Diamond Diary by Kevin Cooney



May 3, 2004

WINLESS AT WINTHROP...

Back in March we played Winthrop in our tournament. At that time they were really at a low point and were not playing well. Since that time they have righted the ship and put up three wins in sweeping us right out of South Carolina this past weekend.

If you're looking for a reason, just fix your gaze on the pitchers' mound. But keep an eye out for the bullpen. They trotted out three relievers, led by Joey Wilson, who can really shorten a game for Coach Hudak. We knew going in that the key to the series was for our offense to establish something early and take their bullpen out of the equation. Winthrop's starters did their job and kept us from putting anything together that resembled a big inning. Meantime, their hitters scored four in one inning of the first game, and three in a single frame of each of the next two games, and that was all she wrote.

Jeff Fiorentino had two home runs in the first game, followed by a solo shot by Tim Mascia in the second contest. There really wasn't much else to our offense. Sometimes you just need to credit the other team's pitchers. They did a great job on us all weekend.

Our post season outlook just got a little cloudier. Next weekend's series at Troy State is a big one. They are right behind us in the standings, and we are tied with Stetson in the loss column. The Hatters are a series up on us, so catching them means we need to be near perfect over the last nine conference games. Right now our focus is hanging on to third place and seeing what happens down the stretch. We need to take care of business and hopefully be positioned for an at large bid prior to the conference tournament. A repeat of this weekend's offense won't get it done.

THREE FANS - FORTY SEVEN YEARS...

It's always good to see old friends when we hit the road, but this weekend was something else. Three guys that each marked significant passages in my life were in Winthrop this weekend.

In the fall of 1987 I interviewed for the Florida Atlantic job. One of the committee members was a student athlete named Frank McAdam. I must have said something he liked, because a month later Frankie was my shortstop. He was a feisty little guy from Pennsylvania who batted at the top of the order and played a solid shortstop. I do remember him being picked off first by a lefty one time. It seems Frank got distracted by the IBM corporate jet that was taking off at the airport adjacent to our old field. The engines were roaring, as Frank looked over and the lefty threw over and got him. I named Frank captain that year. He was a real fun loving guy who never thought of himself as the captain type. When he asked me why I picked him for that responsibility, I said, "Imagine the screw-up you'd be if you weren't captain. I think he felt it made sense and he did a good job for us. Frank and his family were there Saturday. They live now in North Carolina and he has yet to see us win. They also came to the Gardner-Webb series. Hey Frank...stay home.

The starting pitcher for Winthrop on Saturday was named Honce. His Dad Joe played with me in Wisconsin Rapids in 1973. We won the league championship that year and the 18-year old lefthanded hitter from West Virginia was a big reason for our success. Joe and his wife and daughter were there Saturday, and we got to spend a little time together at the hotel.

We had some great guys on that team including a little Mexican second baseman named Ray King. His biggest asset was his guitar playing and singing on bus rides. This was before DVD players, Discman cd players...heck I think it was before radio!

We'd drive through the Midwest night with Terry Ryan (GM of the Minnesota Twins) sitting on the steps trying to keep Clarence, the driver, awake throughout the trip. Ray would play the guitar and sing. Joe Honce would always request Country Roads, by John Denver. He just loved to sing about West Virginia. It was a great time in our lives.

But the longest trip down memory lane was provided by my old grade school friend Tommy Monigan. Tom is a talented newspaper editor in Gastonia, NC and he sat in our dugout for Sunday's game.

We go back to second grade and the Dominican sisters, the church choir (I was kicked out for pushing the huge chandeliers during Mass), Boy Scouts, school plays, CYO basketball, Little League baseball, and Essex Catholic High School.

There's a song by Don Henley called The End of the Innocence. It's about the Eighties, but I think the innocence ended when we got to college. Tommy and I grew up in the Fifties. I can't imagine a better time to be a kid. We truly were innocent at that time. Sure, there were problems hidden in those quiet suburban towns, but young people then stood a better chance of remaining kids than any other time. Maybe that contributed to my generation screwing up so many things once we came of age. Who knows?

I know that I wouldn't trade the friends and families that Tom and my generation got to share. We were exposed to some great education by the nuns at St. Catherine's and the brothers at Essex. We can diagram sentences and still know our prepositions. Our parents shared in our lives. Tom's Dad coached his Little League team and was president of the league. My father was the scoutmaster of our Boy Scout Troop.

Those children of the Fifties came of age in the Sixties, and some of us paid a price for that decade's turbulence.

I hadn't seen or heard from Tom until recently. It was great to see each other and revisit those great memories.

Bruce Springsteen wrote a song called Better Days. It's not about the past as you might think. It's about a guy who has had some tough times and finally has "a woman I can call my friend." These are better days my friend.

I thought of that song after seeing pictures of Tom's wife and hearing about the peace and happiness she's brought him. "Better days for you and me." KC

 

 

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