June 30, 2016

Zack Collins becomes first Hurricane to earn Johnny Bench award

Zack Collins was named as the recipient of the 2016 Johnny Bench Award honoring the nation’s top collegiate catcher Thursday at the 19th Annual Greater Wichita Sports Banquet.

Collins, who was selected by the Chicago White Sox in the first round of the 2016 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft in early June, is the first University of Miami representative to win the award, which was created in 2000.

Collins beat out finalists Logan Ice (Oregon State) and Keith Skinner (North Florida) for the honor.

The Pembroke Pines native, who earned first-team All-America honors from Baseball America, D1Baseball, NCBWA, Perfect Game and Rawlings, delivered another dominant season swinging the bat and behind the plate in 2016.

Collins batted .363 for the season, leading Miami with 16 home runs and 59 RBI to go along with a nation-leading total of 78 walks. He reached base at a .544 clip, the second-highest in the country, and recorded a team-high .668 slugging percentage.

A back-to-back All-ACC First-Team selection, Collins started 62 of a possible 64 games, including 59 starts behind the plate. He just four errors as a key member of a Miami defense that tied for first nationally with a .983 fielding percentage.

Collins, who signed a professional contract with the White Sox as the No. 10 overall pick last week, ended the season ranked third among active players in career home runs (42), third in career RBI (183) and first in career walks (177).

In Collins’ three seasons with the Hurricanes, Miami won two ACC regular season championships (2014, 2016) and three straight ACC Coastal Division titles (2014-16), and made two trips to the College World Series (2015, 2016).

June 09, 2015

Hurricanes top baseball recruit Kep Brown looks like he's headed to Coral Gables, not the minor leagues

If the Major League Baseball Draft is a nervous time for players consider it twice as hard on college coaches.

That's because as much as Jim Morris wants to see his juniors and seniors make a splash and get paid, he also wants to hold onto the one he's recruited. Barring some huge surprises, that should happen with Miami's next recruiting class.

Of the six players in the 2015 class, only one, Wando, S.C. power-hitting outfielder Kep Brown, was taken during the first two days of the draft. The Cardinals took Brown in the 10th round Tuesday with the 311th overall pick, meaning Brown will sign for the $149,700 he's slotted for according to Baseball America (the Cardinals can offer him more, but it's unlikely) or head to Coral Gables.

Brown, who went down with a season-ending achilles injury in April, hinted to a few news outlets Tuesday he's already decided what he's going to do and it sounds like he'll be wearing orange and green.

“It was a stressful, emotional couple of days,” Brown told the South Carolina Post and Courier. “It didn't go how we had planned, really, but to hear my name called did give me chills. It was awesome.

“We've got a pretty good idea of what I'm going to do,” he said. “But I probably won't let that go public for a bit longer, just out of respect for the Cardinals.”

UM's other five recruits are all local players who have yet to get drafted: Coral Gables right-hander Andrew Cabezas (6-3, 0.39 ERA, 81 Ks), American third baseman Roman Gonzalez (.410, 4 HR, 26 RBI), Westminster Christian right-hander Isaiah Musa, Florida Christian right-hander Alex Valverde and Terra Research Institute right-hander Frank Bartow

On the flip side, UM has already had three of its best players taken. 

Pitcher Andrew Suarez was taken with the 61st overall pick Monday. Third baseman David Thompson was taken by the Mets in the fourth round with the 119th overall pick and second baseman George Iskenderian was taken by the Brewers in the seventh round with the 211th overall pick. Suarez is slotted at $1,010,100 (slightly more than he would have made if he signed last year), Thompson at $474,800, and Iskenderian at $195,700. 

By the way, before Tuesday, the Hurricanes hadn't had three players taken within the first 211 picks of the draft since 2009 when Jason Hagerty (144th overall), Ryan Jackson (159th), Kyle Bellamy (163rd) and Chris Herrmann (192nd) were taken within the first 192 picks. 

March 16, 2015

Canes slugger David Thompson named ACC Player of the Week; Football announces staff promotions, additions

It was a big week at the plate for Hurricanes third baseman David Thompson and it paid off Monday when he was honored as the ACC's Player of the Week.

Thompson hit .524 (11-for-21) with two doubles, three home runs and a team-high 13 RBI as the Hurricanes went 5-0. Thompson’s walk-off solo home run in the bottom of the 10th inning Friday keyed a three-game sweep of NC State over the weekend.

In a 15-4 win over FGCU last Tuesday, Thompson set career marks with four hits and six RBI and came just a triple shy of the cycle. His slugging percentage was 1.048 for the week. For the season, he is hitting .354 with team-high totals of four home runs and 26 RBI, and his .608 slugging percentage leads all players.

UM has a 12-1 record at Mark Light Field this season, and is ranked in the top 25 of every national poll. The Hurricanes return to the diamond Tuesday for a midweek matchup with Army before traveling to Wake Forest for a weekend series.


