Kevin Cooney

Kevin Cooney has spent 20 seasons as head coach at Florida Atlantic University. He has compiled more than 700 victories with the Owls and more than 850 wins in his 24-year career as a head coach. Cooney has spent the past five seasons offering his thoughts on baseball - and other things - for Cooney's Owls finished their first season in the Sun Belt Conference at 36-22 in 2007.




February 25, 2008

Long Walk Home

My thoughts entering the first weekend of the 2008 season were of the future, but tempered by the past. It seems that all we hope to be in life is tied directly to what we have been before.

For me, and the players and coaches in our program, it means that our season is about returning home to what we had been before the past two seasons.

Last night I stood at your doorstep
Tryin’ to figure out what went wrong
You just slipped something into my palm
Then you were gone.
It’s gonna be a long walk home.

That’s a song about a guy, or a country or a baseball program, which has lost something precious. He sees the world around him the same, but his home and all that was once familiar have all changed. He walks the streets that before were his own, but he is a stranger in his own hometown.

Everything looks bleak and unpromising until he recalls the words of his father telling him he’s lucky to be born there:

It just wraps its arms around you
Nobody crowds you, nobody goes it alone.
That flag flyin’ over the courthouse
Means certain things are set in stone
Who we are and what we’ll do, and what we won’t.
Yeah, it’s gonna be a long walk home.

Home for FAU baseball means a NCAA Regional. Six out of seven years, our players fought their way into the tournament and a shot at Omaha. But then, some things happened the past two years to leave us in an unfamiliar place. All that we knew changed as those seasons crashed to a halt.

Our challenge in 2008 is to make that “Long Walk Home.”

It won’t be easy.

Our schedule this year is the toughest in the past 10, and the compressed slate of games will make things even more challenging for us. We need to be like the young man in the song and remember that we won’t have to go it alone. Our players, coaches and fans will lean on each other to be sure we get there together.

The first steps this weekend proved just how hard the journey promises to be. North Carolina came in and swept a three-game series from us. In two of the games, they came from behind to beat us by a run and leave us thinking about what might have been.

Friday night was a 7-1 loss, but it had so many bright spots, I was not as upset as you would think.

We had a large, enthusiastic crowd of students, community fans, alumni and Boca Raton Youth Baseball League kids cheering our guys all night. The pep band played, our Dance Team and Cheerleaders were in the stands and on the field. It was a little unconventional but a great atmosphere.

But the best part was writing Mickey Storey’s name in the lineup.

Mick gave up four runs through five, but was pain-free and looked like himself. Actually, he looked better. He made two bad pitches that got hit out, but his mechanics and approach on the mound are far better than before the injury. There is a lot of hope based on what I saw.

Saturday was a game that I feel we should have won.

Anytime you score 13 runs, you shouldn’t lose. In contrast to the great performance of our hitters against an outstanding team, our pitchers couldn’t hold serve. As a former pitcher, I really suffered with what transpired. When you are matched up against a top team, you can’t make mistakes unless you can afford to pay. Despite scoring the most runs against a Tar Heels team since UCLA did it in 2000, we fell short 14-13.

Sunday was expected by both Coach Fox and me to be another slugfest. Instead two starting lefties pitched well, and a great game ensued. When Mike McKenna put us up by three in the seventh, I thought we had it. Obradovich came in and pitched a flawless eighth. But in the ninth, Mike gave up two long balls, and the day was done.

What do you take from a weekend like that one?


I just figure we took our first steps on our long walk home.

Believe me. We’ll keep on walking till we get there.


“Long Walk Home” from Bruce Springsteen’s Magic