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For the Love of The Game
November 14, 2005
That's the main reason athletes and coaches compete--and thrive--in the backwaters of NCAA Divisions II and III, where there is little scholarship money and even less individual glory
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November 14, 2005

For The Love Of The Game

That's the main reason athletes and coaches compete--and thrive--in the backwaters of NCAA Divisions II and III, where there is little scholarship money and even less individual glory

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Her arrival at Christian Brothers evoked mixed reactions from her new teammates. Fellow pitcher Charlie Sockup told the St. Petersburg Times that McKesson's presence was a "publicity stunt" that made "a mockery of the game." It didn't take long for McKesson to start earning the acceptance of her teammates. "She won everybody over with her work ethic and her desire," says Meadows. She didn't expect special treatment, and she didn't receive any. McKesson's take is simple: "You earn respect by striking out guys in practice."

Most of her fellow pitchers have fastballs that top out in the mid- to high 80s. Lacking that kind of power, McKesson relies on precision and ball movement, with a repertoire of pitches that comprises that circle change, a splitter, a four-seam fastball that runs away from righthanded batters, a two-seamer that runs in and a 12-to-6 curveball--"what I call the great equalizer," says her private pitching coach, Tony Ferreira, who in 1985 had a cup of coffee with the Kansas City Royals as a lefty reliever.

Though McKesson had to endure typical freshman hazing such as having to carry equipment bags, she says she knew she belonged when her teammates stopped censoring their language around her. Still, there's no escaping the male-female dynamic when she's on the mound. In a preseason game last month against Crichton College of Memphis, McKesson took the ball in the fifth inning of a tie game, and the opposing dugout immediately began to buzz. McKesson has a smooth delivery with a very high leg kick that calls to mind Trevor Hoffman. Crichton rightfielder Chad Greenlee might have preferred to face the San Diego Padres' closer. "Everybody was saying, 'Just think of her as another dude up there and hit the ball,'" he says. "I was real nervous about having to face her. You strike out, and that goes down in history."

Greenlee is off the hook; he walked on four pitches with the bases loaded, forcing home one of the three unearned runs McKesson gave up in two thirds of an inning. She chalked up the loss as another learning experience. As a freshman she went 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA in only six appearances. "I hope I will have a bigger role this year," she says. "I want to contribute."

She already has. Says Goodwin, "I've got hundreds of former players out there in the business world. The best comment I've heard in all of this is, What better tool is there to prepare these young men for the real world? Because they're going to be competing against women in corporate America."

For now McKesson's goal is to keep wearing spikes, not heels. She says she would love to get a shot at pitching in the minor leagues or overseas. If that doesn't work out, she thinks it would be a blast to work for a major league team. Her applied-psychology major focuses on group dynamics in large corporations. What better training could there be for a job in the front office of the New York Yankees?

To see how exhausting and thankless the life of a Division III coach can be, you have to get up before the sun and travel to the hardscrabble East New York section of Brooklyn. There, on the first floor of an imposing building set in a row of warehouses and garages, are the offices of a New York City Police Department warrant squad, which tracks down perps with outstanding arrest and bench warrants. Tucked into a corner behind a thick blue metal door is the office of the commanding officer, Capt. Susan Cassidy, called Cap by the 66 investigators, eight sergeants and two lieutenants she oversees--and Coach by the two teams of college athletes she commands.

On this October day Cassidy, 40, has been at her desk since 6 a.m., having awakened in her home in Hicksville, N.Y., at 4:15. On her desk is a bag of potato chips. "Breakfast," she says. Cassidy's job involves a lot of paperwork, but when her squad has to "forcibly take down a door," as she puts it in a Long Island accent as thick as a good marinara, she hits the pavement to supervise, her .38 Smith and Wesson strapped to her belt.

She is a small woman (5'4", 115 pounds) with an amazing motor. At Division II Molloy College, in Rockville Centre, N.Y., she was a standout point guard and shortstop; her .462 batting average as a sophomore was almost as impressive as the 3.87 GPA with which she finished college at age 20. (Did we mention she also edited the school newspaper?) After graduating, she joined the NYPD, following in the footsteps of her father, Ray, a homicide detective for 10 of his 22 years on the force.

With the competitiveness of an elite athlete, Cassidy has moved effortlessly through the NYPD's macho culture. She made sergeant at 24 and lieutenant at 32, along the way earning a master's degree in criminal justice from John Jay College. By 36 she had reached captain. All of this would be impressive enough even if Cassidy hadn't held down two coaching jobs throughout most of her police career.

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