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Diamond Diary by Kevin Cooney

April 4, 2005

Good Things Come to Him Who Waits...

Players come into college baseball programs with one main goal- they want to play. Few are content to just sit on the bench and watch their teammates get all the fun of being in the games. Freshmen are usually warned that their chances of immediately playing might be slim, but are always encouraged to hang in there and keep working hard, their time will come.

But things are a bit different for transfer students. Whether from a junior college or a four year school, transfers are usually in their third or fourth years, and the clock is ticking. They have a greater sense of urgency than the fresh faced kid who just arrived on campus from high school.

A four year school transfer generally leaves one program for another in the hope of increased playing time. Sure, sometimes the kid wants to be closer to home, or some other story, but most times it's the chance to play that drives him.

College baseball has a different transfer rule than football and basketball. In those sports, the player must sit out one season after transferring. College baseball allows the player to immediately compete as long as the initial school agrees.

Bobby DiLiberto transferred to Florida Atlantic from LSU this fall. I remember seeing Bobby in a dugout shot at the College World Series last June. So powerful is the pull for a player to be in the lineup that a kid would choose to leave a program of that stature, with all the perks it has to offer.

Things didn't go great for Bobby here at FAU. The competition for a starting job was strong, and he struggled in the fall. Then Bobby badly sprained his ankle in the spring, at a time that our lineup desperately cried out for another bat.

DiLiberto's ankle healed at a time that some players were absent from the lineup for discipline. He was asked to play second base against Harvard Wednesday night, despite not having practiced there all year. Bobby was right in the middle of our first inning rally with a big double to get us off to a winning start. He had a good weekend in our lost cause at JU, including a home run.

Tyler Stevens started last year as a freshman at Elon University. He felt the need to be back home and chose to transfer here over the summer. After being an everyday starter for Elon, Tyler encountered a tough situation here at FAU. There was no open position in our infield, and it was a very tough adjustment for him in the fall. At one point, Tyler considered quitting, but decided o stay with it and wait for his chance.

Last weekend against Stetson, Tyler got a start at third and played real well. He entered the third game near the end and had a big hit in our rally that came up short. Tyler had three hits and an RBI against JU, while making some good plays in the field.

As a coach, I try to give my veteran players the benefit of the doubt when they struggle. A veteran should get more opportunities than perhaps seems fair, but, in my mind, that privilege has been earned.

The player waiting for his name to be called has a tough job. Coaches are always telling them to work hard and be ready. Then the chance comes and the player feels the pressure of having to successfully perform off the bench despite not having played much to that point. It's not easy. Tyler and Bobby have waited for their chance and seem to be making the most of it. KC

APRIL 3, 2005

The bus ride home after a weekend series is often an enjoyable experience. Usually we have played well and board the bus after a full and satisfying meal. Guys are laughing and getting ready for card games, DVD's, or just staking claim to the best sleeping area.

The coaches are all fat and happy, replaying the various parts of the game that were special. There is a nice, warm, satisfying feeling on those occasions.

But not so today.

We're heading home from Jacksonville after dropping the second and third games of a series that stated out so promising. An extra inning win Friday featured some clutch hitting and great relief pitching. We really looked like we might be getting things in gear. Coach Fossas said that he sensed a more professional attitude on this trip.

Then we ran into a buzzsaw named Neal Frontz. He carved us up Saturday night in a game that saw us give up two big innings early- a deficit too large to overcome. We hit some balls real well but either right at a Dolphin fielder, or close enough for one of them to make a great play. I was disappointed, but felt we had taken good swings and looked forward to today.

This game was perhaps the most disappointing of the season.

The litany of mistakes is staggering. Mistakes by young players as well as veterans, from guys playing new positions, to ones played since little league. These were mainly mental mistakes. They led directly to nearly all of Jacksonville's runs. Yet, at the end, we still had a shot. We scored three runs in the eighth to pull within a run, but JU held on and we headed for the showers.

It was a locker room reminiscent of that in Campbell three weeks ago. The only sound was the water in the showers as we tried to wash away the sins of the day.

The bus is like a tomb. Even the bus driver caught on and turned off his radio. There is little to feel good about as we roll down I 95, tired, angry, and hungry.

The hurt of losing is compounded by the way in which we lost, and by the fact that we have now lost three consecutive conference series. I haven't looked it up, but I believe that's a first since the conference changed from divisions to a round robin format in 1999.

Sometimes silence is good for people. We live in a world of constant noise and stimulation. There's always someone talking on a cell phone, or playing their music too loud, or feverishly changing tv channels.

Maybe we need these five hours of quiet to contemplate what just happened. Perhaps this time will be spent thinking about what transpired, and why. My hope is that we learn something from this and move forward from here.



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