is in his 19th season as head coach at Florida Atlantic University, where
he has compiled a record of 650-403-4. Overall, he has a record of 790-453-9 - a
.631 winning percentage - in 22 years. FAU has reached the NCAA regionals seven
times under Cooney, including each of the past four seasons. This is the third year
Cooney has offered his
thoughts on baseball - and other things - for CollegeBaseballInsider.com.
March 22, 2006
A Great Day for the Irish
The rattle and hum of U2 filled the air as
Kennesaw State rolled into town for its first St. Patrick’s Day in the Atlantic
Sun Conference. Things are usually pretty festive at Florida Atlantic on March
17th, dating back to my first experience in 1988.
We played my former team from Montclair State;
fresh off the 1987 D-III National Championship, the Indians whipped FAU 5-0. I
had “borrowed” an Irish flag from a display of flags in our gym that reflected
the nationalities of the FAU student body. After the game, a student group had a
keg of green beer and sandwiches in the pavilion next to the field and willingly
shared them with players and coaches from both teams.
Did I really do that back then?
As the years passed, we started painting the
bases green, or adorning them with shamrocks. One year I painted shamrocks all
over the walkway up to the grandstand, under the mistaken impression that “water
based” paint meant that the green would disappear in the rain. Most have worn
away thanks to foot traffic, but a few still remain, testament to my home
Eventually, I started buying green t-shirts and
socks, then white hats with green logos and bills, for a complete celebration of
Ireland’s patron saint. One year, I was short green socks, so I dyed some white
tube socks green and threw them in my drier at home the morning of the game. My
wife returned from a flight and, as usual, washed her white flight attendant
blouses before heading over to the field.. When she removed them from the dryer,
they were all green!
My knowledge of laundry evidently was on a par
with my expertise in paint.
This year, our slush fund was bankrupt, so I
couldn’t buy hats for the team. Coupled with last weekend’s sweep by Mercer, I
was more subdued entering Friday’s game. I did have my son Jeff paint three
giant shamrocks on the field, and our grounds guys put shamrocks on the bases.
True to tradition, there was nothing but Irish music played all night. Some of
that stuff is difficult, even to my ears.
Fortunately, Mickey O’Storey showed the effects
of a diligent week of practice, bouncing back with an impressive complete-game
win over the visiting Owls 7-2. There were some mechanical adjustments made by
Mick that seemed to make a difference.
We jumped out to an early 4-0 lead thanks in part
to a solid 4-for-4 night from Anthony O’Albano, and a game-sealing, two-run
single by Ovy McRamirez.
The only down side to the night’s festivities was
the word that one our only true Irishmen, Mike McKenna, will have to have his
knee scoped. Fortunately it’s “only” a meniscus tear, which usually means a
four-week recovery. He already missed last weekend, and this one, so his absence
could total six weeks.
A doubleheader after a St. Patrick’s game ensured
that some of our fans wouldn’t arrive until later in the day. It turned out that
the luck of the Irish was late in arriving as well.
Chris Salberg pitched well enough to win, but was
betrayed by some unfortunate play in the field, as KSU managed to score two runs
on one hit and two errors and take a one-run lead that couldn’t be breeched.
Our 7-6 loss was especially frustrating in light
of the fact that we out-hit Kennesaw 14-8, but yet again, didn’t play a complete
game. The corner we seemed ready to turn Friday, led to anther blind alley.
The second game started off as another close one
as we entered our half of the sixth tied at 2. As the KSU pitcher warmed up, I
told our waiting hitters that we needed a long inning; in fact, I promised to
order pizza if we could stage a half -hour inning and score some runs.
I was off by at least 30 minutes.
In his first start, freshman Nick Arata started
things off with a bunt single. Our 230-pound leadoff hitter, Jordan Hafer,
followed with another bunt hit. After Danny Cook sacrificed both runners over,
Ovy Ramirez launched a tape-measure job over the trees in left-center, giving us
a three-run lead. The inning continued as day turned to night, and Arata doubled
for his second hit of the inning and his first two FAU RBI.
We couldn’t get the pizza fast enough, and the
concession stand was out of hot dogs, so we finished the game with our stomachs
growling. Oh well, it’s the thought that counts.
Brandon Cooney bounced back from last weekend
with a solid start, so I went home happy and feeling good about having started
our climb back up from the rock bottom we hit at Mercer last week.
There was an old Mamas and Papas song of that
name. It was a little depressing as it addressed how bleak Mondays can be for
people. After this past weekend, Monday had me in an upbeat mood because I had
gotten a different vibe in our dugout during the KSU series. Despite McKenna’s
loss, I was feeling good about our chances of turning things around and having a
Part of my optimism may have been the impressive
performance by Arata in his first start. Nick was 3 for 4 with two RBI, and
could have had his fourth hit, but the umpire called him out on a bang-bang play
at first. He also made several outstanding plays in the field that prevented our
opponent from scoring.
It was also encouraging to see the continued
improvement of Mike Crotta. Since he made a difficult mechanical adjustment in
the TCU series, the big guy has been lights out.
Hafer has raised his batting average nearly 200
points and has given us a true leadoff guy, Alex Silversmith is on a tear at the
plate and catching well and our starters showed much improvement over the
So why did Monday turn blue?
My old college coach, Clary Anderson, once told
me “Don’t make rules you can’t enforce.” As my career continued, I think Clary
meant “Don’t make rules you don’t want to enforce.”
There is a proven correlation between class
attendance and success in the course being studied. Some seasons have seen
players ruled ineligible at the end of the spring term and removed from our
roster as the season enters the most crucial stages of the last few weekends and
The NCAA mandated APR requirements will now take
scholarships away from programs whose players become ineligible or fail out of
school. So a player who does poorly can hurt not only his current team, but the
following year’s squad as well.
Therefore I have implemented a policy of a
one-game suspension if class is checked and a player is absent. It was my belief
that no one would jeopardize his playing time, or his team’s chance to win, by
sleeping in, playing video games or whatever other important things are done
instead of attending class.
Does the punishment fit the crime?
Can you still pass if you cut class?
I say yes to both questions. But nearly every kid
who fails and becomes ineligible does so because his lack of attendance became a
factor. So if your career and the success of your team depend on going to class,
how could the punishment not be fitting?
Monday, I learned of a missed class and spent the
day trying to be sure the facts were right. I don’t want to hamstring our team
by unjustly suspending a starter because we are slowly running out of players.
But the right thing needs to be done at all times. My religion teacher at Essex
Catholic accused me of believing in “situation ethics,” a term I had never
known. It refers to whether your ethics are consistent, or do they vary
according to the situation?
When you are responsible for 35 young men, is
there room for situation ethics?
I don’t think so.
Renewing a Friendly Rivalry (3/17/06)
A Few Good Men (3/14/06)
Songs about Texas (3/7/06)
Regression, Depression, Confession (2/27/06)
Cardinals, Owls and Captain Albano (2/20/06)
The Salukis and No. 98 (2/13/06)
The Adkins Diet and a Sunday Split (2/7/06)
Here we go again (2/2/06)
Holy Innocents (12/28/05)
When You're Alone (10/11/05)
Another Beginning, a New Beginning, Never Forgetting (9/12/05)
Deja vu all over again (9/1/05)
(photo courtesy of FAU Media Relations Office)