Diamond Diary by Kevin Cooney



May 16, 2005

A MAJOR LEAGUE WEEKEND...

Actually the weekend started on Thursday for our series against Mercer, because of a request from Bears' coach Craig Gibson. Last summer he called and asked if I would move our three game series because of their Saturday graduation. Being a nice guy, I agreed.

Brilliant!

I was looking at our conference schedule at the time, and as such, did not see the Wednesday FIU game. Playing a double header on Thursday meant that we would face FIU without any of the relief pitchers who would be needed for the conference series. The result was a defeat by FIU wherein our bullpen didn't match up to theirs.

Nice guys finish last.

So, as we started the series with Mercer, I was loaded for Bear. We needed a sweep to have a chance to finish in third place, with an outside chance for second. That would be quite an accomplishment, considering our halting start in conference play this year.

Mickey Storey is having a great season for a freshman. His outings have all been excellent, and he is blessed with great talent. However, on Thursday, he had to be a pitcher, rather than a young thrower.

Some days, you go out on that hill and your good stuff doesn't make the trip. Those times separate the men from the boys, and that was the challenge facing Mick on Thursday. His curve didn't have its normal bite, and his fastball was down in velocity.

But he pitched, and by the seventh had surrendered only one run-ironically the result of his own failure to turn a double play, and a subsequent balk.

It was time for our offense to break a 1-1 tie.

We did it using a double and three bunts to score three runs. Sometimes, less is more.

Mike Crotta entered in the eighth, and continued to settle nicely into his new found role in the bullpen. Mike mowed through the Bears and notched his second save, preserving Storey's hard earned victory.

The second game saw Chris Salberg pitching in front of a slew of scouts, drawn like moths to a light, after his three inning stint at UCF where he touched 90 mph a few times. Word spreads fast in the world of scouting.

Chris has been inconsistent this season, a result of his inexperience, and just being left handed. He always seems to have an inning or two where everything goes wrong. This time it was in the first, as the Bears scored three times. But fortunately for Chris, we put up a six spot in the bottom frame, led by Tim Mascia's home run. We would go on to get homers from Shapland, Widlansky, and Terpak, en route to a 14-4 win. Mascia was 3-for-5 raising his batting average to .298, quite an accomplishment in light of the terrible early season slump he endured.

Friday was Senior Day at FAU, a time to honor our departing players one final time at home. It was also another reason for me to regret agreeing to Mercer's scheduling request. We had just played a Thursday afternoon doubleheader in front of a sparse crowd, and now our seniors were staring at row upon row of empty seats at 1 PM on a Friday afternoon.

The only response could be another Bear hunt.

We won 15-10, as Mike McBryde pounded out five hits in six at bats, and Mike McKenna homered twice. Our hitters tied a school record with six doubles, and Derek Hutton was 2-for-5 with an RBI and one run scored in his last game in Boca Raton. It seems like yesterday he was part of the fantastic freshman duo of Fiorentino and Hutton.

A three game sweep, just what the doctor ordered as we head into the last week of the regular season. What more could we want?

ICH GETS THE CALL...

Wednesday night, Jeff Fiorentino got the call he always dreamed would come. Pack your things. You're going to the Big Leagues!

Instead of being on our field for Senior Day, Jeff was in Chicago starting his Major League career with the Orioles. He got in his first game Thursday night and got a hit in his first at bat, just as I was getting home from our game. His next at bat saw the same result- two for two!!

He looked the same, except for his hair.

Seeing him on base, I flashed back to Jeff standing at second base in Tuscaloosa, calmly signaling me "two outs", after having delivered the biggest hit in FAU history, a single to score Derek Hutton in the ninth to beat Alabama in the 2002 NCAA Regional.

Our guys named Fiorentino "Ich" during his freshman year because of the resemblance of his hitting style to Ichiro.

The Orioles players have named him "Screech", for a supposed resemblance to the Saved By The Bell character. I like Ich better.

Jeff went on to a 6-10 start in the series against the White Sox. I guess we didn't need him against Mercer, but it would have been nice. Everyone connected with FAU is happy and proud. Zack Roper told me, "I'm screaming for him as if he were my own kid!"

We all feel that way.

HOME FOR THE WEEKEND...

One advantage of the schedule debacle as that I had a Saturday off for the first time since the beginning of January. My son Jeff was in from NJ, so on Saturday we gave MB the day off from the rug rats. Jim and Marin, and Jeff and I drove Luke and Maggie to a park in West Palm where The Animal Planet was staging an Expo. Sitting in bumper to bumper traffic and waiting in long lines reminded me that the rest of the world is also off on Saturdays.

Our last stop was a survival contest for kids. I lied about Luke's age so he could compete along with Maggie in a contest where 10 kids would hang from Monkey Bars until there was only one left hanging.

Maggie and Luke were the youngest in the group. I didn't even think Luke would go through with it. But after six kids had dropped off...Maggie and Luke were still in it. Luke gave me a scared look and finally fell to the ground. Jeff scooped him up and told him how proud we were.

A girl about 11 and a boy who looked the same age, were left with Maggie, who turns 7 this Saturday.

Then the girl dropped.

Like a classic Little League father, I starting yelling encouragement to my little girl.

"Don't let a BOY beat you!"

The boy was struggling, kicking his legs and trying to pull himself higher.

"Hang on Mags!"

Maggie kept looking from the boy, to me, and the crowd watching. She had a real peaceful look on her face. It was as if she was waiting her turn for something.

The boy slipped off and everyone cheered as the little girl looked around and dropped lightly to the ground and ran to Jeff's arms. Her prize was a t-shirt and her father's amazement.

Luke said it wasn't fair she got a shirt and he didn't. I told him I agreed, but life's not fair.

BATHE ME IN THE WATER...

Don't ask me why, but our kids were never baptized. I could give you my reasons, but they are weak. I will say that it really meant a lot to me as I watched Maggie and Luke have Holy Water poured on their heads Sunday afternoon. Their big brothers served as Godfathers as the two newest members of the Church received the sacramental waters.

They're part of something bigger now.

So it turned out to be a weekend filled with pride. From a freshman pitcher struggling to excel, a senior playing well his last time at home, Linda Fiorentino watching her little boy live his dream, Maggie and Luke hanging with the big kids, to a couple of proud parents seeing their kids baptized.

This weekend was chock full of life. KC

 

 

all-access