Kevin Cooney is in his 18th season as head coach at Florida Atlantic
University of the Atlantic Sun Conference and 22nd overall. A former pitching
star at Montclair State, Cooney has led FAU to an average of 46 wins per season
the past six years. He as guided the Blue Wave to a 273-106 record and five NCAA
Regionals in the past six years. This is the second year he has offered his thoughts on
baseball - and other things - for CollegeBaseballInsider.com.
Jan. 16, 2005
25 Years of FAU Baseball
At our first practice of the ’05 season last week, I told our players that
they were the 25th baseball team in the history of Florida Atlantic
University. Their surprised faces told me that there weren’t many who were aware
that we are, in fact, the “Silver Anniversary Team.”
Now, to many schools, 25 years is a drop in the bucket, but Florida Atlantic
University is only 40 years young, and our athletic programs certainly reflect
that comparative youth. We played Cornell a few years back, and their media
guide listed records from the 1800s!!!
So my usual first practice speech needed to not only address this season, but
also pay homage to the players who preceded us here.
Twenty-five years ago, head coach Steve Traylor led a squad of newly found
players, fewer in number than this year’s pitching staff, to a respectable 15-16
record. Their season featured an opening day win against St. Thomas University
and a six-game win streak to begin the year. I’m glad they didn’t go undefeated
- that would’ve been tough to match!
The next year, they were 42-14 and advanced to the championship game of the
NAIA District 25 Tournament. Recruiting pays off. Coach Traylor went on to ring
up a career record of 268-107 at FAU. That’s a sizzling .714 winning percentage
for those of you that are mathematically challenged.
Duke University noticed all those Florida Atlantic wins and snatched up Coach
Traylor in the fall of 1987. He went on to rebuild that program to the
successful level of its heyday in the Fifties.
As my first boss used to tell the story, Steve’s departure led FAU to conduct
a “nationwide search.” “Five people applied, four turned us down, so we hired
I guess the joke’s on him…18 years later I’m somehow still here.
So what’s the plan for the 25th year?
Well, we plan to field a hard-working, exciting team that proves itself
worthy of the history of this program.
I told our guys last week that they have a blank canvas on which to paint
their own history.
It’s time for Will Mann to step into the footsteps of guys like Jorge Vega,
Todd Moser and Randy Beam. Mike McBryde and the rest of the bullpen have to
perform like Joe Cali, Rich Clabeaux and Tim McNab. If we approach any level of
the success of the pitchers who have preceded us, it could be another great
On the offensive side, the heirs apparent to the power hitters of the past
are waiting for their turn. Jordan Hafer, Brian Lipman, Jonathan Shapland and
Robbie Widlansky seem to be the best shots at coming close to Mike Ryan, John
Edward Raffo and Jack Penrod in the home run category.
I really think that this team may not be the power type of the last few
years. Our run production may have to come from a variety of methods. Regardless
of the style we play, one thing is for sure…we will play hard and always do our
best to live up to those who built the program.
Tricks For An Old Dog
Our practice format has been changed for the better thus far. Coach Roig came
up with some ideas that have led to what I think have been pretty productive and
spirited practices. We are also making better use of the extra field with which
we are blessed here at Florida Atlantic.
Our position players are broken into three small groups that are rotated from
our cages to the main field and then to the practice field. In each segment,
there is an opportunity for a lot of quality work on hitting, bunting and base
running, or individual defense. The small size of the group and a coach for each
has provided a better format for all this work.
As part of our conditioning, each group runs from station to station. The
practice and main fields are about 200 yards apart, so players are repeatedly on the move.
One freshman said he was dreaming all night about running back and forth.
Meanwhile, our pitchers are split into groups throwing pens, doing drill work
and PFP. Everyone joins in a segment of team defense on the practice field, and
then runs to the main field for BP.
The practice-ending conditioning is alternated between a base running drill,
a progressive sprint program and a position specific sprint program. Each
position player replicates all of the defensive running that he does in a game.
It really eliminates boredom and is certainly effective.
Our players have responded very positively to this format. Their work ethic
was outstanding last week. Yeah, I know, it was the first week of practice. But
I think that a positive tone has been set that will carry through.
Everyone here knows what is expected.
This program has been on a roll for some time now.
Since 1999, Florida Atlantic has made five NCAA regional appearances, been in
three regional championship games, won the Tuscaloosa Regional and made one
Super Regional appearance. FAU has won two regular season conference
championships and one conference tournament championship. Our 273 victories and
.720 winning percentage during that time trail only two teams in the state of
Florida. In the past six years, 38 FAU players have been drafted or signed by
Major League Baseball, with Carmen Cali making his debut with the St. Louis
Cardinals last September.
The challenge in 2005 is to keep pace and take us beyond. We all want the
same thing: a trip to Omaha. But making wishes won’t get it done; working as
hard as last week all season is the first step.
Speaking of Wishes
Lately while walking our dog at night, my daughter Maggie would ask me which
star is “the wishing star.” Clueless, I would use my old Boy Scout skills and
point out the North Star. Maggie would look up, close her eyes, and make a wish.
She would never tell me her wish, in fear it wouldn’t come true.
In a Catholic Mass, a family always brings the gifts to the altar during the
offertory. As we entered St. Jude’s this morning, an usher asked if we would
bring up the gifts. As we took our seats, Maggie was beaming as if it were again
It turns out wishes do come true.
Each night, this little 6-year-old girl was wishing upon a star that her
family would be chosen.
think I’ll give Maggie a suggestion on tonight’s walk.
So this is Christmas (12/24/04)
The Graduate (12/8/04)
Thanksgiving in Palm Beach County (11/25/04)
An Empty Seat (11/10/04)
Fall is in the Air (10/21/04)
Hurricane Carmen (9/24/04)
(photo courtesy of FAU Media Relations Office)