interesting after all these years.
The Promised Land (4/21/04)
A Little Rusty (4/17/04)
Knock, Knock, Knockin' on Heaven's Door (4/15/04)
OB Gets CG for FAU vs. UCF (4/13/04)
The Present and the Past (4/8/04)
Held Up Without a Gun (4/5/04)
Live by the Sword, Die by the Sword (3/27/04)
Bye Bye Buckeyes...Hello Dolphins (3/26/04)
A Festive Week Ends in a Wreck (3/22/04)
Break No Day at the Beach (3/16/04)
Baseball is Boring? What are They Smoking? (3/9/04)
Hanging with LaRussa was in the Cards (3/6/04)
Winds of Change (3/1/04)
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)