Feb. 8, 2007
IT'S WORSE WHERE THERE'S NONE...
There were times when I was a kid that I would complain about things around our house. I had to share a bedroom with my brother, (one of four rooms in the entire house) and we were the last on our street to get a color television. I wore hand me down clothes from my brother and a neighbor, my mother cut cardboard insoles for my sneakers and shoes when holes were worn through the bottoms, and we spent a year lugging our clothes to a Laundromat because we couldn't afford a new washing machine.
Anytime I complained about any of this, my father had the same response-"It's worse where there's none!"
Needless to say, my smart-aleck 10-year old brain had no clue what my Dad was trying to say. As with many other things, I later realized the meaning and wisdom of what he was trying to tell me. I always thought it was his way of telling me to shut up, but it went beyond that.
We didn't have a lot, but we had all that we really needed.
I've tried to carry that into my professional life as a coach. Many of our players and assistant coaches have heard that same statement over the years. Sometimes it was in response to the amount of meal money or the restaurant chosen, the broken down turtle at practice, a cramped, Spartan locker room, or a long bus drive. It's worse where there's none.
Coach Doug Shanks brought his Delta Devils here last weekend from Mississippi for our season opener. As they worked out Friday morning on our practice field, Coach Shanks and I spent some time getting acquainted.
He shared their weather problems back home which severely limited their preseason practices, the less than stellar web site they utilize, and the long 19 hour bus ride to Boca Raton. Naturally, if two baseball coaches are together, the subject of Myles Brand and the APR were at the top of the list.
The APR and its resultant workload has created a nightmare for every school and its administration. Our Director of Academic Support for Athletics could spend her entire day on investigating, compiling, and writing appeals. One person for 19 sports! Coach Shanks reminded me of my Dad when he described the situation at Mississippi Valley State. He made the point that his school is pretty typical of the others in their conference. He fears that the APR could be the death knell of the SWAC.
But it was a February Friday in Boca Raton and the weather was perfect. Green grass rolled out under the Devils as they worked out the kinks from their long bus ride. That night the 2007 season opened for two teams who could finally do what they came to school to do- play ball.
Mickey Storey got us started with a solid five innings, striking out eight and surrendering one of only five walks we would give up in the series. Our bullpen looked real sharp as Justin Phillabaum, Alex Pepe, and Chris Eberhart finished the night with a flourish, and five more k's.
Meanwhile, our hitters started slowly. Scott Reid was throwing a barrage of slow curveballs and changeups which made his fastball look about 90. It took us a few innings, but we finally broke through for eight runs on eleven hits. Will Block and Danny Bomback, at the top of our lineup produced a 6-10 night between them with three runs scored, and three rbi's.
Saturday dawned with the prospect of a doubleheader and a real good chance for rain. We caught a break and the rain held off to make the Super Bowl a bit more interesting, but our first inning put a scare into me. A three run homer by Joel Gafford, put the Delta Devils on top in the first, and I was interested to see how we'd respond.
It didn't take long. Bomback singled with one out and Robbie Widlansky doubled Danny home. Two walks and a goundout loaded the bases for Justin Ferrieira, who promptly drove in two with a single to right. Danny Cook delivered another single, driving in Justin Martin and putting runners on the corners. A double steal got us our fifth run and a lead we never relinquished.
What followed was wild, but doesn't alter my satisfaction with how we responded in the first inning. Those five runs sent a message that we were ready to play, no matter the start. We scored 28 runs over the next three innings as everything went right for us, and the opposite for MVSU. We hit five homeruns, including a pinch-hit grand slam in the first college at bat by Riaan Spanjer-Furstenburg. I think Riaan leads the NCAA in most letters in a player's name.
The question between games was what affect the first game would have on the second? My prediction was a close game, and I was right. Coach Shank's guys came out playing hard and responded to our five run second inning, with four of their own in the third. The game seesawed back and forth until two runs in the seventh doubled our lead to four and we had a sweep.
After the game I mentioned to Coach Shanks that his kids did a great job in the nightcap. He leaned in and said he told his team between games that "it was a long walk back to Mississippi."
Sunday morning, as we drove to 10:30 Mass, I realized the Delta Devils were still on their bus after leaving FAU at 7:00 pm Saturday night. It had been a long weekend for everybody, but hard as it was for the players and coaches, at least we all got to do what we live for all year.
It's worse where there's none.