College Celebrates Cooke’s Milestone Season

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In recognition of Dick Cooke’s 25th season as head coach of the Davidson baseball team, the clubhouse at Wilson Field has been named in his honor.

The announcement was made in closing of a day of celebration on campus of Cooke’s tenure, with many members of the Davidson baseball family in attendance.

“The number of lives touched and influenced over 25 years is truly remarkable, and Dick Cooke’s legacy is appropriately acknowledged by the naming of the Baseball Clubhouse in his honor,” said Director of Athletics Jim Murphy.

Signage will be placed in time for the 2015 season, which will begin in February.

The naming was made possible by one of the baseball program’s biggest fans, former college trustee Janet Wilson.

The Wilson family has been very generous to the Davidson baseball program. The former Wildcat Park was renamed “Wilson Field” in 2005 in honor of her late husband, T. Henry Wilson Jr. ’51, a former baseball and football player at the college, and six players currently hold Wilson Scholarships.

Career

Cooke, a two-time conference coach of the year, is in his 25th season as head coach of the Davidson Wildcats baseball program. He also has served as the Senior Men’s Administrator for more than a decade, began a three-year appointment as the chair of the NCAA Baseball Rules committee in 2012 and has coached for USA Baseball.

No other coach in Davidson history has coached or won as many games as Cooke. During his tenure, Cooke has compiled a record of 466-739-1. He coached in his 1,000th game during the 2009 season. Ten of Cooke’s Davidson players have been selected in the Major League Baseball draft.

Cooke recently completed his most successful season to date, as he led Davidson to program records for overall wins (29), SoCon wins (17) and modern-era winning percentage (.604). The ’Cats finished second in the SoCon for the first time since 1987, despite being picked last in the coaches’ preseason poll. A record six Wildcats were named to the 2014 All-Southern Conference Baseball teams, highlighted by Forrest Brandt earning co-player of the year honors from the league’s coaches. Four were first team selections, tying a Davidson record set in 1987.

The SoCon’s coaches and media recognized the accomplishments by naming Cooke the Coach of the Year.

However, perhaps the most impressive aspect of the magical 2014 season was that it came following one of the most challenging of his career.

Cooke was seriously injured in a car accident just before the start of fall practice in September 2012. A drunk driver struck his vehicle as he was on his way home from visiting a recruit in Charlotte, leaving him with serious injuries that continue to affect him today. Cooke was able to return to the team for the 2013 season though, with many fans donning mustaches in tribute at the season opener. His perseverance was recognized by CollegeBaseballInsider.com, which named him a 2013 recipient of the Tom Walter Inspiration Award.

Experience

In the summer of 2008, Cooke made his second appearance in the Olympics with Team USA baseball in Beijing, where he served as an auxiliary coach for manager Davey Johnson. He also served as an auxiliary coach on Tommy Lasorda’s staff that led Team USA to the gold medal at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, and has been involved with various national teams since 1999.

In 2005, Cooke oversaw one of the country’s most prolific offenses as the Wildcats ranked among the top 10 nationally in batting average, home runs per game, doubles per game and slugging percentage. On his watch, Jay Heafner blossomed from a .234 average with just three doubles as a freshman to the nation’s second-highest average at .448 with 18 doubles and 11 homers to become an All-American as a junior. Heafner was drafted by the Texas Rangers in 2006, the fourth Wildcat in the previous five years taken in the draft.

When Davidson was still in the Big South Conference back in 1992, Cooke was named the Big South Coach of the Year in just his second season at the helm of the program. In that season, Davidson tied the school record with 28 victories. He also is the only Wildcat baseball coach to win 20 or more games in four consecutive seasons and in more than three different seasons (eight).

Cooke was the head coach and assistant athletic director at Belmont Abbey in 1990, where he reinstituted the baseball program following a 17-year hiatus from varsity competition. Prior to joining the Crusader staff, Cooke was the assistant baseball coach for five seasons (1984-88) at his alma mater, the University of Richmond. He graduated in 1978 with a degree in journalism and was a three-year baseball letterman for the Spiders as a left-handed starting pitcher, finishing with a 12-10 record. In his senior year, Cooke went 6-3 with a 2.80 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 68 innings.

After graduating from Richmond, Cooke spent three years in the Boston Red Sox organization at the A, AA and AAA levels, serving as a senior player-coach during the 1981 season in the Florida State League.


Online Extra

View a Q&A with Coach Dick Cooke, which was published in Davidson College news on September 27, 2014 — Milestone Season: A Sit-Down with Coach Dick Cooke

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Mark Brumbaugh

Mark Brumbaugh is assistant sports information director at Davidson College.

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