Diamond Diary by Kevin Cooney



Feb. 10-12, 2006

THE SALUKIS AND #98...

FRIDAY

This weekend brings the Salukis of Southern Illinois University to Boca for a three game set without a drop of rain in the forecast. I was impressed by some of our players who were able to explain what constitutes a Saluki. One of our pitchers also correctly identified SIU's most famous athletic alumnus- Walt "Clyde" Frazier of the New York Knicks. Growing up in northeast New Jersey, I spent many nights listening to Marv Albert describe the head to head battles of Frazier and Earl "The Pearl" Monroe of the Baltimore Bullets. This was, of course, before Marv became the poster boy for kinky relationships.

SIU has a long history of solid baseball, and won 38 games last season, so we should expect a real good challenge this weekend. It's our goal to limit the Salukis to 27 outs in the game. To do this we need to play defense in the manner we're capable of doing. Last week is over. Coach Roig spent a lot of quality time on defense in practice, and Coach Fossas seems to have gotten the pitchers' attention regarding the dangers of walking and hitting the opponent's batters.

A good friend sent me an email last week with the subject, "First Stupid Quote of the Year". My preseason quote about finding more out about Mickey Storey when he fails was included, with the admonition that I got what I wanted. Naturally, I didn't want Storey to fail, but now that he has, we expect him to bounce right back and throw a dog collar around the Salukis.

SATURDAY

GOD HAVE MERCY ON A MAN WHO DOUBTS WHAT HE'S SURE OF...
That line ends a song about relationships, and how the person we think we know best, including ourselves, could just be a "brilliant disguise". After last night's game it applies to me and our bullpen.

If there was one plus at the season's beginning, it was our bullpen. But with injuries to Brett Cannon and Mike McBryde, roles have changed and the results have been mixed. Despite that, a six run lead entering the eighth should have been a lock.

It wasn't.

The Salukis battled back against three pitchers to pull within two runs after eight. Mickey Storey had pitched brilliantly through six innings, looking like the Storey of old. But the job of the staff is to turn a game over to relievers so our starters have something left late in the season.

The resuTwo hits, a sac bunt, followed by our first error tied the score. Another Saluki hit drove a stake through our hearts.

So now I need to head for the training room to figure out a lineup. McBryde is probably still unavailable and Robbie Widlansky left in the fourth with his own pulled hamstring. Maybe we should go back to not stretching.

Today is another big challenge early in our season.

ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL???
Two pulled hamstrings and a recovering pulled quad...is that what stretching before and after practice gets you? Whatever happened to the theory that we shouldn't stretch `cause racehorses don't?

We've been pretty religious about our conditioning, but today was time for a change. After our usual agility warm up, I tossed Coach Roig a football and divided our guys into a "shirts and skins" football game. The hell with stretching, let's have some fun! Coach Roig was the QB for both teams, and he had a good game, but the MVP was Jason Blilie, another wideout with great moves and blazing speed. His Escalade should be here next week.

The baseball game was fun too, despite the umpires requiring us to wear shirts. We scored two runs in four different innings, and then broke the pattern with four in the eighth. Tim Mascia and Mike McKenna each had four hits. Chris Salberg threw a gem and the bullpen held up this time. The result was a shutout and the pitchers get to hit BP today.

PERSPECTIVE...
This is a touchy subject, but here we go.

My son Jeff is back at FAU hoping to make a better effort at his schoolwork with his eye on someday coaching. His English class had an assignment to write an essay based on a famous dissertation about art. The aspect of the article he chose to focus on was perspective, and how it affects a person's perception of the artist's work.

He asked for some help and we kicked around a few ideas. I think he wrote a pretty good paper.

The point is that we all see things from a different perspective.

Parents and coaches don't always share the same perspective, despite usually hoping to see the same result- a successful young man. Just as "beauty is in the eye of the beholder", (hey- two women found me attractive enough to marry!) the talent and plans for a player will sometimes vary or develop differently, based upon from whose viewpoint you're looking.

As a coach for 32 years, I've grown accustomed to the relationship of parent and coach. People always ask if college coaches have any problems with parents. The assumption is that it is just a high school thing and ends as soon as a young man steps on campus.

Many of my fellow coaches adopt a policy that interaction beyond "hello" ceases after the recruiting process ends. The theory is that any questions or problems should be resolved by the player dealing directly with his coach. I never was comfortable with shutting out parents in this manner. Don't get me wrong- I'm not encouraging parents to step in, but I would prefer that they feel comfortable enough to approach me if there is a concern about their son. I just hope it's not to complain about playing time.

Coaching is a different type of job and everybody thinks they know how to do it.

I wonder if a doctor ever walked into a social setting with his patients, knowing that many of them feel they know more than he does. Call me paranoid, but I always get that feeling.

The way I handle it is to remember perspective.

My players are the most important thing in the world to their parents. It shouldn't be any other way. But what all of us parents need to do, is to try and broaden our perspective. Society would be better if we parents could hold our children accountable by striving to see them for what they are, and judging them by what they do. That's a hard thing- it really requires a serious change in perspective.

But I think that when we constantly side with our kids when they disagree with a coach, teacher, cop, or any other authority figure, we're not really doing what Crosby, Stills, and Nash told us- "teach your children".

Hey- you can "learn more from a three minute record than you ever learn in school".

SUNDAY

98 CANDLES...
My Dad always joked that we had no school on February 12th because it was his birthday- not Lincoln's. If the little guy had lived, he'd be 98 today.

When I talk about fathers and sons, I always wonder how Dad felt about being cheated out of that relationship. He never knew his father and had to deal with a stigma that, when you were born in 1908, was a tough one.

Instead of having a father figure, at 13 he became one. My grandmother's husband died then and Dad had to quit 8th grade and go to work. There were five half brothers and sisters to support. He still managed to grow up with a biting sense of humor and friends who described him to me as "as fine a man as you'd hope to know".

Joseph Cooney drove a bus in New Jersey for thirty years and had two sons who shared his love for baseball. He was blessed with a wife that felt the same and made sure the boys got to games on time, and turned their backyard into a baseball field. He was a very religious man who always asked me as I left the house, "Did you say your prayers? I never told him about any trouble I may have gotten into at school `cause he would have made me wish I hadn't.

Of all the regrets in my life, the loss of my father at the time that my coaching career was starting to click is a big one. I think of the games I wish he had been here to share. I wish Maggie and Luke knew their grandpa. I thank him and God during each national anthem for the life I've been given.

Happy birthday Dad.

MORE FOOTBALL...
This time it looked like the Salukis were on the gridiron, as they pounded out 17 runs and beat us by a touchdown and a safety.

It was a bad day for our pitchers as we gave up three homeruns and two consecutive five run innings. Twenty two hits later, we're trying to remember that we actually managed to shut out these guys yesterday.

I think Dan Callahan and his guys will have a good season. They have some quality arms and a bunch of kids who won't quit.

We showed some power today as well, as Shapland, Arata, and Block all homered. Arata and Block were high school teammates at Nova, and each of them has a homerun for his first college hit. Sounds like a future trivia question.

Our job now is to take the good things from this weekend, get some people healthy, and start playing more consistent baseball. Some nice things have happened so far, but our record is a disappointing 2-4. The schedule doesn't get any easier, so I hope we get it going soon. KC

 

 

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