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 CollegeBaseballInsider.com. Cooney's Owls finished their first
season in the Sun Belt Conference at 36-22 in 2007.
March 7, 2008
Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Tuesday’s game against Boston College served as
the good this week, as we got a nice win the old fashioned way.
Instead of mashing home runs and banging balls all over the
field, we used some run manufacturing to win with a couple of
sacrifice flies. Our defense held its own to support the
outstanding pitching of a trio of newcomers.
Adam Morrison left after three hitless innings and gave freshman
Mike Gipson the reins for the next four. The freshman from Palm
Beach Central H.S. was up to the task. Mike mixed an 89-90 mph
fastball with a sharp breaking deuce and kept the Eagles hitless
through the sixth. But in the seventh, Mike hit a wall, and his
night was done. Lefty Alex Pepe got us out of the inning but
then, with two out in the eighth, faced a good right-handed
hitter with the tying run on second.
It was time to find out a little something about one of our new
Glen Troyanowski looks like he’s about 12 years old out there on
the mound – until he
throws the ball.
Glen is blessed with a 90 mph fastball and a hammer of a curve.
In his first start against Mt. Saint Mary’s, Troy pitched five
innings for a win, but it was a struggle. He was up in the zone
and threw only one changeup the whole night. In practice the
next day, we had a little talk; actually I talked, and he nodded
his head a lot.
Guys who throw hard and up in the zone don’t last long against
aluminum bats. Pitchers who can’t change speeds better be
throwing harder than 90-91. Freshmen who don’t adjust don’t
In a tight spot against one of BC’s best hitters Troyanowski’s
first pitch was a changeup at the knees for Strike 1. His next
pitch was a ground ball, and the inning was over.
As we batted in the bottom of the eighth, I weighed my impulse
to get the kid out of there feeling good about his first real
test under fire and let him build on that in his next outing,
against my desire to raise the ante and send him out for the
ninth with a one-run lead.
Risk versus reward – a failure could slow his development, but a
save might just produce a closer for us. I don’t gamble anywhere
but on the baseball field: no lottery tickets, poker tournaments
or football pools, but this was too good to pass up for me.
The kid with the baby face went out for the ninth and struck out
the heart of the Boston College order to earn his first college
The bad came the next night.
Senior Chris Eberhart was walking a tightrope on a rainy night
throughout the first five innings, but had a 4-1 lead. In the
fourth, I punched the walkie-talkie to our bullpen and said to
get Chris Schmitt ready to finish the fifth if needed, or else
start the sixth. I didn’t wait for a response, putting down the
walkie-talkie and hoping Ebs would get through the fifth to
qualify for the win should we hold on. The inning over, I
radioed down that Schmitty was in and turned my attention to our
half of the inning.
Three quick outs later, I didn’t see anyone coming from the
bullpen. Where’s Schmitt? I pressed the walkie-talkie and yelled
his name again. Then I noticed the walkie-talkie’s red light was
not lit. My heart skipped as I turned the knob and it crackled –
for the first time that night!
It had never been on all this time.
Schmitt wasn’t coming.
I looked at Ebs and he started ripping off the ice bags and
wind-milling his right arm as he ran out to the mound.
Meanwhile, I was looking for somewhere to hide while praying we
could get three outs without any damage to the score or Chris’
Two pitches later, we had two outs. Six runs later, we were
still seeking the elusive third one of the inning. A nightmare
inning put the Eagles on top to stay, as our defense struggled,
and we couldn’t hit our way back.
It was our worst game of the year, and I was sure to tell our
guys that the bad performance included the coaching. But I
encouraged them to quickly put it behind them and prepare for
UALR, our first conference series on Friday. There was no sense
rehashing what had passed, we needed to focus on what was to
What was to come has thus far proved to be ugly.
Hitting coach Norberto Lopez was in the emergency room during
the Wednesday debacle with some sort of inner ear problem and
was grounded by the doctors for our flight to Little Rock.
He may be the lucky one.
Our flight Thursday was stuck on the runway in Fort Lauderdale
for 2½ hours because of weather. We finally landed in Houston
with 10 minutes to make our connection to Little Rock. I felt
like an Australian Sheepdog nipping at the heels of our 25
players trying to herd them faster to the next terminal.
They held the plane as we arrived sweating and panting.
We sat for about 10 minutes when they said eight volunteers
needed to get off the plane, receive a travel voucher and fly
out early the next morning. I sent Coaches Mac and
Fossas with six players off with the promise to see them
tomorrow. Five minutes later they were back. No hotel rooms in
The next announcement called for the woman and her little boy
sitting behind me to come forward. They were stand-by passengers
who, along with a few other poor souls outside, were getting
bumped. I went to the flight attendant and said I’d take a
couple of guys and sleep in the airport, but they couldn’t throw
that kid and his Mom off the plane.
The gate agent listened and told me to wait. She returned and
said we could get everyone on if I’d authorize the removal of
The little guy and his Mom got a round of applause as they
walked down the aisle to their seats, and I think we have two
new FAU fans.
It was a short ride through the 26-degree night to our hotel.
Will Mann took a bunch of guys to Denny’s for a 3 a.m. snack
while I shivered under the blankets in my room.
It’s now Friday afternoon, and it’s been SNOWING all day. Our
game is optimistically postponed until tomorrow. We’ll try to
play two with Ernie Banks nowhere in sight.
I was down in the lobby and saw some guests pointing out to the
parking lot. Curious about the attraction, I strolled over and
smiled at what I saw. There was more than half our team outside
in an all-out snowball fight. Guys were sliding down a hill as
they ducked fastballs made from the white stuff.
Naturally I packed a good one and whistled it past Storey’s ear,
just before Troy Bubley nailed me right where I should have been
wearing a cup! As I retreated, it looked like someone had called
in an air strike against the old guy.
Sometimes we forget they’re just kids.
Even on an ugly day.