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.
May 23, 2006
Scoreboard Watching, Handling Stress and a Sweep
One of the age-old
traditions in baseball is scoreboard watching during the heat of a pennant race.
A game proceeds at its normal languid, pastoral pace, when suddenly the home
crowd erupts as their rival’s loss is posted on the out-of-town scoreboard. The
home team has inched closer to clinching a spot in the playoffs!
isn’t any different - except the FAU scoreboard’s missing bulbs make reading our
own score difficult. Thanks to the computer age of Gametracker, fans with
Internet access can follow a crucial game as it unfolds. At the park, while your
own game is in progress, the PA guy will give periodic updates of scores. When
that happens, the dugout is suddenly quiet, as all ears strain to hear the good,
or sometimes, bad news.
intrusion just adds another layer to the stress and tension of coaching in a big
game or series.
That’s just what I
How does a coach
handle the stress of game day in the season ending series that will determine
which teams will continue playing, and which ones who will clean out their
apartments and head home?
I don’t know about
my peers, but I kept an 8:30 am appointment at the dentist.
The hygienist asked
if I had been under a lot of stress lately. It seems my teeth appear to be
ground down a bit more than the last visit. I spared her the details and just
shook my head yes.
After that relaxing
start, the next thing on this 55-year-old coach’s schedule was a kindergarten
graduation. Unlike the other old-timers in attendance, I was a father
videotaping his son, not his grandson.
Luke Cooney, age 6,
was part of a Broadway-caliber parody of The Sound of Music, directed by Mrs.
Lucas and Miss Lisa at St. Jude’s school. Luke looked just like one of the Von
Trapp kids - complete with shorts, suspenders and lederhosen.
The words of Rogers
and Hammerstein were adapted to fit the learning experiences of Luke’s class
during their first year in school. It was a great show and testament to the hard
work of the kids and their teachers. Mrs. Lucas was living proof that “the show
must go on,” as she had given birth the day before but was there as the curtain
The other parents
were all smiles as they enjoyed the show, but the one old father seemed to be
the only one crying!
I admit to being an
emotional Irishman, but this was something more.
Maybe I was the
only one who had already raised two kids, which certainly provided a broader
perspective to the event. I looked at those kids through the eyes of a father
who had already made many of the mistakes these other parents hoped to avoid. My
kids and I have already experienced the highs and lows that are all part of
growing up as fathers and sons.
Every one of those
freshly scrubbed, innocent faces held all the promise that being 6 years old
entails. They haven’t given much thought about life that is anything but filled
with hope and trust. Hope that their world will always be bright, and trust that
their parents will help make it so.
I left Luke and his
classmates behind, as they attacked their cake and howled at baby pictures of
each other on a big screen, and headed for the office.
It was time for the
Stetson-Gardner-Webb game on the computer.
Fossas and I
grabbed some sandwiches and hoped for the best. But the news from Boiling
Springs didn’t go our way, as the Bulldogs won it in the ninth. We needed to
beat East Tennessee just to remain tied.
Before BP ended,
the second game had Stetson in front 4-0 and a rain delay in progress. We turned
our attention to the game at hand, and with two outs, scored four runs in the
first inning, Alex Silversmith drove in Tim Mascia, who had doubled, and Mike
McKenna delivered the big blow with a three-run homer. Mickey Storey was on the
mound, and the night looked promising.
Mickey plunked the
ninth hitter leading off the third. A single, a balk, a sac fly and another
single, and the Bucs had cut our lead in half. The tension was back.
But Mickey was on a
mission. He made some adjustments and started racking up the strikeouts, as he
retired 16 of the next 18 batters. Meanwhile, we built an inning in the sixth.
Danny Cook beat out
an infield hit, and Mike McKenna walked on four pitches.
A sac bunt was in
order, but Will Block was swinging a hot bat, and we would be leaving the eighth
and ninth hitters the task of driving in the runs. I let Will hit away, and he
drilled a single to left. Now, faced with the same decision as Nick Arata stood
in, I made the same choice. Bang, another single, another run across the plate.
batting ninth laid down a perfect bunt to move the runners to second and third.
