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.
May 7, 2008
I Can't, I Can't, I Can't Stand
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
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.