By: Mark Harriman, Senior Editor
PAWTUCKET (July 19) Both Nate Leaman and Ed Cooley may have been hired at Providence College earlier this spring to revive their respective men’s hockey and basketball programs, but the two minutes they spent on the mound at McCoy Stadium tossing out the first pitches tonight was about all of the time they’ve had together.
Providence College Athletics and the PawSox teamed up for their annual cookout tonight as Pawtucket took on the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs in game two of their four game series (the PawSox won 7-2). And the two PC newcomers were a natural choice for first pitch honors.
Cooley had been at McCoy earlier in the year and claimed to have thrown a strike for his lone appearance on the hill, but tapes of his performance have yet to be produced to corroborate his version of the facts.
As for Leaman, he insisted that he grooved a strike last year in Albany when he tossed the first pitch at a Tri-City Valley Cats game, though he did admit he practiced earlier that day.
“No. I have not been practicing. And no, I am not nervous,” Leaman said before tonight’s performance. “And if I don’t get it in there, I don’t get it in there. I’m sure I’ll be razzed about it. But everyone will have a bit of fun with it.”
Turning from light-hearted fun to his task over at Schneider Arena, the former Union College head coach admitted that it’s been an extremely busy transition since taking over the hockey program this past April.
Hiring new assistants. Recruiting. Monitoring his newly-minted freshman while they attend Summer classes and work in the weight room. Moving his family to Rhode Island.
“There’s a lot to be done. It’s just good to have your feet on the ground and get after the hard work right now,” he said.
And while that work may have prevented he and Cooley from sharing stories about their new employment or recruiting projects, that doesn’t mean they haven’t bonded.
“He and I have been running so many different places that the only times we really get to chat are at functions like this, Leaman said standing among PC fans in the barbeque area. “Every time we see each other we kind of give each other that look: ‘I know what you’re going through.’”
“Exactly!,” Cooley exclaimed later. ”It’s one of those body chemistry things. He’s going in one direction. I’m going in the other. But I feel like we’re in the same boat going in the same direction. So I’m very proud of him to see the progress he’s made with his program.”
“I’m excited about him. He’s a dynamic person,” Leaman offered of Cooley . “There’s no doubt in my mind that our basketball program is gonna get going, because I already see what he’s doing on the inside. So I’m excited to work with him and have him as a peer. “
But while Leaman may consider Cooley to be a peer in the workplace, the former out-pitched the latter on the mound.
Leaman stood on the hill in his black PC shirt and khaki shorts and tossed it middle-in, with the catcher hardly moving the glove.
While Cooley’s pitch made it over the plate, it was a low curveball that would have been sniffed at by the PawSox nine.
“I went with the split finger curve. From the stretch. He went from the wind-up,” Cooley said in his defense after returning to the tent area in left field with his 10 year old daughter in tow.
“We got the signal from the catcher. I got the ‘1.’ That’s the heater right down the pike. He got the ‘3’ with the wiggle finger,“ his hockey counterpart explained with a deferential grin.
But when Cooley’s attention turned to his basketball program and his own transition, he was all business.
“We’ve run into some different obstacles. You’re trying to change a culture, a different attitude. Trying to instill a winning attitude is going to take some time. But I think we’re making a lot of progress.
“We’re still dealing with some of the players’ parents who are somewhat resistant, but I think they’re getting the bigger picture. And the bigger picture is ‘Us. We. Together. Family. Friars.’ If we continue to build on that mentality we going to give ourselves a chance.”
But if Coach Cooley wants to give himself a chance on the mound next time, he might practice a little more.
PAWSOX GAME NOTES: Pawtucket defeated the Iron Pigs 7-2 on the strength of Ryan Lavarnway’s bat tonight. The catcher went 2 for 3 with 3 RBI, including a two run homer in the 6th inning that broke a 2-2 tie. Lavarnway raised his batting average to .388 with his performance.
Scott Atchison got the win in relief of Felix Doubront, who left the game after four and a third with what appeared to be a tight hamstring that has been bothering him of late.