By STEVE KRAH
Terry Rooney has returned to a familiar role in his second season as a Purdue University baseball coach.
Rooney is the Boilermakers pitching coach on head coach Greg Goff’s staff for 2022-23.
Since his coaching career began in 1997, Rooney had been a recruiting coordinator and pitching coach. He focused just on recruiting in 2021-22 as he rejoined Goff (the two worked together at the University of Alabama during the 2017 season).
“He’s one of the greatest coaches there is in college baseball,” says Rooney of Goff. “What he brings to the field every single day is unmatched.”
With a 15-0 start, Purdue went 29-21 overall and 9-12 in the Big Ten Conference in 2022.
This fall, which includes an exhibition game at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8 against Dayton in West Lafayette, Rooney is evaluating his pitchers while implementing systems.
“We want to be an ultra-aggressive, confident, strike-throwing pitching staff … guys that pound the strike zone,” says Rooney. “We have a phrase around here — A3P and that’s ‘ahead after three pitches.’ One of our main focuses is to get to that advantage count of 1-2.
“The difference in a hitter hitting in a 2-1 count and a 1-2 count is about 200 points (roughly .360 vs. .160). We say it all the time — 1-2 is our full count. We’re doing everything we can to get to that advantage count of 1-2.”
Rooney says the goal is to be able to throw something other than a fastball on 1-2.
“You want to have the ability to throw multiple pitches for a strike,” says Rooney. “We talk about locating fastballs ahead (in the count) and controlled off-speed pitches behind.”
It’s all about attacking the strike zone.
“It’s hard to be ultra-competitive and ultra-confident and aggressive if you’re falling behind 2-1 and 3-1 all the time,” says Rooney. “Your actions have to mimic what you want to be.”
Rooney says the challenge that players face at the highest level of college baseball — as opposed to high school or even junior college — is a smaller margin for error. There are more great hitters at NCAA D-I.
“As a pitcher the stuff hasn’t changed,” says Rooney. “You’re still the same guy. But you can get away with more at those levels. Here, you can’t get away with much. You’re exposed so to speak.”
With all the concentration on velocity Rooney says the change-up has become almost a lost art.
“A change-up is a switch pitch,” says Rooney. “That’s how you mess up (the hitter’s) timing. The hitter is swinging at the arm speed of the pitcher and it looks like a fastball.
“They’re taught on breaking balls, sliders and cutters to lay off that pitch until two strikes. But the change-up you can’t lay off because it looks like the fastball.”
Rooney came to Purdue in July 2021.
“My relationship with Coach Goff was certainly the No. 1 reason (for coming to West Lafayette),” says Rooney, 48. “Last year was the first time in 24 years that I didn’t do the pitching. For the chance to come in and really focus on recruiting was another reason that I did it.
“The third thing is just what Purdue is, what I think it’s going to be and what it has been.”
Coming back to a “college town” really appealed to Terry and wife Shaun (who have a daughter, Milly Margaret).
The couple met when Terry was on Paul Mainieri’s staff at Notre Dame (2004-06).
“We have been in a lot of college towns together,” says Rooney. “We loved our time in Houston (Texas) and I had a great four years there.”
Rooney enjoys the fact that he lives 10 minutes from Purdue’s Alexander Field.
A native of Fairfax County, Va., and the Washington D.C. area, Rooney pitched at Davis & Elkins College (Elkins, W.Va.) in 1993 and Radford (Va.) University 1994-96.
Purdue is the 10th school where Rooney has coached. It started with George Washington University (Washington D.C.) in 1997, followed by James Madison University (Harrisonburg, Va.) 1998-99, Old Dominion University (Norfolk, Va.) 2000-01, Stetson University (DeLand, Fla.) 2002-03, Notre Dame, Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge, La.) 2007-08, University of Central Florida (Orlando, Fla.) 2009-16, Alabama and the University of Houston 2018-21. He was an assistant to Mainieri at LSU and went to the College World Series with the Tigers in 2008 and head coach at UCF.
Rooney recruited or signed future Major League Baseball all-stars Justin Verlander (Old Dominion), D.J. LeMahieu (LSU) and A.J. Pollock (Notre Dame).
He coached six different schools to NCAA regional appearances (10 total bids): 2000 (Old Dominion), 2002-2003 (Stetson), 2004-2006 (Notre Dame), 2008 (LSU), 2011-2012 (UCF) and 2018 (Houston).
He was part of the coaching staff with six 40-win teams, including talented teams at Stetson, Notre Dame, LSU and UCF.
Rooney counts himself lucky to have worked with so many good coaches during his career. Three of them — Mainieri (1,505), Pete Dunn (1,312) and Tom Walter (790) — have 3,607 victories between them. Current Wake Forest head coach Walter was Rooney’s boss at George Washington. Dunn was in charge when Rooney was at Stetson.
A 30-day NCAA recruiting window is coming to a close soon.
While coach Chris Marx has been on the road for the Boilermakers much of the time and volunteer Daniel Furuto has been very engaged, Rooney has generally worked with pitchers on-campus during weekdays and hit the recruiting trail on weekends.
“We have devoted almost all of our (fall) efforts to junior college,” says Rooney. “The summer is really high school dominant along with the (NCAA) Transfer Portal.
Besides the Dayton game, Purdue has scheduled 3 p.m. open scrimmages for Oct. 12, 13, 14 and 18, the Black and Gold Series Oct. 20-22 and Halloween Bash at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 27.