Cooney has spent 20 seasons as head coach at Florida Atlantic University. He has
compiled more than 700 victories with the Owls and more than 850 wins in his
24-year career as a head coach. Cooney has
spent the past five seasons offering his thoughts on baseball - and other
things - for CollegeBaseballInsider.com. Cooney's Owls finished their first
season in the Sun Belt Conference at 36-22 in 2007.
April 6, 2008
Darkness on the Edge of Town
There comes a time in everyone's life, whether as a person, a
family, or a college baseball team, when they have to walk
through the darkness on the edge of town. That darkness can take
many forms - a relationship gone bad, a sick parent, or in our
case Friday night, a pounding at the hands of South Alabama to
open our conference series
Our ace, Mickey Storey got hit around as the Jaguars celebrated
each shot of the night, cruising to a convincing 14-3 rout. This
was a battle of two teams coming off opposite weekends; the Jags
were rolling and FAU was reeling.
After losing three to ULM last weekend and an embarrassment
Tuesday in Miami, we were desperate to right the ship. But
instead we stood angry and shell-shocked at the end of the night
on Friday, staring a five-game losing streak in the face.
We hadn't lost five in a row in ten years.
One tough part about this job is knowing what to say in times
like these. Young people need someone to help them find a way
when everything goes dark in their lives. Coaches all need to
find their own voice in such situations.
Is it time to scream and humiliate your club? Should you
challenge their manhood and desire? Do you ever know which
choice will work?
I've always believed that kids are smart and will see through
anything false. They know the truth, so they need to hear the
We gathered in the bullpen as lightning flashed and thunder
rolled. A big storm was ready to hit, but we needed to talk.
Baseball is the most difficult sport to play well; I have
believed that all my life. The mental side of the game is
particularly draining. There is so much time within the game for
a player or a team to dwell on what's troubling them. Much of
the dead action that non-fans find boring is actually the game's
A good player needs to get the negative of the night out of his
mind. It's easier said than done. Emotions often run high for
the young men playing college baseball. Those emotions need to
be controlled and channeled in a positive manner.
Teams are never quite as bad as it appears when all goes wrong,
nor are they as good as it seems when everything goes their way,
and as individuals, players must learn to handle the inevitable
failures that are part and parcel of the game of baseball.
I reminded our guys that I have spent 50 years in the game. From
Little League to Friday, the game has been my life. Good and bad
days, winning and losing teams, I've seen them all. Our kids
needed to understand the challenge they faced to get through the
weekend and our current state.
It's tough to be as low as we were and head into the next day
feeling optimistic, we all were aware of that. But I stressed to
the team that sometimes you just have to play mind games on
yourself to get back into a positive light. It isn't easy;
nothing hard is ever easy.
But what choice did we have?
Tonite I'll be on that hill cause I
I'll be on that hill with everything I've got
With lives on the line where dreams are found and lost
I’ll be there on time and I'll pay the cost
For wanting things that can only be found
In the darkness at the edge of town
Saturday we came out ready to face the darkness.
The weather added to the mood, as eight inches of rain soaked
Mobile all night and morning. Somehow the field took it, and in
the gloom of a late Alabama afternoon we faced our fears.
Mike Gipson is a talented freshman pitcher, but the Jaguars were
all over him early. Home runs were flying out and I didn't think
Mike would last three innings. But he settled down and hung
Meanwhile our offense kept meeting the challenge from the start,
taking a quick lead only to see the Jags score five in the
second to take a four-run advantage. How would we answer our
starting pitcher teetering on the brink of an early hook, with a
bullpen that has been, at best, shaky?
All we needed was Will Block's first home run of the season
which unleashed a lot of personal pressure for Will and the
team, and again tied the game.
Gipson looked in control, but in the sixth he walked a batter
with two outs and gave up back to back homers to Jernigan and
Overstreet - 9-8 Jaguars.
Troy Bubley got a big hit in a bunt situation and Arata and
McKenna kept the rally going to put us ahead for good. Adam
Morrison came in and slammed the door with a clutch relief
How much better does a win feel than a loss?
How about after five straight losses?
We celebrated with some serious ribs at Dreamland and hoped for
the best on Sunday.
Jeff Beliveau needed to set the tone on the mound and he did
just that. The lefty from Rhode Island had great stuff and was
just wild enough to keep South Al honest and me nervous.
Jeff threw a three-hitter for six and left with a 7-0 lead.
Big innings by our hitters had set us up for a non nail-biter,
but wait, back came the Jags. Four big runs in the bottom of
the eighth and our lead was down to three with the heart of
their batting order due up in the ninth. We needed some help,
and Mike McKenna delivered it with a two-run shot to right,
giving closer Glenn Troyanowski some breathing room.
Three outs later I noticed just how beautiful the late afternoon
light looked in Mobile.
So now we're on Johnny Mattarazzo's bus rolling through the dark
heading back to Boca. It may take 11 hours but as I sit here all
I feel is pride for the guys who answered the challenge
yesterday and today - the guys who got us through the darkness.
Darkness On The Edge Of Town - Bruce Springsteen