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.
Aug. 5, 2004
The Summer's Here and the Time
“the summer’s gone" would be more accurate. In some counties in the Sunshine
State, kids are already back in school. My daughter Maggie begins first grade at
St. Jude’s on August 11. Including kindergarten, I spent thirteen years in
Catholic school. Back then I never would have imagined that I would someday
subject my child to the same educational system, but as we age, our perspective
changes. Maggie’s first day and subsequent years are something I happily
always an interesting time for me. It is definitely an abrupt change of
lifestyle for baseball coaches, their families, and their players. We spend
countless hours with players, hurtling headlong through the season, only to come
to a screeching halt in June. Everyone scatters to all parts of the country-
some are playing minor league baseball in Maryland, Utah, Tennessee, and other
locales, returning players are competing in summer leagues in Cape Cod,
Wisconsin, Virginia, Maine, or Alaska.
time each day checking on kids through the websites available for those teams.
It seems real weird to suddenly not see people that you spend so much time with
for months. It is also strange to become a fan like everyone else. At least
that’s the way I see it.
spends most of his time at games and showcases. This year saw him travel to
Illinois, North Carolina, Massachusetts, California, and the great state of New
Jersey, in addition to his treks throughout Florida. I don’t think he’s had time
to miss people other than his family.
the benefits we’ve enjoyed over the years is our relationship with a Connie Mack
team called the Florida Pokers. They have rented our fields for many of their
games, and have hosted numerous tournaments that have been a real benefit to our
recruiting. It is great to have underclassmen on your campus at a time where you
normally would not be allowed to speak with them. The exposure of Florida
Atlantic to them and their abilities to us, has resulted in some pretty talented
kids playing in a Florida Atlantic uniform.
founder and patriarch of the Pokers is Mike Roberts. Coach Roberts has been at
this for a long time. His goal evolved into attempting to provide an opportunity
for talented young men to experience a level of play comparable to college
baseball. His teams traveled around the country, learned to live out of
suitcases, eat at nice restaurants- they even got to see the ducks at the
Peabody Hotel in Memphis.
remember the summer my son Jim played for Mike. He put him on the roster sight
unseen- Jim had played high school ball in New Jersey, and exposed him to a
world beyond playing American Legion ball in his hometown. Jim met the Pokers at
Ohio State, then played at Miami of Ohio. He also got to Nashville and Middle
Tennessee State, as well as a 3:00AM tournament game in Memphis. They finished
up that year in San Diego. I got to travel with Mike and his coaches that
summer, mixing parental pleasure with business.
Mike is a
great guy with a unique coaching style. Well, I guess it’s not unique if you
have seen Bobby Knight in action. The first time I ever saw my son screamed at
was when Mike visited the mound after Jim made the mistake of walking two
batters in a relief outing. It was an experience the kid didn’t forget.
has a heart of gold and his players love him.
insisted this would be his last year. He has his grandson’s T Ball games to
watch. His career ended last week on our field in the Connie Mack Regional
Tournament. Mike’s last, and probably best chance to get to the World Series in
New Mexico, ended with sudden ferocity thanks to a walk-off home run by a future
FAU star, and a bad call by an ump to end the final game. It was a heartbreaking
finish as the tying run was thrown out at home to complete a double play. (sac
fly) The play wasn’t close, but we all have to live with what the umpire sees.
especially felt badly, because Mike had a number of signed FAU recruits on his
team and I wanted to see them win.
Roberts and the hundreds of men like him are priceless. They put up with the
rigors of coaching, travel, personnel and parent problems for the love of the
game. It cost Mike Roberts money each year to run the Pokers. Mike did it all
with no salary, in his free time. He did everything first class for his kids and
they are better for it.
him as a coach, but I’m glad he’s my friend.
driving home from our vacation in Tennessee. Thirteen hours with a six and a
four year old in a vehicle. Somewhere below Perry, Georgia we encountered an
hour and half delay due to a gigantic multi vehicle accident in the northbound
was inching along. I had the radio up loud desperately trying to drown out the
noise from the backseat. American Soldier
by Toby Keith came on, and as I was singing along I looked out the window. Next
to us in a beat up old Honda was a real American soldier. He might have been
returning to base after a free weekend. As I looked at him riding in a car I
wouldn’t want to see my sons driving, the thought of just how much we owe those
men and women hit me hard.
supposed to be the leaders of the free world, the greatest nation on Earth, and
the people we count on most aren’t paid well enough to own a decent car. I
thought of the wife he may have left behind and her struggles, trying to raise
kids with a Dad off getting ready for God knows what.
through a period of an inequitable draft, and saw thousands of poor or
disadvantaged kids sacrifice their lives while guys like me were in college, or
other young men had political connections that landed them safely in the
National Guard. The volunteer Army is a good idea, but if these men and women
are so vital to us- and they are, shouldn’t we pay them a comparable wage?
National Guard and the Reserves are no longer a safe haven. Men and women with
less comprehensive training than regular Army are now in harm’s way. Are we
being fair to them? If we won’t give them enough of our money to have a decent
car, lets give them enough of our prayers to get them back safely.
So, You Want to be a Baseball Player (7/9/04)
Fathers' Day (6/22/04)
The Draft, and Hard Working Assistants (6/11/04)
Ebb Tide in the Seventh (6/7/04)
The Mann of the Moment (6/6/04)
The Wolf at the Door (6/5/04)
Land of Hope and Dreams (6/2/04)
Glory Days (5/30/04)
Blue Wave Crashes on Two to Reach A-Sun Final (5/28/04)
Seniors Rule the Day (5/27/04)
A Lefty Lift (5/26/04)
Missing the Fons (5/26/04)
Who'll Stop the Rain? (5/23/04)
The 'Badlands' of Miami (5/19/04)
A Bad Part of a Good Job (5/14/04)
Sweep Home Alabama (5/12/04)
Winless at Winthrop, but Victorious in Friendship (5/3/04)
To Bunt or Not to Bunt - That is the Question (4/27/04)
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)