Kevin Cooney

Kevin 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 Cooney's Owls finished their first season in the Sun Belt Conference at 36-22 in 2007.




May 7, 2008

I Can't, I Can't, I Can't Stand Losing

Since announcing my intention to leave coaching, I've been asked by many people why someone would want to give up such a great job. Particularly when you have young children, obviously need to continue to be somehow gainfully employed and are in good health and well paid.

That's certainly a fair question.

Baseball has been good to me for my entire life. Sure, there have been times when the game made me feel like a groom left standing at the altar, trying to deal with the pain as I realized the bride was a no-show. But more often than not, there was a feeling of wedded bliss to my relationship with the diamond and the games played upon it.

Today I'm hard-pressed to remember why anyone would want to be in such a fickle relationship.

We arrived in New Orleans hoping to maintain our hold on second place and start a move to catch league-leader Louisiana-Monroe.

The weekend started poorly, as our game was delayed by rain, interrupted four times, and mercifully ended at 12:30 a.m. with us on the wrong end of a 12-6 score.

Fortunately our trainer made arrangements for Corky's Barbeque to deliver a meal to the hotel. I tried to end it all with pulled pork and beans at a time of night where I'm usually getting up to go to the bathroom.

Saturday and Sunday provided great baseball and high drama, with both games being decided in the ninth inning. Unfortunately for us, it was UNO, again, the victor.

Each game presented the type of coaching decisions that haunt the dreams of coaches everywhere.

Saturday, UNO scored a run in the eighth to knot the score at five apiece. After our half, the Privateers' ninth-inning leadoff hitter was plunked by our pitcher, and the winning run was at first. A sacrifice bunt moved him to second and brought Johnny Giavotella to the plate.


We could walk the dangerous second baseman and bring our lefty in to face T.J. Baxter in a left-left match-up. If that worked, righty Brett Cannon could face their next righty. Or, we use our best arm and have Cannon go after Giavotella, walk Baxter and finish off the last righty.

Pick your poison.

Our lefty had been inconsistent, so I went with the righty match-up and lost. Giavotella singled through second, and the UNO celebration was in full swing.

Sunday's decision was again in the ninth.

Alex Silversmith had doubled to put us back on top, and I weighed my options. Cannon was ready in the pen, but Mike Obradovich had pitched brilliantly. OB had thrown only 88 pitches entering the ninth and had kept the Privateers off balance all day.

As OB walked out for the ninth, I set our corner infielders close to the foul lines to protect against a possible double down the line. Early in my career, I did not utilize that defense, but for years now, it has been standard operating procedure at FAU.

Naturally, the first hitter stroked a ground ball to the other side of first base – right about where Travis Ozga would have been had he not been guarding the line. OB got two strikes on the next hitter and then tried to run a fastball in on his hands, but the two-seamer hit the batter.

Alan Harris is a big lefty who, according to the scouting report, should be pitched with hard stuff. Cannon usually has good velocity, but had already warmed up twice and pitched Saturday. Obradovich had handled Harris well all day with an assortment of changeups and sliders.

Sometimes it's better to trust your eyes rather than the opinion of the anonymous person writing some scouting report.

Well...not this time.

As he swung at OB's second offering, Harris let out a loud grunt and launched a game-winning, three-run shot over the wall in right.

Get out the broom.

I can't get the lyrics from Sting and The Police out of my mind... I really can't stand losing.

As the games left in my career tick away, I know that the joy and laughter of a big win pales in comparison to the depths of despair and hurt a loss renders. I know that is the way I have felt for a number of years now.


Coaches talk about that all the time. At least veteran coaches seem to. Maybe it comes with the aging process. Like our aging bodies, perhaps our psyches also lose the ability to bounce back as we get older.

All I know is that I seem to remember the losses as vividly, or more so, than the wins. It shouldn't be that way.