Diamond Diary by Kevin Cooney



May 3, 2005

WE'RE GOING TO DISNEY WORLD...
FRIDAY

Well, ok, we're really going to UCF. We'll be close to the Magic Kingdom, but they'll be no time for Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. Our ticket is being punched for another crucial conference weekend series.

UCF is ranked 25th in the country and sitting a game behind Troy in the Atlantic Sun Conference. They have great team speed, some good home run hitters, a catcher with a cannon, and a coach whose field bears his name. Our work is cut out for us.

It's only a three hour trip up the turnpike from Boca, so I decided to leave the day of the first game, rather than the night before. It gave me another night at home alone with Maggie and Luke. MB is in Destin for her annual beach weekend with her sorority sisters. It's her one time a year to get away from being responsible for all of us. I hope she comes back on Sunday.

My son Jim and his girlfriend, Marin, offered to babysit while I'm gone. This weekend should serve as the best example of birth control they could ever imagine. The kids are psyched to have Mom and Dad gone. They know there's a shot at going to McDonald's, the park, the beach, and getting to stay up late watching tv.

I'm looking forward to the bus ride. I've got a new book to read, and the new Springsteen cd to play. My problem is that I'll have to choose between the two. There's no sense in listening to new music of his without a lyric sheet. It's especially helpful with his acoustic stuff. There's no sense in reading a good book when you're concentrating on the music in your ears.

I chose the book.

"God have mercy on a man who doubts what he's sure of."

That's the last line of the song Brilliant Disguise. It's a line that has always haunted me because I see it applying to my life in so many ways. Is it the relationship to my wife, or hers to me? What about my kids and their love for me? And then there's baseball and my job. There are dark times in all our lives where that line might apply

The name of the book is Constantine's Sword- The Church and The Jews by James Carroll. I'm only six short chapters into the story of the Catholic Church and its relationship (a complex term) with the Jewish faith and its people.

The little I've read brought Springsteen's lyric to mind. For someone raised in the Catholic Church of the 50's and 60's, this book resonates with the dogma and the prejudices of people who followed centuries of misguided certainty.

There's much to learn in this book, as I start to scratch its surface, but I need to be prepared to have my faith challenged at a time when I have finally begun to feel comfortable in my own Catholic skin.

Thus the lyric.

The bus ride was a beauty. It took us nearly two hours to drive as far as Stuart, normally a forty-five minute trip. Now we had to scrap our lunch plans. Cracker Barrel was out, and we needed to find a sub place near the hotel. After three calls to the hotel, we located a Firehouse Subs and placed a generic order . There was just enough time to check in, eat and change into our uniforms for BP.

FRIDAY NIGHT

Freshman Mickey Storey was on the hill and I was praying he could continue his hot hand. He didn't let me down. Mick held the Knights scoreless for the first three innings and we got on the board with one in the fourth. But our lead was short lived as UCF scored two in the bottom half of the inning.

After each team exchanged goose eggs, we exploded for a seven spot in the sixth, featuring a three-run opposite field homer by Robbie Widlansky. Now we needed Mickey to hold them. But Jay Bergman's teams never quit, and UCF added two of their own in their half, and the lead was down to five.

Our plan was to start closer Mike McBryde in the second game, so when Storey finished the eighth with a run surrendered, the four-run lead was less comfortable than we'd hope to take into the ninth. Our bullpen would have to try and hold them without Mike. But a walk, and a failed double play contributed to another run as the winning run came to the plate.

It was time to get Mike in from centerfield and shut the door.

Three pitches later the 13th UCF strikeout of the night gave McBryde his eighth save and us the first game of the series. Storey had 11 K's in his eight innings- a performance that his grandfather back in NJ would love.

SATURDAY NIGHT

After a big meal at Bubbalou's Bodacious Barbeque last night, we were hoping McBryde would be fortified for his first start. I kept him in the lineup as the p/dh so he had to hit for himself, and could later remain in the game as our dh. It was ok for a guy like me to bat for myself, but Mac has a tendency to get on base and run around a lot more than I ever did.

Mike pitched well, but we had some defensive lapses that extended some innings and his stuff dropped off after the fifth. Then things snowballed and we lost 8-1. It was tough on Mike. It was the first time he had failed and it hurt. You could see it in his face.

Part of the reason for choosing to start McBryde was the emotional lift that we felt it would give our guys. There's nothing better than playing behind a dominating pitcher. But now what? What happens when the plan fails and Superman runs into Kryptonite? That was the problem.

When we pulled into the hotel parking lot, I spent a few minutes sharing my thoughts with our players. There was no point in recounting our failures of the night, but we needed to talk about the day to come. All I wanted was for each guy to give his best on Sunday. If we let everything hang out, play hard and lose- so be it. Maybe they're better than us, and that I would accept if we let ourselves hang out an play our best. That's all I asked of each of our 25 guys on that bus.

SUNDAY

They gave it to me.

We jumped out with a quick two runs in the first and things were looking good. But the Knights came right back and got to Brandon Kloess for two in the home half and another in the second. I gently reminded Brandon of the discussion on the bus last night. It was time to let it hang out and shut them down.

Kloess answered the challenge with four straight scoreless innings. Meanwhile, we scored three in the fourth and two in the sixth to take a four-run lead. Chris Salberg and Mike Crotta held UCF the rest of the way on two hits. Our hitters gave us seven more runs in the last two innings and the final was 14-3.

We had won a series from a great team in convincing fashion. Picking ourselves up from the dust of Saturday night, we responded with a game full of clutch performances. The pitchers weren't the only story.

Daniel Cook struggled Saturday night at second base in place of Tyler Stevens. But Sunday we neded Cookie at third base. Widlansky was suffering from getting hit with a throw on his right arm. Daniel responded with a big day- 2-for3 with four runs scored.

But the biggest boost was from our captain, Derek Hutton.

Stevens had pulled a groin muscle Friday and was still tender today. Hut jumped in and had a big day. Just when we needed it most, Derek came through with a triple, a double, and four RBI. There were a lot of happy smiles for a guy who has had a tough year and never given up.

Derek Hutton was the epitome of what I asked from our guys on the bus Saturday night.

We're back in Boca with two wins and a busload of guys with heart. KC

 

 

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