Jordan Hafer delivered Block with a sacrifice fly, and the lead was five.
them off, and we had our first crucial win of the weekend. We need to be one
game better than GWU or tied with Campbell to get in. A sweep by us and we’re in
fourth place, but our only sweep was back in February. Let’s hope for the best
and keep an eye on the rest.
stress-buster started with me shopping for a new bike for Maggie’s birthday. My
daughter is not the most coordinated 8-year-old. I never thought she would ever
learn to ride the bike I bought her three years ago, let alone need a new one.
But big brother Jeff stepped in and took over for Dad as the riding teacher. It
took her a day or two, but now she’s Lance Armstrong.
My wife said she
found a nice bike at Target, but I don’t like shopping at a big chain store if
there’s a local place to get the same item. I went to the bike shop next to
Augy’s Restaurant (where all the scouts eat, so it must be good) and picked out
a hot pink stingray bike. It probably cost more than the one at Target, but
score one for the little guys. I loaded it in my son Jim’s jeep; he’s using my
truck to move into the condo he and his fiancée closed on today - are my
children’s stations in life spread out or what? I hope Maggie likes it.
I have decided to
not check the computer for scores today.
churning enough thinking about tonight’s game with ETSU. I think I’ll go work
out and listen to some music to get my mind off things.
After working out I
checked the Stetson-GWU game - extra innings. That’s just great. But the Hatters
came through, and now we need just one win in the next two games and we’re in
the tournament. Brandon Cooney on the hill, and our guys will be pumped to punch
the ticket for the bus ride to Deland.
Tonight was Senior
Night, and our three remaining seniors did well for themselves. Thanks in no
small measure to four-year starter Tim Mascia’s three RBI, we clinched a berth
in the conference tournament next week with an 8-6 victory.
Freshman Will Block
matched Old Man Mascia with three of his own RBI to serve notice that the torch
has been passed to a new generation, but Will Mann, Anthony Albano and Mascia
will be missed next year.
The game was a
nail-biter to the end, as the dangerous ETSU hitters never backed down. We had
made a decision that we were prepared to use starter Joel Schmal in relief if
needed to handle the Bucs’ lefties, and the big guy got his first save. For the
first time in days, my stomach stopped churning and a wave of relief rolled over
my body. We were in.
Everybody else was
on the field for BP at 10 a.m., but I was in the gym at Boca HS watching Luke’s
final Biddy Ball game. I’d only seen one game this year (not the one where he
scored in the other team’s basket) and hoped my players would understand.
We still had
something to play for against ETSU. Our seed in the tournament was at stake,
with a 4, 5or 6 seed being possible depending on our result and whatever
Campbell did in its game with Kennesaw State.
We started slowly,
as neither team scored until the sixth, when East Tennessee took advantage of a
walk and two errors to stake out a 2-0 lead. But we answered back in the bottom
half with three straight hits as Ozga and pinch-hitter Anthony Albano set up a
RBI single by Jordan Hafer.
We grabbed our
first lead in the seventh as Block took the conference lead with his 16th HBP,
followed by another string of three consecutive hits, this time by Mike McKenna,
Nick Arata and Danny Cook.
In the eighth, we
manufactured some runs and extended our lead to 7-2.
The final ninth
inning of 2006 at home held the promise of finishing fourth – a far cry from my
worst fears as this story opened on Thursday. Chris Eberhart came on with a run
already in and the tying run on deck to record two outs and put the finishing
touches on a very satisfying weekend.
I told our guys at
the end, that we’ve had a number of great teams at Florida Atlantic, but this is
one in which I have great pride. We lost five starters and a relief pitcher, got
one starter back just as we lost another and went down to the last weekend
facing elimination from any postseason play.
Everything that we
play for was on the line this past week.
All season, we
spoke about just hanging in till we got some guys back or our young players
could come of age. We hoped our pitching would come around and carry us into the
playoffs. There were some really dark days over the past 16 weeks. It’s been a
grueling, challenging and now, a satisfying season.
These young men
should be proud.
It’s time to relax - at least until Wednesday!
Sixteen Weeks (5/18/06)
An Early Postseason (5/10/06)
Dolphin Dominance (5/3/06)
No Surrender (4/27/06)
And after all this Time We're Just Like all the Rest (4/19/06)
Trying to Rise Above (4/12/06)
Turnpike Tussle (4/6/06)
Crimson and Camels (4/4/06)
Everyone Wants to be the Man at the Top (3/28/06)
A Great Day for the Irish (3/22/06)
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)