Diamond Diary by Kevin Cooney



Feb. 2, 2004

Groundhog Day...Painting the Corners...Every Friday Afternoon...

Well, today is Groundhog Day again. As I walked out the front door with my dog Katie, I saw a groundhog bolt back into his burrow! I don't know if it was the beautiful Boca Raton sunshine, or Katie's menacing eighty pounds, but that groundhog was moving fast. Now every baseball coach's worst nightmare is realized. We face another six weeks of winter!!!!

For all of us in South Florida that means we still might have to turn on the heat in our homes a time or two, sweatpants can still be worn occasionally, and all the snowbirds will be cramming the restaurants and roadways a little longer. I don't expect much sympathy from some of the coaches on our schedule. Although we have struggled for a few days of wet weather and cancelled practices, there isn't much to fear about the results of Groundhog Day.

We had planned to intrasquad Thursday and Friday night, and then again Saturday afternoon, in preparation for this weekend's opening series with Florida A&M. However, heavy rains washed out Friday and Saturday. It was still too wet to play Sunday, so we let the boys loose so they wouldn't miss the halftime show of the Super Bowl. What was that all about? Thankfully, I was giving Maggie and Luke their bath and we weren't exposed to the show. It's shaping up to be a rough year for the Jacksons.

Frankly, the days off might help more than anything else. We are pretty banged up right now. It's actually taking some imagination to field two teams. The biggest setback was not getting O'Brien and Crotta their innings on the mound. I would have liked those two starters to have been stretched out a little before the weekend. We'll go at it this afternoon, but will probably have to rein them in a bit.

Everyone is getting antsy for things to start. FAMU took two of three from Florida International. Does Coach Price have a dome down there? Coach Roig saw the doubleheader and said that we'll have our hands full with the Rattlers. Any team that goes in and wins a series at FIU must be tough.

Painting the Corners...

Randy Beam walked only seventeen batters in over one hundred innings pitched last season. So he seemed a natural to do some volunteer painting Saturday. This time Randy used a roller instead of a Rawlings as he and some teammates put a new coat of paint on The Caridad Health Clinic in Boynton Beach.

The Migrant Association of South Florida uses the Caridad Health Clinic to provide quality healthcare and assistance to the indigent and homeless population of South Florida. What started as a service to a unique, and almost invisible population, the migrant workers who pick the produce and fruits that feed our families, has grown to include people from over seventy different nations. These people number over 1700 patient visits per month! Over seven hundred healthcare and administrative volunteers provided more than nineteen thousand free medical and dental visits to migrant families who have no insurance or access to Medicaid or Medicare. Go to www.caridad.org to learn more.

Our guys were part of a group of people from St. Joan of Arc Parish in Boca. Twice a year, "Project Restoration" identifies needy families whose homes could use some landscaping, repair, or painting. The clinic was a great candidate. I know that our kids felt good helping people who spend all their time and energy caring for others.

Every Friday Afternoon...

A country singer named Craig Morgan has a great song out called Every Friday Afternoon. It's about the divorced dad of a little boy who learns that his former wife is moving to Boston with their son. He sings of the specter of a long distance relationship and the pitfalls of trying to remain in his son's life. What about birthdays...Christmas...weekends?

Anyone who has endured the pain of divorce, whether as the parent or the child, can relate to the hurt in this song. I know that for me, it is always tough listening. The part that hit home was the line, "Who will coach his Little League team?"

Parents are justifiably concerned about who will be their child's coach. It starts in Little League and extends to college. I have always told parents that I understand how they feel. My sons were coached by men thirteen hundred miles away in New Jersey. My hope was always that Jim and Jeff would be lucky enough to have a coach that cares for them as kids; someone who recognizes the charge and responsibility that he has been given; someone who would make them his own.

I was lucky. My two boys had good men working with them from the youngest age through high school. (The only shaky one was when I coached Jim here at FAU.)

As I was painting the baseboard in our bathroom yesterday, I was listening to Every Friday Afternoon on the radio. Just then my son Jim walked and told me his Mom had called with bad news. Al Audick of Long valley, NJ died this week of a heart attack. Al was one of the good men who helped form my young son's life in my stead. He was a big man who loved baseball and took the game seriously. His son Alan and Jim were teammates for years in Little League and Babe Ruth.

Al always treated Jim as his own. He had read Tom Seaver's book on pitching, and tried to impart some of that to my son. The few times I got there to see them practice or play, Al would make me feel welcome, and try to fill the hole in my life. He would tell me of big hits, or great plays at first base, stories of good pitching performances, and all the things I was missing. Al would be sure to provide. He always made it a point to tell me how proud he was of Jim and his career.

Losing your Dad at any age is tough. But 23 year old Alan Audick can be proud that his Dad touched so many lives, in so many ways...every Friday afternoon. KC


 

 

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