The Miami Hurricanes on Monday formally announced the promotion of current staff members Larry Scott, Kareem Brown, Eric Josephs and Jorge Baez, and the addition of Josh Darrow, Evan Cooper and Jake Flaherty to the staff.

Scott, the tight ends coach, will add the title of run game coordinator. Brown, a former graduate assistant who has spent time coaching the defensive line, will serve as the outside linebackers coach and direct the team’s nickel package defense. Josephs, who spent the last two years in the football operations department, is now director of player personnel. Baez will serve as the coordinator of on-campus recruiting/offensive personnel.

The three additions to the Hurricanes’ staff will feature Darrow moving into the role of assistant director of football operations (high school relations and community affairs), Cooper as the assistant director of player personnel, and Flaherty serving as the team’s offensive graduate assistant.

Scott is no stranger to working with running backs as he served as the running backs coach at USF in 2012. For Brown, a former Hurricane, this will be the first time he serves as an assistant coach.

Prior to his arrival at UM, Josephs had three different intern stints in the NFL, working with the Dallas Cowboys, Buffalo Bills and Philadelphia Eagles. In his new capacity, Josephs will be responsible for the identification, selection, organization and flow charts of perspective recruits. In addition, the 2008 Miami alum will be responsible for the recruiting travel logistics of coach Al Golden.

Baez, a Miami native, came to UM after spending the 2013 season as Gulliver Prep’s offensive coordinator and two seasons at Southern University in Baton Rouge, La. where he worked as the team’s wide receivers coach and co-passing game coordinator. Baez will now coordinate all unofficial visits, independent junior days and continue with his role as the team’s offensive player personnel director.

Darrow has been a sideline reporter for UM football since 1999 and covered South Florida high school, college and professional sports for nearly 15 years at WQAM and SFHSSports.com. He will coordinate the Hurricanes’ 7-on-7 Clinic, oversee the program’s in-house social media messaging, manage high school coaching visits to spring practice, direct gameday experiences for youth coaches, oversee instructional clinics in South Florida, supervise the Deserve Victory Tour and coordinate team community events.

Flaherty arrives in Coral Gables after serving as an offensive quality control assistant at Montana State University. Under Flaherty’s assistance, the Bobcats offensive unit averaged nearly 500 yards per game (488.3). MSU finished the year with an 8-4 record and just missed out on a bid to the NCAA playoffs. In addition, Flaherty spent the summer of 2013 working as a Dallas Cowboys training camp intern. During the summer of 2013, Flaherty worked closely with the Cowboys wide receivers under assistant coach Derek Dooley. As student-athlete, Flaherty played four years at wide receiver at Bucknell University.

Cooper joins the staff after spending the past two seasons serving as a defensive graduate assistant at Temple University where he played. Cooper spent two seasons as the defensive backs coach at Fort Lauderdale Westminster Academy prior to that. At Temple, Cooper played for Golden and had 44 tackles during his senior season en route to earning the 2008 Carlos Diaz Award as the most improved player following his final season.

February 19, 2015

June 30, 2014

Canes' Zack Collins selected to USA Collegiate National Team

Hurricanes freshman catcher Zack Collins has earned one of 24 roster spots on the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team, and will travel to both the Netherlands and Cuba as part of the team’s annual summer tour.

He hit .333 with Team USA during the Red, White and Blue Tour through the Coastal Plain League, where the team finished with a 6-1 record. He hit two home runs, scored six runs and drove in six more during the seven-game tryout stint to successfully earn a place on Team USA.

Collins is the 23rd Hurricane to make the team – the second-most of any program in history – and his selection marks the 20th year a Hurricane has been chosen, marking the third-longest stretch for any program all-time. His selection also makes it back-to-back years for Miami with a member on Team USA; lefthanded pitcher Chris Diaz was selected for the tour in 2013.

Collins was named 2014 ACC Freshman of the Year and ranked among the ACC leaders in nearly every offensive category. Collins batted .298 for the season with 11 home runs, 54 RBI and a slugging percentage of .556.

The Pembroke Pines native connected on 14 doubles and three triples, had an on-base percentage of .427 in his 58 starts. The third-team All-ACC selection tied for the team lead with 114 total bases this spring.

The Collegiate National Team opens its series against Chinese Taipei at 7:05 p.m. on July 1 at the National Training Complex in Cary, N.C. The teams will play again on July 2 at Keeter Stadium in Shelby, N.C., on July 3 at BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, N.C., and on July 4 and 5 at Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham, N.C.

Team USA will then host a three-game set against Japan July 6-8 in Thomasville, Wilson and Wilmington, N.C., before traveling to the Netherlands for Honkbal-Haarlem Baseball Week, July 11-20. Following that tournament, the U.S. will head to Cuba for a five-game friendship series, July 23-27.

June 24, 2014

Morris extended through 2018, DiMare named coach in waiting

The University of Miami and head baseball coach Jim Morris on Tuesday agreed to terms on a three-year contract extension through the 2018 baseball season and named longtime assistant coach Gino DiMare the coach in waiting.

