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Diamond Diary by Kevin Cooney

Feb. 2, 2006

Here We Go Again...

Well, it's Groundhog Day in Boca, and Botox Bill scampered back in his hole after seeing his shadow. It looks like another six weeks of grueling South Florida winter. Our fans better break out some sweatshirts-it's Opening Day tomorrow! Every year seems to be the same thing. The fall takes forever and the first game is a hazy image in the future.

Tomorrow is the day for which all these kids and their coaches live.

Every year at this time, I wonder how people with real jobs cope. One of the reasons I went into teaching and coaching was the cyclical nature of the job. Every segment of the year presents a different challenge and job.

The summer is filled with recruiting and camps, with a brief vacation for battery recharging.

Then the players are back and fall workouts are in the mix, as the recruiting wars build to a fever pitch. I remember being at the Junior College All Star Game one November eight years ago. Coach McCormack was there, while his wife Katrina was trying to hold off their firstborn's impending arrival until Mac saw some big lefty pitch. He made it home just in time.

The Christmas break brings more camp opportunities and a little family time. At least now there is a recruiting calendar, and coaches can't be on the road so we can get some shopping done.

January rolls around and the players return to start practice. The next few weeks are all baseball, and the memories flood back to swell expectations. The season is here- our reason for being.

Jackson Browne had a song called The Load Out, which always reminded me of the life of a ballplayer. In it he speaks of his life on the road, both the good and the bad:

We do so many shows in a row
And these towns all look the same
We just pass the time in our hotel rooms
And wander round backstage
Till those lights come up and we hear that crowd
And we remember why we came

If that doesn't sum things up I don't know what does.

We had a good fall as far as baseball is concerned. Hurricane Wilma threw us a big curve, but I was real pleased with the attitude and progress of our young players. We return most of last year's regional team and have added some pretty good newcomers, so everybody thinks we'll have a strong team.

My natural inclination is to be pessimistic and underestimate the talent of our own players. I usually think the other team's kids are more talented, and our season will be a struggle. This is my 19th opener at Florida Atlantic, so it's hard to be an old dog and learn new tricks. But, that said, I think we have a chance to be pretty good.

Mickey Storey, Chris Salberg, and Joel Schmall are three pretty good weekend starters. Brandon Cooney, Mike Crotta, and Mike McBryde anchor a solid bullpen. Our other pitchers aren't flashy, but they should get the job done.

Our offense last year didn't set the world on fire, but they're all back-a year older and better. Jon Shapland will only pinch hit this weekend because of a pulled thigh muscle, but I think he's in line for a big year. Our new second baseman from St. Pete CC, Ovy Ramirez, will provide some punch in the three hole.

Mike McBryde and Tim Mascia, at the top of the order, give us two real good hitters who can run. Having Mike McKenna a full season will improve our offense. Alex Fonseca can swing it and is solid at short. We have some exciting young players who are really pushing themselves into the mix.

Jordan Hafer and a surgically repaired Anthony Albano give us some real power potential, while our two catchers, Alex Silversmith and Justin Martin are equally fine players.

The shakiest part of this mix is the coaching.

All the baseball publications and internet sites have picked us to win the conference and again be a regional team.

So my job is not to screw it up.

A Look Back...

Today is all about the future, but last week was about the past. Our Parents and Alumni Dinner had an added twist, as we inducted an inaugural FAU Baseball Hall of Fame class.

Jack Penrod, Todd Moser, Keith Foley, and Nick Presto each in his own way, spoke eloquently about what FAU meant to them. It was a special night highlighted by the emotional and heartfelt speech given by former coach, Steve Traylor.

Steve is now at Wofford, having been one of the most successful coaches in the history of Duke University. Steve had founded the FAU program in 1981 and left for Duke in 1988. However, the real story came out last Friday night.

As Steve said, "I didn't leave FAU for a better job. My wife and I wanted to raise our family near our parents. I was prepared to be a high school coach. It was about family." That statement warmed my heart. The obvious affection Steve holds for the program he founded was out there in full force for our kids and their families to see.

FAU has grown from an inaugural team of 13 players, to a program where the pitching staff outnumbers that first team. Because of the determination of Steve, his players and coaches, a strong foundation was laid those first seven years.

My job in my 19th year, is to see that we all live up to the legacy of Steve Traylor and his guys. KC



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