During a season that has been filled with close losses, few victories and much heartache Joe Durant has constantly been rebuilding the Florida A&M University baseball program.
“This season has definitely been frustrating, a tough luck season,” Durant said.
The program under Durant’s leadership went to the finals of the MEAC conference tournament six times in 1991-92 and 1994-97.
After playing and graduating from FAMU in 1976, Durant was remembered as being the “quarterback of the diamond” for leading the baseball program at the catcher position with a batting average of .500.
“The thing I love most about the catcher position is the ability to see every body in front of you,” Durant said.
Durant was named to the head coaching position in 1991 after previously assisting former FAMU head coach Robert Lucas, who currently works with the Atlanta Braves.
“I hadn’t had any prior experience as a head coach before I got the job,” Durant said. “I have received offers to work for and scout for some pro organizations, but this is where my passion is.”
When a program is doing well, the head coach gets most of the credit, but when a season is not going so well, the head coach receives almost all of the blame. Durant was given an opportunity to pursue a more secure career other than one as a head coach at FAMU.
“I could have taken up the chance to be a principal, which would have been more stable than the year to year contracts of coaching baseball; but this is truly what I enjoy.”
As the season continues, people have begun to focus only on the lows.
“This season has definitely been rough, playing against some of the top teams in the country,” Durant said.
Coach Durant is someone who seems to go the extra mile for the baseball program. This may be because he was once in a Rattler baseball uniform in the ’70s.
“Oh yeah it’s always a good genuine feeling to lead the school you are an alma mater of,” Durant said.
Durant and the rest of the program have had to face a rough Division-I schedule.
“Even though we have had to face teams like the University of Florida and Notre Dame more than once, we still have about 21 games to play, and we are staying positive,” Durant said.
Durant has seen many players go from the Rattler program into professional play.
“I have seen players such as Andre Dawson and Hal McRae move on to the next level of baseball,” Durant said. “We always stay in contact with those guys (and they) are always there whether it be fundraising, scouting, or whatever else.”
This leader of the flock is seen as a family man on and off the field.
“I have a wife, an older son in the SBI program, and a son who plays baseball at FAMU High School,” Durant said. “If I decide to retire within four years or so, I would enjoy coaching my own son.”
Even though Durant’s son plays baseball, his baseball family extends beyond the dinner table.
“On the field, coach Durant is a father figure,” said Corey McFadden, freshman infielder on the baseball team. “What I appreciate most about Coach is how he gives us all an opportunity to come together. The coaching staff as a whole has a both older and younger side,” McFadden said.
Coach Durant also has respect from the upperclassmen.
“I learned to appreciate how everybody on the team gets along,” said David Hampton, senior outfielder on the FAMU team. “Coach Durant is a down to earth, old-school kind of coach that knows how to have fun, but at the same time definitely works hard,” Hampton said.
The very experienced Durant conveys a youthful message through his assistant coaches.
“Coach Durant taught me how to be intense. If you are to supposed to beat a team, beat them as bad as you can,” said Brett Richardson, assistant coach for the organization and former player under Durant.
No matter what this or any season may bring, the baseball team knows what’s most important: education.
“The graduation rate for our last squad was 100 percent,” Richardson said. “A shot at the pros may not be guaranteed, but a shot at a degree definitely is.”
Contact Josh Smith at email@example.com