BOCA RATON – Former Major League Baseball player and manager Joe Girardi, recently released as the New York Yankees skipper, isn’t spending what could be a temporary retirement playing golf in Florida.
Instead he’s spending as much time as anyone aboard FAU’s Lane Train – and he thinks the longer the train steams along the greater the chance more members of the Boca Raton community hop on board.
“I think it’s improving,” Girardi said of the community’s support. “I think if they continue to win, the kids will get behind them and the community will get more behind them.”
For the first time in a decade, winning hasn’t been a problem for FAU. Under first-year coach Lane Kiffin, the Owls head into their first-ever Conference USA championship game winners of nine games for the first time since moving to the FBS level.
Girardi has a residence close to campus and first met Kiffen during the coach’s time as offensive coordinator at Alabama, where he spent three seasons before heading to FAU. The former major leaguer addressed the Owls after one practice prior to FAU’s Shula Bowl victory over FIU, telling them to embrace the moment. Girardi attended that game, speaking with Kiffin on the field prior to kickoff.
On Tuesday Girardi brought members of his family to practice once again.
“Next to baseball, college football is my passion,” Girardi said.
Girardi hopes to attend Saturday’s C-USA championship, a noon kickoff in which FAU faces North Texas at Howard Schnellenberger Field.
The Owls already own a victory over the Mean Green this season, crushing them 69-38 on Oct. 21. Also 9-3, North Texas won all five games after that meeting en route to winning the C-USA’s West Division.
In recent weeks FAU games have become somewhat of a celebrity destination. Miami Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake, who played for Kiffin at Alabama, attended FAU”s victory over Marshall. So did former NFL quarterback Daunte Culpepper.
Thus far, Giradi is the only high profile guest to have won World Series titles as a player and a manager. If a baseball team doesn’t come calling this winter, would Girardi entertain the idea of joining Kiffin’s staff?
“No, I don’t think so,” Girardi said. “I did coach my son’s Pop Warner team. I was in charge of the tees.”