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Diamond Diary by Kevin Cooney

Aug. 31, 2004

Welcome Back...Now - EVACUATE!!! Ok... we live in paradise here in South Florida. At least the Chamber of Commerce and the State Tourism Board would like us to believe that. For a baseball coach, there could hardly be a better place to live. Our average temperature at the start of baseball season is 78 degrees. It rarely rains in the spring, so we are always practicing and playing in near perfect conditions. It gets a little hot in the summer, but everything is air conditioned, so who cares? The signs of school starting are all around us. There are more cars on campus than ever before, lost freshmen are wandering everywhere, our players all seemed to have grown goatees and haven't seen a barber all summer, and the surest harbinger of the new school year - Hurricane Frances! Florida Atlantic has a tradition of hurricanes and the start of school. The inaugural year of our existence saw the opening of school delayed because of a hurricane. Fortunately, there were only two buildings on campus at that time. The main damage was a bent flag pole in front of the administration building. So what's it like living in the face of these powerful storms? Well, the natives I know usually adopt a pretty blasé attitude about the likelihood of a hurricane hitting and doing any significant damage. However, since Hurricane Andrew devastated Dade County in 1992, more of us take a more proactive attitude toward an approaching storm. My aluminum hurricane shutters were purchased after Andrew. I remember watching television that night. All indications were that Andrew was going to hit West Palm Beach. We had just moved into our house the day before, and my wife, who was still a flight attendant, was on a layover in Charleston, glued to the weather channel, praying her first home would not be destroyed before she got to spend two nights in it. My sons Jim and Jeff were spending the summer. They were excited by the storm's approach. To them, it was like a big snowstorm bearing down on NJ. We went to Home Depot to buy plywood. Good luck - they were expecting a delivery any minute, but the guy told me he doubted it would arrive. I crossed over the turnpike and saw a sea of cars heading north. My next stop was our baseball field. The plywood outfield fence signs would be perfect. I could just see it...a big Louisville Slugger billboard covering my house! The bolts were all rusted, so I was out of luck. My neighbor gave me some plywood shutters. He had just purchased aluminum ones and he could spare the wood .As we settled in our cocoon for the night, I prayed the forecast was wrong. It was. At the last minute, Andrew veered about 100 miles south and we were spared. Kendall. Homestead, Cutler Ridge, and other areas in Dade County weren't so lucky. Two weeks ago, Punta Gorda paid the price we all thought was to be Tampa's fate. So here we are today. Frances is four days away. Four days for atmospheric pressure to nudge the storm a little more northeast and keep it away. It could go south of us. It could hit us dead square. So we're back to school and hoping to start pitchers throwing and hitters swinging. New kids and old dreams, as another year begins. We face an uncertain season because there are few proven pitchers this year, and we will depend on the development of some good young arms to keep us at this level of success. Right now that is the least of our concerns. KC



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