Army baseball assistant coach Lt. Col. David Borowicz is facing a reality that his student-athletes might eventually face themselves.
He is being deployed over to the Middle East for another time, leaving his life at West Point – including his wife, his three children, his teaching position and his coaching position with the Black Knights’ pitchers and outfielders – on hold while he serves in Operation Enduring Freedom.
Seeing first hand the realities that come with preparing for deployment is turning out to be an important lesson for Borowicz’s student-athletes.
“The one unique thing about my upcoming deployment for our student-athletes is that it is a bit more personal,” said the Bronze Star and Meritorious Service Medal awardee earlier this week. “We have spent almost three hours a day together for the past five months and certain bonds form over that time. For many players, it is the first time a member of their family (in this case the Army Baseball Family, or ABF) has deployed.”
Any West Point cadet signs on with the knowledge that a deployment awaits them. Borowicz, who also serves as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil & Mechanical Engineering, goes out of his way to expose both his engineering students and his baseball student-athletes to the realities of what that truly means.
“A portion of the faculty are active duty military officers with recent experience in troop units,” he explained. “Many of the officers have been deployed before and go out of their way to share their experiences. In my department, we will often take a five minute ‘timeout’ from the day’s lecture and discuss military topics to include previous deployments.”
But instead of the three hours a week a cadet typically spends with his professors, a student-athlete spends triple that amount or more with a coach. That makes Borowicz’s experiences that much more impactful to his team, and has caused his players to dedicate their playoff run to him.
Infielder Alex Jensen is one of the players looking to dedicate the remainder of Army’s season to Borowicz’s deployment. “Dedicating the rest of my season to Coach B, our assistant coach, who just found out he is deploying to Afghanistan in 2 weeks,” he tweeted April 30th.
Borowicz is honored that his players feel so strongly about him, and says the feeling is mutual.
“They probably don’t realize it, but I learn just as much – if not more – from them as they do from me,” admitted Borowicz. “Our student-athletes are remarkable kids with unique talents and a tremendous work ethic. Their energy is contagious and inspires me on a daily basis.”
Another experience of Borowicz’s that his student-athletes can draw upon is his career on the mound for the Black Knights. He pitched 157 innings from 1989-1992, including three years in the starting rotation. He is 25th on the all-time list for innings pitched, and recorded a 4.47 career earned run average. Borowicz played an important part in the historic program’s lore, earning the save against Long Island in 1989 that gave the program its 1000th win.
He uses his steady and reliable pitching career to motivate a third seeded Black Knights (25-21) team who looks to defend their 2012 Patriot League tournament title. They face second seeded Navy in Annapolis, MD for a best-of-three tournament semifinal series Saturday and Sunday. If his team advances on, Borowicz will be following their progress from overseas.
In Afghanistan, Borowicz will serve as an Engineering Officer, helping construct an infrastructure that will that hopefully will allow the rebuilding nation’s citizens to be self-sufficient. He had a similar role in his last deployment as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005-06. Borowicz’s 15 month tour in Iraq interrupted his previous assistant coaching stint with his alma mater from 2003-2004.
After finishing his time in Iraq, Borowicz earned a doctorate in civil engineering, and returned to West Point in January 2011. Despite the interruptions in his coaching career to serve his country, he keeps coming back to the baseball diamond.
“I enjoy coaching college baseball at West Point for a number of different reasons. Watching our guys develop/improve/mature on the field is a close second to witnessing their development as leaders who will guide the nation through challenging times,” he said. “It keeps me close to the game I love and affords me the opportunity to compete even though my playing days are long since over.”
Those emerging leaders Borowicz coaches are demonstrating that character through a promise they made to him once they heard about his upcoming assignment. They have promised to watch over their bat boy, Borowicz’s 11 year old son, Josh.
“The entire ABF has vowed to keep an eye on my family and assist them in any way while I’m gone,” said Borowicz. “My son Josh has been fortunate enough to be a batboy over the past two seasons and loves hanging around the team. The players have assured me that they will keep him in line, make sure he’s doing his homework, and ensure that he continues to help Mom out around the house while I am gone.
“Believe me, it is very comforting to know that 35 ‘big brothers’ will be checking in on a routine basis.”