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Diamond Diary by Kevin Cooney

March 30, 2005


One of the nice things about being a college student is that it delays one's entry into the real working world. The undergraduate has the job of attending class, studying, completing assignments, and passing tests. Some also add a part time job to their responsibilities, for others, intercollegiate athletics might be thrown into the mix.

It sometimes becomes hectic and stressful, but students can take solace in the fact that this is only a temporary stop on the journey of life.

Contrast that life with the day to day existence of the character in the song FACTORY, by Bruce Springsteen.

Early in the morning factory whistle blows,
Man rises from bed and puts on his clothes,
Man takes his lunch, walks out in the morning light,
It's the working, the working, just the working life.

Through the mansions of fear, through the mansions of pain,
I see my Daddy walking through them factory gates in the rain,
Factory takes his hearing, factory gives him life,
The working, the working, just the working life.

End of the day, factory whistle cries,
Men walk through these gates with death in their eyes.
And you just better believe, boy,
Somebody's gonna get hurt tonight,

It's the working, the working, just the working life.

I have always listened to that song with feelings of guilt.

My father always left our house before dawn's light, and rarely returned before dark. He was behind the wheel of a bus driving people to work or school before I normally am awake. His was the first bus up Springfield Avenue in Newark the morning of the race riots in the 60's. Gunshots were fired at his bus as he hightailed it out of town to protect his passengers. He worked overtime every night the last few years to increase his pension, earning $10,000 the year he retired. He loved his job in the early years, but after 30 years it took its toll.

My biggest problem is whether to bunt or steal!

Most college baseball players have a much easier life than that, despite some of the extra responsibilities that come with being a member of the team. At Florida Atlantic, we require our guys to be clean shaven, neatly shorn, and to act properly at home and on the road. All players are expected to attend classes, and study hall is required based upon a player's GPA. Our guys also lift weights, attend practices, and play in games.

That's a full schedule, but hardly "the working life".

So, it would seem logical to assume that our young men would not have much trouble fulfilling the requirements set forth by their baseball program. After all, how can one expect to do well in school if one doesn't attend his classes? It's hard to learn through osmosis.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must admit that as an undergraduate baseball player, I sometimes missed class. I should also point out that it took seven years for me to graduate. That was due in part to some classes that I failed because of a lack of attendance. So, when I discuss this topic with my players, I know from whence I speak!

Let's think about study hall in college for a moment.

My feeling is that forcing a student to spend a required number of hours in a supervised study hall is high school. Yet we do it for a few reasons.

Study hall guarantees that an incoming freshman will actually be forced to look at his work for a set period of time each week. It is a good reason for study hall to be mandatory for freshman until they grade out of it.

The average person would trust that the student athlete would, perhaps grudgingly, be amenable to fulfilling this obligation. Remember, many of these guys are getting a portion of their college bill paid through a scholarship. Even the non scholarship players get the benefit that being a member of the program brings. They are playing college baseball.

That should be considered a privilege, not an entitlement.

Seven of our players are not going to dress for tonight's game against Harvard.

Some of them missed class when checked on Monday; others were discovered to have falsified their time cards in study hall. The system devised would probably impress even a Harvard student.

If players would spend as much time on their work as they do devising methods to beat the system, their grades would skyrocket. But rather than deal honestly with a reasonable set of rules, some chose a different path, a path that leads us into a game with a shortage of infielders and bullpen members.

It's too bad.

Our players have been treated fairly by their academic counselor and by their coaches. They chose not to return that treatment in kind. That's my biggest disappointment.

Do unto others as you'd have others do unto you.

That's a pretty simple concept to follow, but when we're young, we sometimes fail to stop and think about the consequences of our actions. Most of us disappoint the ones we care about the most. Some young people, and old ones too, often don't stop to think about the other person. Maybe it's expecting too much for a young man to realize what he is doing when he circumvents or disobeys someone's rules.

And what about the players who followed the rules, how do they feel about playing a game at less than full strength? The actions of a few have jeopardized the success of the entire team. Is that fair?

My argument is this.

Is the life of a college baseball player anything at all like that of the character in that song?

The answer is no...and the fact is that "the working" life will be upon these guys all too soon. In the blink of an eye careers are over and kids are thrust into the real world. For some that is after college baseball ends, for others it is when pro ball cuts them loose. At that point those men are faced with reality.

I don't think these guys will encounter a life as bleak as this factory worker. They all have had the chance for a college degree, which serves as a key which unlocks the door of opportunity. A comparatively easier life awaits them. I hope they will come to understand that concept. KC



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