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.
May 19, 2005
A Major League Weekend
weekend started on Thursday for our series against Mercer because of a request
from Bears’ coach Craig Gibson. Last summer, he called and asked if I would move
our three-game series because of their Saturday graduation. Being a nice guy, I
I was looking at
our conference schedule at the time, and as such, did not see the Wednesday FIU
game. Playing a doubleheader on Thursday meant that we would face FIU without
any of the relief pitchers who would be needed for the conference series. The
result was a defeat by FIU wherein our bullpen didn’t match up to theirs.
Nice guys finish
So, as we started
the series with Mercer, I was loaded for Bear. We needed a sweep to have a
chance to finish in third place, with an outside chance for second. That would
be quite an accomplishment, considering our halting start in conference play
Mickey Storey is
having a great season for a freshman. His outings have all been excellent, and
he is blessed with great talent. However, on Thursday, he had to be a pitcher,
rather than a young thrower.
Some days, you go
out on that hill, and your good stuff doesn’t make the trip. Those times
separate the men from the boys, and that was the challenge facing Mick on
Thursday. His curve didn’t have its normal bite, and his fastball was down in
But he pitched, and
by the seventh had surrendered only one run - ironically the result of his own
failure to turn a double play - and a subsequent balk.
It was time for our
offense to break a 1-1 tie.
We did it using a
double and three bunts to score three runs. Sometimes, less is more.
Mike Crotta entered
in the eighth and continued to settle nicely into his new-found role in the
bullpen. Mike mowed through the Bears and notched his second save, preserving
Storey’s hard earned victory.
The second game saw
Chris Salberg pitching in front of a slew of scouts, drawn like moths to a
light, after his three-inning stint at UCF where he touched 90 mph a few times.
Word spreads fast in the world of scouting.
Chris has been
inconsistent this season, a result of his inexperience and just being
left-handed. He always seems to have an inning or two where everything goes
wrong. This time it was in the first, as the Bears scored three times.
But fortunately for
Chris, we put up a six-spot in the bottom frame, led by Tim Mascia’s home run.
We would go on to get homers from Shapland, Widlansky and Terpak en route to a
14-4 win. Mascia was 3 for 5 raising his batting average to .298, quite an
accomplishment in light of the terrible early season slump he endured.
Friday was Senior
Day at FAU, a time to honor our departing players one final time at home. It was
also another reason for me to regret agreeing to Mercer’s scheduling request. We
had just played a Thursday afternoon doubleheader in front of a sparse crowd,
and now our seniors were staring at row upon row of empty seats at 1 p.m. on a
The only response
could be another Bear hunt.
We won 15-10 as
Mike McBryde pounded out five hits in six at-bats, and Mike McKenna homered
twice. Our hitters tied a school record with six doubles, and Derek Hutton was 2
for 5 with an RBI and a run in his last game in Boca Raton. It seems like
yesterday he was part of the fantastic freshman duo of Fiorentino and Hutton.
A three-game sweep,
just what the doctor ordered as we head into the last week of the regular
season. What more could we want?
Gets the Call
Jeff Fiorentino got the call he always dreamed would come. Pack your things.
You’re going to the Big Leagues!
Instead of being on
our field for Senior Day, Jeff was in Chicago starting his Major League career
with the Orioles. He got in his first game Thursday night and got a hit in his
first at-bat, just as I was getting home from our game. His next at-bat saw the
same result - 2 for 2!!
He looked the same,
except for his hair.
Seeing him on base,
I flashed back to Jeff standing at second base in Tuscaloosa, calmly signaling
me “two outs,” after having delivered the biggest hit in FAU history, a single
to score Derek Hutton in the ninth to beat Alabama in the 2002 NCAA Regional.
Our guys named
Fiorentino “Ich” during his freshman year because of the resemblance of his
hitting style to Ichiro.
The Orioles players
have named him “Screech,” for a supposed resemblance to the Saved By The Bell
character. I like Ich better.
Jeff went on to a
6-for-10 start in the series against the White Sox. I guess we didn’t need him
against Mercer, but it would have been nice. Everyone connected with FAU is
happy and proud. Zack Roper told me, “I’m screaming for him as if he were my own
We all feel that
for the Weekend
One advantage of
the schedule debacle as that I had a Saturday off for the first time since the
beginning of January. My son Jeff was in from N.J., so on Saturday, we gave MB
the day off from the rug rats. Jim and Marin, and Jeff and I drove Luke and
Maggie to a park in West Palm where The Animal Planet was staging an Expo.
Sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic, and waiting in long lines reminded me that
the rest of the world is also off on Saturdays.
Our last stop was a
survival contest for kids. I lied about Luke’s age so he could compete along
with Maggie in a contest where 10 kids would hang from Monkey Bars until there
was only one left hanging.
Maggie and Luke
were the youngest in the group. I didn’t even think Luke would go through with
it. But after six kids had dropped off...Maggie and Luke were still in it. Luke
gave me a scared look and finally fell to the ground. Jeff scooped him up and
told him how proud we were.
A girl about 11 and
a boy who looked the same age were left with Maggie, who turns 7 this Saturday.
Then the girl
Like a classic
Little League father, I starting yelling encouragement to my little girl.
“Don’t let a BOY
The boy was
struggling, kicking his legs and trying to pull himself higher.
“Hang on Mags!”
Maggie kept looking
from the boy, to me, and the crowd watching. She had a real peaceful look on her
face. It was as if she was waiting her turn for something.
The boy slipped off
and everyone cheered as the little girl looked around and dropped lightly to the
ground and ran to Jeff’s arms. Her prize was a T-shirt and her father’s
Luke said it wasn’t
fair she got a shirt and he didn’t. I told him I agreed, but life’s not fair.
me in the Water
Don’t ask me why,
but our kids were never baptized. I could give you my reasons, but they are
weak. I will say that it really meant a lot to me as I watched Maggie and Luke
have Holy Water poured on their heads Sunday afternoon. Their big brothers
served as Godfathers as the two newest members of the Church received the
They’re part of
something bigger now.
So it turned out to
be a weekend filled with pride. From a freshman pitcher struggling to excel, a
senior playing well his last time at home, Linda Fiorentino watching her little
boy live his dream, Maggie and Luke hanging with the big kids, to a couple of
proud parents seeing their kids baptized.
weekend was chock full of life.
Georgia on my Mind (5/10/05)
We're Going to Disney World (5/4/05)
Halfway Home (4/12/05)
Lost in the Flood (4/8/05)
Good Things Come to Him Who Waits (4/6/05)
A Long Ride Home (4/3/05)
The Working Life (3/31/05)
A Good Friday (3/28/05)
St. Patrick's Day on Wheels (3/18/05)
Beware the Ides of March (3/16/05)
Conference Sweep (3/13/05)
Madness and Soaring Eagles (3/11/05)
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)