FROM CBB NEWS SOURCE
ORLANDO, Fla. (www.ucfathletics.com) – Every journey has its starting point. Even in life, when you’re thirsty for a refreshing beverage, you need to plan a trip in order to acquire what you’re looking for. Well, that might not be the most important event in a person’s life, but it sets the stage for how Terry Rooney evolved into UCF’s fifth head baseball coach since the program’s inception in 1973.
Rooney’s path growing up seemed to have one road with a sign that read “Baseball” and it pointed straight ahead. A New England boy born into a family that already included two brothers and a sister, baseball seemed to fill the little tike’s need for enjoyment perfectly.
And he didn’t have to look far in order to satisfy his baseball craving.
“One of my fondest memories was when I was about seven years old and I was going to Fenway Park,” reflected Rooney, who lived in Boston until moving to Virginia at around the age of seven. “One of my aunts had tickets to a game there on the Fourth of July. She was really good friends with Johnny Pesky who was one of the greatest players to ever play with the Red Sox and he was the bench coach at that time, and Butch Hobson who used to play with the Sox and lived down the road from her. We got to the field early before the gates opened and got a chance to watch batting practice and sat in a suite.
“That is one of my earliest memories of baseball as a kid. Getting autographs and doing those types of things. That was when I first started to play. Growing up in a family that is from New England, and although I mostly grew up in Northern Virginia, the Red Sox were ingrained in your mind. You were just born into being a Red Sox fan. So baseball was a part of life for my family.”
Soon enough, Rooney’s playing days were in full swing.
“I remember making our little league all-star team when I was 12,” smiled Rooney. “That also was when we won our district and we went to the state tournament. I had a bunch of my best friends there with me and it was a big deal because we got to stay in a hotel. The winner of that got to go to Williamsport and the Little League World Series. We didn’t get there but we got close.”
Realizing a successful future on the diamond was a true possibility, the small-statured pitcher set the bar high for himself. Following high school, Rooney ventured to West Virginia and Davis & Elkins College before seeing his dream of playing at the Division I level come true.
Suiting up for Radford University, Rooney went 8-2 in three years for the Highlanders, and still ranks second in program history with 79 overall appearances on the mound.
“When I was in high school, my goal was always to play at the highest level of college baseball that I could,” said Rooney, who graduated from Radford in 1996. “I didn’t play any other sports. I knew my abilities were very marginal, but I wanted to play at that level. I went to a Division II school out of high school than transferred to a Division I school and that was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I met some very close friends there, including the current head coach at Radford.”
While a typical student-athlete playing D-I ball might focus some of his energy on being selected in the Major League Baseball draft, Rooney had other plans: coaching.
“I knew very early that I wanted to coach, I really did,” admitted Rooney, who was hired at UCF on June 12. “My friends still kid me about this, but there was a newspaper that was put out called the NCAA News. They had a section on the back called `The Marketplace.’ And if you look online today it’s still there and it’s where all of the jobs are. Well I used to sit around my sophomore year and read `The Marketplace’ to get an idea of the trends out there.
“I was very fortunate because my college coach at the time ran a camp in the summer that was widely known as one of the best camps on the East Coast, and really the entire country. It’s called The Best in Virginia Camp, and that is where I got into coaching. It had all of these college coaches from up and down the East Coast, including SEC and ACC schools, coming to this camp at Fort Union Military Academy to work. I was one of the only college kids there helping out with the camp. That’s how it started for me.”
Those moments spent working camps served as a springboard for what was to come. Rooney began at George Washington in 1997, then took over pitching coach duties at James Madison, Old Dominion, Stetson, Notre Dame and LSU. But it was with the Fighting Irish that his life truly changed forever.
“I met my wife Shaun when I was working at the University of Notre Dame,” Rooney happily described. “I first saw her at a supermarket-deli, and at that time she was actually working for adidas at Notre Dame. She was outside eating with a co-worker in South Bend. I saw here there and asked her out about a day or two later. Our first official date was Coveleski Stadium, the Class-A field in the Midwest League for the Arizona Diamondbacks. And I went there because a former player of mine at Stetson, Brian Snyder, was in town playing and it was a total coincidence. He called me up and said, `Hey, I’m playing in South Bend. Why don’t you come and see me?’ So I asked her if she liked baseball and she fortunately said yes.”
Not many can say the game of baseball has satisfied their own journey through life. For Rooney, though, his thirst for the sport continues to be quenched. The only problem is that UCF and the Orlando area better have bottles of Powerade ready because he’s always eager for more.
For the latest news on the Knights, log on to www.UCFAthletics.com – the official site for UCF varsity sports. The site, which also contains ticket and Golden Knights Club donor information, is also the home of UCF’s new online apparel store. Also visit www.UCFPhotos.com, the exclusive fan source for UCF action sports pictures.