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Former FAU head baseball coach Kevin Cooney, and current players speak up about the lack of amenities at FAU Baseball Stadium

Rolando Rosa

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The good news: FAU baseball is currently on top of the Sun Belt Conference standings with an 8-1 record in conference play.

The bad news: Its 21-year-old stadium has hardly changed. Players, coaches and fans are forced to use Porta-potties because of the lack of restrooms.

“It sucks,” senior second baseman Mike Albaladejo said. “It smells sometimes. You could only imagine 35 people sharing one Porta-potty. The stench that comes out at the end of the weekend. The only rule that we have is nobody does the number two in there.”

“Dude, we’ve got a Porta-potty and it stinks,” senior outfielder Alex Hudak said. “Man, it smells bad. That’s disappointing. With baseball down here, and having the reputation of a winner, just looking at other Sun Belt Conference schools and schools around the nation, you should have bathrooms. Hopefully, the winning translates to some bathrooms and extra dollars. I don’t think bathrooms cost that much. They’ve got them everywhere, right?”

Current players aren’t the only ones with concerns, either.

The UP spoke with former head coach Kevin Cooney (who was inducted into FAU’s Hall of Fame earlier in the year) to get his take on the stadium, his struggles with the athletics department, and why baseball is overlooked at FAU.

Thoughts on the baseball stadium:

Cooney: “It’s a disgrace. It’s an absolute disgrace. It’s embarrassing. I’ve felt that way for a long time and have been very vocal about it with the administration. It’s a battle I lost. It’s one of the things that made it easier for me to leave.”

On how former pitcher Steve Taylor (graduated in 1990) felt upon returning to visit the stadium last month:

“He was talking to coach [John] McCormack, and he looked around, and he said ‘It’s the same place.’ There’s more trees around it. We’ve got those banners. The banners that you see hanging around are a replacement for the ones I bought the second to last year I was there with our own fundraised money, just to make the bleachers look a little bit more attractive. The seat back chairs were put in in 2002. Those are the only things that are different than when the kid was there as a player over 20 years ago.”

His proposed plan for renovations:

“Our pleas for help in that area really fell on deaf ears. I had drawings made up, used our own fundraised money, spent $ 5,000 with an architect to draw up a stadium. He’s the same guy that did Auburn and Troy. It would have cost about $4 million dollars to do it. I asked the athletic director — we don’t have money, obviously — but could we borrow the money, and go after naming rights for it, and pay it off over 15-20 years. I was told that you can’t borrow to build athletic facilities, but during that time they borrowed $70 million dollars for a football stadium. [Ed. Note: FAU Stadium cost $70 million, but the university took out a $44.5 million loan with Regions Bank.] I wasn’t told an accurate fact.”

On why he retired: 

“I felt that things weren’t going to be done for the baseball program that were necessary to take us to a higher level. In 2002, we were two wins away from the College World Series. We won a regional on the road against Alabama and we lost in the super regional to Georgia Tech. That was a defining moment for us, but we stalled, because now, you have all this national recognition and [the team is] seen as this up and coming program, but we had to take the next step. We didn’t do that.”

How the poor quality of the stadium affected recruiting: 

“We ended up losing very good players in the recruiting process. We still got good players, but we lost some really good players because of our facilities. There was one young man in particular, from a junior college in Texas. For us to get a guy from a junior college in Texas is unusual and unheard of. He was a great third baseman. We were sure he was going to say yes. He came for his visit and his ardor for the program cooled. Finally he said no to coach McCormack. So I called the kid up. I said ‘What happened?’ and he said, ‘Coach, I thought you were serious about baseball.’ He said, ‘No offense, it’s a beautiful field, but the facility, the locker room, cages, it’s not to the level that I want it to be at.’ He ended up going to Baylor which had a new $5 million stadium. This was in ‘04 or ‘05.”

On the comparison between FAU’s stadium and others across the state: 

“Oh, it’s unbelievable. If you take Florida A&M and Bethune Cookman out of the picture, because Bethune Cookman plays in a minor league ballpark, we are the only program [in Florida] that has not either upgraded, done a renovation of the facility or built a new facility. Central Florida did a new facility and renovated it. FIU has a new facility and added onto it after they started building it. Stetson built a new one in ‘98. Florida re-did theirs. Florida State re-did theirs. Miami re-did theirs. North Florida had a better facility than ours when they came into the conference. They added a huge indoor hitting facility behind the outfield fence. Everybody [renovated]. Yet, over a 10 year period, we’ve won more games than any other other Division I school in the state of Florida. We were on such a good track to be a national power, and it stalled because of that. We don’t even have a roof for our batting cages, in the state of Florida, where it’s either deadly hot and sunny or it rains.”

