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 16, 2008
From Small Things (Big Things
One Day Come)
Eight years ago Bob Deutschman, now
the head coach at Broward CC, was in his second season as
pitching coach at Florida Atlantic University. It was nearly
time for our High School Christmas Camp when Bob approached me
for a favor; could a young kid to whom he gave hitting lessons
come to our camp?
I knew we had space for another paying camper, so I said sure,
Deutsch mumbled something about the kid not yet being in high
school, but he assured me he was tough enough to play with the
older kids. Most of the time I frown on an eighth-grader being
in the advanced camp, but Bob seemed intent on this kid coming.
As it turned out, the kid was in SEVENTH grade and about 5' and
100 lbs. soaking wet, but he played so well we voted him MVP of
His name was Nick Arata.
After winning consecutive state championships at Nova HS, Nick
was a smooth fielding, light hitting shortstop looking for a
college. We had signed his keystone partner, Will Block, and
Nick was also interested in FAU.
Former assistant George Roig, now at Ivy League-leading
Dartmouth, really liked Arata and was pushing hard for us to
sign him. But we had already signed a high profile shortstop
from Miami and had a senior returning at that position. Along
with the possibility of Block starting as a freshman, the
infield looked crowded.
I remember meeting with Nick's Dad and actually advising him, as
one father to another, that he might wind up with a better offer
if he waited until the spring to see what schools would need.
Sometimes the scholarship can change in the spring for various
reasons. It could be a seller's market if Nick could wait.
He didn't wait and we signed him that fall.
The shortstop from Miami opted to go to a community college and
our senior couldn't play by mid-March – the former camp MVP was
Arata played most of his freshman year with a sprained labrum in
his left shoulder. Every hard swing or dive for a ball produced
a painful expression and a pause from Nick. His standard answer
was "It's alright."
The guys called Nick "Sneaky Juice" because his small frame
belied his power, particularly to the opposite field. I batted
him ninth even as his hitting improved, and told him that would
probably not change. I really like a guy in the ninth spot who
will surprise any opponent who thinks he's a typical designated
Nick's freshman year produced one home run and a .289 batting
average coupled with the expected solid play at shortstop. His
sophomore year, Nick hit .295 and contributed six home runs.
He was still batting ninth this season when leadoff hitter Danny
Cook went down with a fractured ankle. I tried a couple of
options in that spot before turning to the guy I had told would
always be batting ninth.
Arata has responded by raising his average nearly 60 points to
.409 and sparking our offense to big series wins over South
Alabama and Troy, sandwiched by a 3-5 night in last week's win
Things looked bad Friday against Troy until a wild pitch tied
the game in the eighth. Their closer was in and looked
unhittable. As Nick was leaving the on deck circle to lead off
the ninth, he heard me speaking to the bullpen. I was
instructing Morrison to be ready if we didn't score, but not to
actually get ready until he could see we would remain tied. I
didn't want a tender arm used up if we pulled it out in the
Arata sent the second pitch deep over the Troy bullpen in left
for a walk-off home run. After getting pummeled by his happy
teammates, Nick said "Tell Morrison not to bother."
After a Saturday loss I was concerned that we would come out
flat on Sunday. Prior to the game's start I voice my concerns to
the team. Naturally, we were getting no-hit into the fourth; so
much for my motivational skills.
But again, it was Arata providing a spark, and a 1-0 lead with a
shot off the batters' eye in center.
Later, a big double by Nick gave us the lead for good, and a
crucial series win.
On Monday, the former camp MVP was voted the Sun Belt Conference
Player of the Week after hitting .588 (10 for 17) with two
stolen bases and two game-winning hits.
From small things, mama
Big things one day come
Yeah, they do.
From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come)
From Bruce Springsteen's- The Essential Bruce Springsteen