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




March 11, 2005

March Madness and Soaring Eagles


The Boston College Eagles sent two balls soaring over the left-field fence yesterday to take an extra-inning squeaker from us 7-6.


The first home run came after a 1-2 count and a hit batsman to put BC up 4-1 in the sixth. As usual, we battled back and tied the game in the ninth, on a great at-bat by Robbie Widlansky.


In the 11th, a leadoff double and a sacrifice bunt put the BC runner at third with one out. We brought the infield in, and I tried to guess what Coach Pete Hughes would next. He had his ninth hitter at the plate and a substitute for the leadoff guy on deck. It was a situation ripe for a squeeze.


The only way to defend a properly executed squeeze bunt is to be proactive and throw a pitchout. If the squeeze is on, the ball can’t be bunted, and the runner will be caught in a rundown. The trick is to guess which pitch the other coach will choose.


We decided to pitch out on the first pitch. If we were wrong, Pete might go on the second pitch assuming we wouldn’t do it twice in a row. We were actually planning to pitch out four times. If Pete took the bait, we’d have the rundown and two outs, if he didn’t, he’d have runners at the corners, and we’d play for the double play against the substitute leadoff hitter. The pinch-hitter was lefty, and the leadoff guy was a righty. That was a better matchup for our reliever.


It was a good plan but it abruptly changed when our pitcher threw a ball in the opposite direction of where we wanted the pitchout. A great stab by Justin Martin saved a wild pitch. That gave me pause. I decided to pitch to the hitter, Ryne Reynoso. Pete Hughes is a gorilla ball guy. He’s always looking for the wind to be blowing out when he arrives at our field. I figured Pete would play it straight. Reynoso sent the next offering over the outfield fence and made me wish I had kept pitching out.


We were down two again. We were able to push one across, but hit into a double play to give BC a big win.


This season will rest on us playing better defense and getting clutch hitting earlier in the game.


Let’s hope it starts today in our first conference doubleheader.


The Madness of March


Years ago, we were an independent Divinizing II team, desperate for a schedule.


I started recruiting northern schools to come down and play their Spring Break games here at FAU. One year we played 28 days in the month of March. That’s 28 out of 31 if you’re counting.


The northern schools would play games on our practice field as well as our game field. Sometimes, there would be three games per day on each field.


In 1994, 23 teams combined to play 74 games during the month of March. We estimated the economic impact on the city at about $250,000.


That was before we had a grounds crew. The maintenance guys would help if it didn’t conflict with their two scheduled breaks and lunch hour, or the 10-minute drive each way from the break room to the fields.


Needless to say, the field preparations were on us. Coincidentally, Coach McCormack usually seemed to have an extended recruiting trip scheduled each March.


Most mornings would start for me at 7 a.m., pulling tarps and dragging fields for the 8:30 games. Then it was back and forth between fields, hoping both games wouldn’t end at the same time. It was always a short turnaround for the next game.


I spent most of each day covered in clay and riding a tractor. Then, a quick shower and change into our uniform and try to stay awake long enough to coach the FAU game. Three weeks of that each year aged me.


One day Paul Kosticopolous, who is now coaching at Maine, stopped in our training room with one of his Providence pitchers. He found me in there, covered with dirt and sweat, dealing bread and bologna like a Vegas blackjack dealer, as I made lunch for between games of our doubleheader.


To this day, Paul kids me about that scene. He also turned down my offer of a sandwich.


More and more teams started going to Homestead, where the hotels were cheaper. We were in a conference by then and didn’t need as many games.


But this August, Homestead fell through and a bunch of teams had no place to go. We offered to step in, and the Madness was back.


Those days came back to me yesterday, as Dusty Gardner and I were spreading quick dry on the B Field at 7:15 a.m. Wednesday was a washout all day, and we were trying to get a tripleheader going by 8:30. The weatherman cooperated by ending the rain at midnight. I can verify that because my wife and I were up bathing Luke after he wet his bed. Ah, the joys of fatherhood!


Anyway, I now usually have it easy. We have a full-time grounds guy for the grass and Dusty does the clay. He and Ken combine efforts on game day, so my groundskeeper’s days seem to have gone the way of my hair.


But for a day, I was back in time, relatively young again.


Memories of Irish O’Reilly and his Lewis Flyers, Dave Alexander and his boys from Purdue, Mike Sheppard and Eddie Lyons with Seton Hall, Tommy O’Connell and his Princeton “rocket scientists”, Paul Fernandes and one-run games with Columbia, an Army batter hit in the head, lying on the ground motionless, until the first base coach yells “Get up!” and he leaps to his feet and sprints to first base, all those great March days when the grass is fresh and green and all things were possible.




Previous Entries

Viva Las Vegas (3/8/05)

The Rocket, and a Black and Blue Big Ten Weekend (3/1/05)

So You Wanted to Coach (2/21/05)

Mickey was the Story (2/15/05)

The Rocket's Red Glare (2/11/05)

It's a Dog's Life (2/3/05)

'You've Got to Learn to Live with What You Can't Rise Above' (1/31/05)

25 Years of FAU Baseball (1/16/05)

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)