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A New Kind of Comeback: Hunter Cooley Rejoins FAU Baseball in New Role

Hunter Cooley was a staple on the FAU pitching staff, playing for the Owls across five seasons total from 2019-2023. Cooley appeared in 70 games for FAU over five years, finished with a 28-17 record, and had five complete games on his resume. Hunter gained the respect of many during his playing tenure with FAU, with a solid balance of on the field success, and impeccable leadership off the field.

His NCAA eligibility ran out following the end of last season, and one may wonder after such a long and successful tenure why he may not move on to new challenges. Well, according to him, paradise is home and being here will set him up best for future success.

Its home. Its now my sixth year and I was committed two years prior to that, so its my eighth year being invested in FAU baseball and its just what I know. I cant think of a better place to start, Mac knows everybody in the business and I just think its a really great starting point for me, Cooley said.

He had expressed his interest in eventually getting into coaching to Coach John McCormack back in 2022. By the end of his final season last year, the Coaching Carousel for Cooley was set in motion. Cooley first got experience over the summer as a pitching coach in the New England Collegiate Baseball league thanks to Coach McCormack, and once that season ended, it was time to return to paradise, this time in a new role.  

He (Coach McCormack) was able to set me up with a summer ball job in the NECBL, I went up there and I was the pitching Coach for the Keene SwampBats over the summer. Mac reached out about halfway through the year and said there would be a spot here for me if I wanted to come back and get my feet wet, and try the coaching thing out, Cooley said.

That spot on the staff is a chance Cooley will look to make the most out of and Coach McCormack has a plan for him on how he can contribute to the success of the team in a variety of ways.

I think the players use him to bounce ideas off of. Hes not necessarily coaching because of the rules. I use him, and were using him along with the training staff, for arm Care and health care. We have some conversations, he lets me in on stuff that he sees. I think its important when the players can look at someone who spent five years here and did everything correctly, both on and off the field, and had success, and they can go to him and ask him, how did you feel about this or that, McCormack said.

There are many athletes who spend their entire career with a team, but not many are able to come back only a few months later and transition into an off-the-field role. If you ask Coach Mac however, there are many traits that Cooley possessed as a player, but specifically maturity, that shows that this is something hes capable of doing.

He was very smart. If you spent any time with Hunter, you would swear hes 35 and not 22. Hes old, hes sharp, he sees things differently than most young people. He had a great ability at a young age to be able to understand the big picture. When youre 18 you really think biopicly, he had a really good ability to see the whole thing, McCormack said.

That mindset, along with the camaraderie Cooley has built with some of these same players over his years is invaluable, and everybody in the locker room is happy to have back, according to returning catcher John Schroeder.

A lot of the guys loved him in previous years, and I think its very similar this year. Hes been here a while, got a lot of experience and can help the younger guys with mental, physical aspects to the game, and also training wise, Schroeder said.

Cooley was not only a locker room guy, he was one of the Owls go to arms during his tenure at FAU. Cooley is a culmination of many great things and his talent on the field was a display of that, and Coach McCormack spoke on it following a complete game in 2022.

"(Hunter) rallies to throw eight shutout innings. Student Athlete of the Year, and today he proved it on the field. I enjoy watching him pitch, it's the true art of pitching", said McCormack following Cooley's complete game performance against WKU that season.

Cooley's mental fortitude helped him power through his five years at FAU, and also helped him make a positive impact in the locker room. His mental strength and ability to bounce back, is something he believes he can bring back to the table as a coach, and hopes to start this season.

A lot of guys right now, they chase perfection in everything that they do and perfection is very difficult to achieve. I can help these guys understand that you can go out there and give up a run and be okay. Just have a mindset, that were able to still win, yet not be perfect, Cooley said.

Perfection may not be attainable; however, with the right amount of work and the right mindset, Cooley believes that the team brought in enough talent during the offseason to achieve their goals.

One thing you cant ignore, we lost quite a bit last year offensive production wise. I do think we have done a nice job reloading, and filling in some pieces offensively, but especially on the pitching staff. I think were going to be deeper than we have been in the past couple of years. I think the ceiling for this team is pretty high, and we expect to be in a regional at the end of the year, he said.

Cooley is excited for another season at home, but he also knows this is a big learning opportunity as he prepares himself to pursue a career in coaching.

Im hoping to learn the business and understand the intricacies of what goes into it. What the day to day looks like, how to go about your business. Taking all the information I can and soaking it up, to hopefully apply into my next job I think the next step would be to be able to be a pitching coach, and eventually the end goal would be head coaching Division 1, Cooley said.

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