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Catching Up With UConn Baseball

April 15, 2010

Storrs - Thursday morning, April 15, 2010 - My father uses a lot of great expressions. At least I always think they're great. Most of them have been passed down with the twinkle of an Irish eye from generation to generation. They came from his father, and his father's father, and so forth, and so on. So, I'm sure I have a slight familial bias, but I believe I'm objective enough to realize that his many one-liners would serve many folks well in their everyday lives. Our team has been hearing many of them lately.

Along with, "Today's newspaper is tomorrow's toilet paper," one of my favorites is, "That and two dollars will get you a cup of coffee." Due to inflation, he's changed that one over the years. When I was a kid, it was, "That and fifty cents will get you a cup of coffee." It doesn't make any sense without the context, so allow me to provide some. My dad might use that line after a long, drawn-out, hyperbolic introduction from an m.c. when he'd step to the microphone at a banquet. After listening to a long list of accolades, such as: national coach of the year, four-time state champion, hall of famer, blah, blah, blah, he'd say, "Thanks very much. All of that and two dollars will get you a cup of coffee."

He has accomplished much in his teaching/coaching career and in his life, and he has much of which to be very proud. Yet, he remains the most humble man I know. He is visibly uncomfortable accepting praise of any kind. He squirms and looks like he's eating a lemon whenever he gets a compliment. Along with it being one of his most endearing attributes, I believe this characteristic has served him well as a sort of engine to continue to achieve.

He didn't see many of my Little League games because he was always coaching his own team in the spring. However, occasionally, I'd see his '77 Ford Pinto parked behind the outfield fence with a shadowy frame in the driver's seat watching my Wolff-Zackin Insurance team from afar. After one of those games, my brothers and I returned home in mom's station wagon. Not realizing her husband saw some of the game from behind the fence, and upon discovering my dad was already in the house, she yelled up the stairs, "Hey, Jim, Jimmy's team won 11-3 and he went 3 for 4!" My chest immediately puffed out as I waited for a compliment to come from Dad's direction. He hollered back to my mother loud enough for me to hear, "That's good. Ask him why he didn't run hard on his groundout to the pitcher in the sixth." Not only is he humble, but he's always had a knack for knowing when and how to make his sons, players, and pupils a little more modest too!



I've been using his expression a lot over the past couple of weeks, and especially this week as many folks around our program have been expressing kind congratulations for our winning streak and #25 national ranking in the Baseball America poll. When we met in August for the first time, our team didn't set a goal to win 12 games in a row, or to make the top 25 for the first time since 1979. Our goals are to win championships. There are no rings awarded in April, and while the attention and good wishes are nice acknowledgements of our growth and progress made toward our goals, we still have a long way to go on our journey. We cannot allow that attention to be a distraction from the task at hand, which is a critical three-game series at Georgetown this weekend. If Dad were coaching the Hoyas this weekend, he'd say, "Okay, they're ranked. They still have to try to beat us in our yard, so what's that got to do with the price of tea in China?"

We fly this afternoon, and will leapfrog the Hades of the Jersey Turnpike at rush hour and land at BWI before dinner. I'm looking forward to showing the guys our nation's capital tonight after dinner with a bus tour and some stops at a few of the monuments around the National Mall. We'll hopefully get the extra inspiration necessary to win another series on the road. It will not be easy. The Hoyas have already surpassed their win total from a season ago, and are18-15, heading into the weekend with a veteran team and some momentum.

So far, the guys have done a very good job of playing hard for every pitch, paying attention to detail (running out those groundouts to the pitcher), trusting the process, and grinding for all 54 outs (and sometimes more) each game. We have larger targets on our backs with some of the extra attention received this week, but I'm hopeful and confident that we can avoid the problem that Coach Dee Rowe often reminds me of (just in case Dad's lessons didn't take). He says, "James, remember, the higher you climb, the more you're a** shows."

Don't worry Coach we got the message, I went to the Dunkin drive-thru this morning and ordered the extra large, black. Unfortunately (or I suppose, fortunately, from my perspective), when I got to the window, the cashier handed me the cup and said, "That'll be two-forty, eight, sir." - JFP