Jon Mueller is entering his sixth season as head coach of the Great Danes. A year ago, Albany posted a program-best record of 37-14, including 14-7 in the America East Conference. Mueller, the 2004 America East Coach of the Year, will be checking in each week of the 2005 season.







May 19, 2005

A Sweep, 10 Seniors and a Finish for the Books


The conference weekend at home vs. UMBC was an historic one.


We had a man walk in our yard who was one win short of 600. He has been coaching UMBC for as long as I have been making sentences. He is a remarkable man who has seen many days of hardball. John is a gentleman and an excellent coach. He reminds me of another good friend, Bob Hirschfield, who mans the reigns at New York Tech. Go there sometime and be prepared, because he will give you all you can handle. Two genuine people with whom I have been lucky to have shared the field.


We had a terrific start to our conference weekend on Saturday. Two gems pitched by our guys, and a little offense sprinkled in on 8-1 and 5-1 wins to begin the series. I was thrilled to see our staff step up and give us life. The pulse, which was barely apparent two weeks ago, has begun to repeat itself. We now have a heartbeat going.


The final game began without incident with a 3-1 lead going into the seventh. Somehow things went south, and we found ourselves down 6-3 going into the eighth. UMBC proceeded to tack on five more for an insurmountable cushion, 11-3. I was in shock.


I saw our postseason chances going away with the western winds. All of a sudden I was at third base and it was 11-6. Then 11-8....Then I was walking back to a jubilant dugout, and it was TIED 11-11....UNBELIEVABLE!! Nine years of pro-ball, and six of coaching and watching legion games, and nothing compared to this.


We then watched a tough UMBC team score two more runs in the top of the frame. Three outs and a dream left. The Danes would not be denied...three runs and a group of men bouncing around the yard...It was a happy time. But, I had to greet John and his troops after a war…I felt just as bad for them than us. A game the seniors will take to their graves.


Sunday was Senior Day. When you build a program from scratch, many things occur. You make some good decisions, and you also make some bad ones. With this class of 10, I have no regrets. They are all going to graduate, some will take another semester or two, but they all have made strides. Pat, Justin, Craig, Joe, Fred, Ethan, Tony, Derek, Roman, and Shawn have been part of a group that has won 97 games over its career.


Maybe not enough for some programs that churn out 30 a year, but in this environment, when you may not always hit 50 as a total? A huge effort. Lots of sacrifice. Lots of tears…Unbelievable memories.


I switched on ESPN to see some of Dave Bush’s start in the Bigs, and remembered when Craig, as a 5-5, 150-pound freshman, nearly took his head off with a liner when he was at Wake.


A few moments later, Tim Stauffer appeared in his second start for the Padres, and I remember when Tony laced a double off him his freshman year when he was at Richmond.


I can remember Fred holding his ground when a runner tried and failed to run him over in Atlantic City last year. I smiled when I thought of Pat hammering a three-run job the opposite way in the same game last year. Roman has been a pleasant surprise coming to us from the North Country; he will be sure to make an impact in the world as he matures.


Shawn came from the same itty-bitty town as me and has blossomed into one of the best closers in the nation the past two years. I think his save count is at 21.


Derek was rejuvenated through our Jersey connection, and he has been a steady presence in our lineup. Ethan will retire with a sparkling 11-4 record over three years? Not bad for a kid who could not get any innings before he got here. Tonight he was asking my mother if he could help her carry in leftovers from our team cookout held at the ranch in the hills.


Justin has been a guy who has played all over for me and felt my wrath for his ability to climb inside my skin. I am proud of him, and I know if anyone has my back, it’s him.


Joey will leave this year after more than 170 starts at short. He is a prototypical pro guy who may or may not get a chance in the draft. He has been the backbone of our team for four years. I watched him walk, and I remember the quiet kid from South Jersey who impressed me with his way.


The seniors walked on the field for the last time in a tough 13-4 non-conference loss yesterday. It was very sad to see them walk away from the field. I am happy to have known these guys. Lots of happy, funny times that will be there forever in my memory.


Hope it lasts long. My memory that is…


We now need to win a weekend with Vermont to get into our tourney. We have had our backs against the wall for a month, and this is nothing new for the squad. Win and get in.


Lose and it’s time to hit the road recruiting.


Good luck to my 2005-10. You guys have given me a ride I can’t buy. You cannot get it in a book, nor swill it in a saloon. It comes by once in a lifetime…It’s called college baseball. I am a college baseball coach in the Northeast. The greatest job in the world.


Thank you for everything fellas - see you on the other side of the fence...




Previous Entries

A Seawolf, a Bearcat, Coney Island and a Ray of Hope (5/13/05)

Back Where I Come From (4/21/05)

Clear Skies, New Pearls, Tabula Rosa (4/11/05)

It's a Great Day to be Alive (3/31/05)

Beginning to See the Grass (3/17/05)

Opening Day is Here (3/8/05)

For Those About to Rock, We Salute You (2/18/05)

The Waiting is the Hardest Part (2/9/05)


(photo courtesy of Albany Media Relations Office)