On the lack of bathrooms: 

“We don’t have a bathroom — for the public or the players. The big upgrade that I got for that facility was, I talked them into putting porta-johns behind the dugouts. I used to go to the bathroom underneath the grandstand against the wall, hoping that people walking down the steps didn’t see me.”

What the new athletic director needs to do in order to make baseball relevant:

“If I were brought in as the athletic director, I would sit down and say, ‘Alright, your marquee programs are football, men’s basketball and baseball.’ In 90 percent of universities around the country, that’s the pecking order. Let’s look at your facilities. You’ve got a great football facility, you’re in great shape there. Your basketball facility is passable. It looks really nice but it’s basically a glorified high school gym. But, your baseball stadium is atrocious. I live down the road from Stargate, Tenn. They’ve got one of the best high school baseball programs in the country and they’ve got a better facility than Florida Atlantic’s. I’m embarrassed when I drive past it.”

How he built the stadium from scratch:

“It’s just a shame. It’s a shame that those kids come back for alumni games and they’re in the same old dugout. I painted those bleachers. I hung all those flags for opening day: stood on top of the railing on top of the press box and painted it. I planted a lot of the palm trees that are there and the bushes behind the dugout. I’ve cut down trees from behind the outfield fence after hurricanes. There’s not an inch of that facility that my hands haven’t been in.”

Conversations with former Athletic Director Craig Angelos: 

“Angelos always used to say to me, ‘Kevin, you have a practice field, how many schools have a practice field?’ I told him, ‘Craig we need a stadium.’”

The lack of respect for the baseball program:

“Baseball’s been great there for a long, long time but it’s always been the redheaded stepchild that’s always had to do things on its own. It’s a shame. It’s not fair to the student athletes.”

How football usurped his power to build baseball into a dominant program:

“Unfortunately for me, when we had a great season in ‘99, that was a year after they decided to start football. In ‘99, Schnellenberger had a radio show, but he had no team. Half the time he didn’t even have anything to talk about. During baseball, I was on the radio show everyday that they had it, because we were the national story. But then the whole football thing snowballed and just eclipsed our needs. That was the shame of it. Every dime had to go to football.”

His thoughts on the baseball program when he returned to be inducted into FAU’s Hall of Fame:

“Here’s when I felt really bad — when I was back down there for the Hall of Fame induction, I walked past coach McCormack’s office on the way over to the gym on the last day I was there. I peeked in the office door, and there is the artist rendering that I paid to have done all those years ago. They’re still trotting out the same dog and pony show with no real promise that’s ever going to come to fruition. I felt bad for John [McCormack]. I felt bad for all the players and all the alums. There are more former baseball players than any other sport at that school. They’re grown men now, and they’d write checks if they had a reason to do so, but they all feel that the university doesn’t care about them or the baseball program. That’s been the general consensus for years.”

4 Comments

4 Responses to “Former FAU head baseball coach Kevin Cooney, and current players speak up about the lack of amenities at FAU Baseball Stadium”

  1. Does having only one porta-potty cost FAU baseball recruits? | Larry Brown Sports on April 3rd, 2012 2:58 pm

    […] sucks,” senior second baseman Mike Albaladejo said according to University Press. “It smells sometimes. You could only imagine 35 people sharing one Porta-potty. The stench that […]

  2. Dave on April 4th, 2012 2:10 pm

    Great article. He’s absolutely right. The current state of affairs for baseball is deplorable and FAU should be ashamed. I hoep President Saunders reads this.

  3. Laura Miceli on April 9th, 2012 10:59 am

    Baseball at FAU has a very proud history, recording more winning seasons than any other program on campus. In fact if you ask people from neighboring states about FAU the response is always – “Oh they have a great baseball program” With a reputation like that it should be an embarrassment for our Administration to have other Division 1 college teams come and be forced to use our deporable bathrooms and unimaginative concession area. The response is always “lack of money”, however, since time and money have been spent abundantly on football and to a lesser degree on basketball, I think the time has come to step up and support our baseball program by improving the decaying facilities immediately. Incidentally I am a graduate of FAU and come to many games with my son.

  4. Dave on May 5th, 2012 9:51 am

    I agree the stadium needs improvement. Bathrooms are a MUST and to subject these fine athletes to those facilities is embarrassing. This is a D1 program that has the ability to attract great players and truly build a fantastic baseball program. The coaching staff has proved they can build a winning team. The Football stadium was a step in the right direction, but the baseball facility is a sore spot. What is it going to take? I’m sure the community could pull some strings to find some money to start the process. It’s Boca Raton….there’s money to be found…..I sure hope the AD steps up and fights for this cause.

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