Cooper Ending Career at Full SpeedApril 29, 2003 · MT Media Relations
By Michael Bailey
Special to GoBlueRaiders.com
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- Not much is slowing down Middle Tennessee's Chad Cooper these days. The senior has overcome several obstacles this spring, including a hand injury and position switch, and admirably adapted to put a positive finishing touch on his amateur career.
This scholar athlete has caught fire since returning to the lineup after a sliding incident against Florida International sidelined him for eight contests. The time-off leaves most athletes rusty and out-of-sync upon their return, yet Cooper has displayed a reckless abandon since his return April 16 against Southeast Missouri.
The Picture Rocks, Pa., native played leftfield in one game earlier in the season, March 8 at Southwest Missouri State, but made the move on a more permanent basis against SEMO. Cooper has played as if the move to the more spacious outfield was like releasing a caged animal. In his second start of the season in the outfield, Cooper made a sparkling grab against the wall and tumbled into the visitor's bullpen chasing a foul ball.
Making one's stay in the outfield exciting is quite a feat according to Cooper.
"In the infield, you are involved in every play - backing up a throw, covering a bag, or fielding a ground ball," Cooper said. "But the outfield is more relaxing. You don't throw as much."
Cooper has also been the catalyst at the plate for the Blue Raiders since his return. In nine games the Garrett Community College product has batted .484 (15-for-31) with nine extra-base hits, eight RBIs and 13 runs scored. He has five doubles and four home runs, including a pair of round-trippers Friday at Western Kentucky, and has a 1.032 slugging percentage since his return.
The senior's play over the last two weeks has also pushed into the team lead in batting average (.377) for the season, and he is second on the squad in hits, runs and doubles, and also leads the squad in stolen bases with 13 in 14 attempts.
Cooper says that sacrificing his body by flying about on defense or absorbing fastballs to get on base is but a minor price to pay to help the team. He believes that if the Blue Raiders are hitting on all cylinders come tournament time, they can beat anyone as evidenced by victories over Kansas, Purdue, Florida International and South Alabama earlier this season.
"I think if we can put it all together [hitting and pitching], then we can make some things happen in the postseason."
Looking beyond the season, Cooper says he will entertain professional opportunities to satisfy his insatiable hunger to play baseball. But if such situation does not present itself, Cooper has other options in mind.
The senior lacks a few credit hours toward earning a bachelor's degree in Graphic Design, which would allow him to work for anyone from Apple Computers to Harley Davidson. So the future appears bright for the versatile senior; unfortunately it is coming to a close rather quickly for Cooper and the Blue Raider faithful.
Head coach Steve Peterson knows Cooper is extremely talented and a great athletes, having played shortstop and second base last season and shortstop and outfield in his senior campaign.
"Chad is just a great athlete and has done a tremendous job adjusting to the outfield," Peterson said. "He has been a tremendous asset to our ball club and I truly believe his days as a ballplayer will not end here at Middle Tennessee."
With just six home games remaining on the schedule for the Blue Raiders, fans have few chances left to observe Cooper at what he does best - play hard. Who knows what memory he will leave you with as his career comes to a close.
Michael Bailey is an undergraduate student at Middle Tennessee. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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