Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


FAU Profile: John McCormack

His office is not like that of other FAU faculty. Stacks of paper and videotapes litter his oak desk. Their contents are not yesterday’s assignment or a video midterm project. Rather, they are evaluations of some of the nation’s top athletes.

Instead of grading papers he grades the skill level of his athletes and those whom he recruits. But the grading, or scouting as it is called in baseball, extends far beyond a cramped office. It embraces the entire country.

Recently back from an Arizona recruiting trip, Associate Assistant Coach John McCormack glances over his notes as he walks into the baseball offices. He heads straight to his computer to write a follow-up letter to his prospects in Arizona and a thank-you letter to the coaching staff for their hospitality during his stay.

“I’m known for my letters,” McCormack says. “I won’t send two kids the same letter if I’m interested in them or not. I try to relate to the kids or coaches the best I can. I want them to know that I have truly considered the athlete as a future member of this team.”

This is one of the reasons FAU has been able to draw top-notch prospects. All the coaches pride themselves on their ability to get to know their players.

“They don’t treat you like meat here,” senior infielder Rusty Brown says. “I know guys that play at the bigger schools. They don’t know from day to day if someone is waiting in the wings to take their position if they make an error in the field.”

McCormack, as some of his players put it, never “big-leagues” a person (referring to his willingness to talk to and help anyone with whom he comes into contact). Though his personality does not assume the arrogance of a “big-leaguer,” his accomplishments would be a valid excuse for such behavior.

Last year, McCormack was presented with the Aflac National Assistant Coach of the Year award for distinguished service. The plaque is not found on his office wall, but buried face down under recruitment letters.

“It was nice being recognized for the hard work I’ve done here. But that kind of stuff takes a back seat to what we have accomplished as a team these last couple of years,” McCormack says.

The team has picked up national recognition because of its level of talent. In 1999, FAU set a national record for consecutive wins at 34. In 2002, the team captured its first regional championship and this year the team was crowned the Atlantic Sun Conference champions.

“It isn’t as difficult to gain success as it is to sustain it. That becomes the real goal. We need staying power,” McCormack explains.

It’s not a secret that staying power comes from the ability to field a competitive team yearly.

“There are no long-term contracts in college athletics as there are in professional sports. We struggle each year to replace our most experienced players, the seniors, with young potential-possessing athletes,” McCormack says.

The task is even more challenging when FAU coaches have little more than their success to draw in great players.

“With a lack of facilities, we’re forced to go after the players who need a little more work to shine. We have done a great job of identifying ‘diamond in the rough’ players,” McCormack adds.

Forty-five of these “diamonds” are now shining in some form of professional baseball. Head Coach Kevin Cooney credits the success of the program to McCormack’s ability to gain valuable recruits year after year.

“I don’t know how he does it,” Cooney says. ” I used to go out recruiting years ago and I found myself distracted by conversations with other coaches or scouts. By the end of the game, I wouldn’t know what to think of the recruit.

“But Mac is different. He’ll talk to everyone, socialize with everyone that walks by, but by the end of the game he knows everything about the recruit. That is a gift.”

The special gifts that Coach McCormack possesses deserved a more prestigious title than “Assistant.” After a decade of McCormack’s service, Coach Cooney decided to give him the title of “Associate Assistant.”

“I don’t know what the difference is really,” McCormack says. ” I still do the same job. I think Coach [Cooney] just wanted to show his appreciation for my work. All the players still call me Mac, and that’s the way I like it.”

The sun has set on the practice field and most activity of both players and coaches is done for the day. McCormack quickly heads home to his wife and two young sons.

When dinner is finished and the children are tucked into bed, Coach McCormack hops on the phone with the same vigor that he had in his playing days as an All-Conference catcher and third baseman at Lynn University. Until around 11:30 p.m. he’ll talk to possible recruits for next year’s team.

The next day will be no different.

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