Morris, who has been at the helm of the Hurricanes program since November 1993, led Miami to its second ACC Regular Season Championship in program history this past spring.  Among the most successful head coaches in college baseball history, Morris has guided Miami to over 900 wins in his 21 seasons in Coral Gables.

"We are ecstatic that Coach Morris has agreed to remain at the helm through the 2018 season," said Director of Athletics Blake James.  "What Jim has built at Miami is unprecedented, and the success speaks for itself.  This extension is well earned."

DiMare is entering his 16th season as an assistant at Miami, following a stellar playing career at UM and a professional career with the Boston Red Sox organization.  DiMare has been instrumental in the Canes success, overseeing recruiting and serving as the hitting coach for many years.

"Gino possesses all of the ingredients of successful head coaches," James said. "I have no doubt that he will continue to bring conference and national championships to Coral Gables.  As Jim leads our program through 2018, we have a plan in place for a smooth transition and continued excellence, and I couldn't be happier that Gino will be our next head baseball coach."

"Coach Morris has been a tremendous leader for our baseball program for many years, and I will be honored to serve with him for another four," DiMare said. "I am profoundly humbled by the opportunity to take over such a storied program from a legend, and I am confident that we will continue the proud Miami baseball tradition." 

Morris has led Miami to 21 straight appearances in the NCAA postseason and 11 trips to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. The Hurricanes’ college-baseball record 42 straight postseason appearances is the longest active streak for any Division I sports program nationwide.  Morris, who ranks fourth among active Division I coaches in career victories, has been named National Coach of the Year on three occasions. Including his time at Georgia Tech, Morris ranks eighth all-time in Division I victories.

"I am humbled and honored to continue to serve the University for four more years," Morris said.  "We have had an outstanding run but there is more work to be done and more championships to be won.  I want to thank President Shalala and Blake James for their belief in what we are doing and I am excited for Gino to get this opportunity."  

February 11, 2014

Canes hope to parlay talented recruiting class, loaded starting rotation into first Omaha trip since 2008

The Miami Hurricanes open the baseball season this Friday -- Valentine's Day night -- against the visiting Maine Black Bears, a team which won the American East Conference and finished 37-22 last season.

Every year Jim Morris says he's excited about his team and its chances to get back to Omaha for the College World Series. But this year it looks like the Hurricanes actually have the talent to deliver on those hopes.

UM landed its best recruiting class in years and has one of the nation's top starting rotations with junior left-handers Chris Diaz (7-5, 1.64), Bryan Radziewski (9-3, 1.78), Andrew Suarez (3-6, 3.95) and senior right-hander Javi Salas (5-5, 3.18) all returning.

The issue -- as it usually is lately with UM -- will be offense. The Hurricanes finished 11th out of 12 ACC teams in batting average (.257) and runs scored (278) last year. But that's where the freshmen are supposed to come in and help. 

First baseman Zack Collins (27th round draft choice in 2013) and right fielder Willie Abreu (14th round), two left-handed bats, are expected to help sophomore third baseman David Thompson (.286, 6 HRs, 48 RBI) provide more oomph in the lineup.

Collins (Plantation American Heritage) and Abreu (Hialeah Mater Academy)  grew up huge Hurricanes fans and close friends since the age of six.

Abreu said he used to sit along the third baseline at Mark Light Field and taunt opposing hitters and pitchers and called one of his coolest moments getting a foul ball he caught signed with by the late Ron Fraser. Collins said his thrill was getting on the field as a kid alongside Gaby Sanchez and watching former Canes catcher Yasmani Grandal launch a home run into the third deck of the parking garage.

Collins, by the way, says he's already put a few balls into the same spot Grandal did during practice. One UM coach said Collins has the kind of power Yonder Alonso did.

For more on the Canes baseball team check out the collection of video interviews from today's media day session. I've posted a couple of the best ones here.

July 22, 2013

Former Hurricane Ryan Braun becomes first player tied to Biogenesis to be suspended by MLB

Former University of Miami Hurricane Ryan Braun, who won the National League MVP award in 2011 and defended himself vehemently when accused of using performance enhancing drugs, was suspended without pay for the remainder of the season by Major League Baseball Monday after shifting course and acknowledging he broke baseball's rules regarding its joint drug prevention and treatment program.

“As I have acknowledged in the past, I am not perfect," Braun said in a statement released by MLB. "I realize now that I have made some mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions. This situation has taken a toll on me and my entire family, and it is has been a distraction to my teammates and the Brewers organization.

"I am very grateful for the support I have received from players, ownership and the fans in Milwaukee and around the country. Finally, I wish to apologize to anyone I may have disappointed – all of the baseball fans especially those in Milwaukee, the great Brewers organization, and my teammates. I am glad to have this matter behind me once and for all, and I cannot wait to get back to the game I love.”

Braun, 29, is the first player linked to Biogenesis -- Tony Bosch's Coral Gables-based anti-aging clinic that allegedly supplied PEDs to roughly 20  baseball players -- to be suspended by baseball.

Last week at the All-Star Game in New York, union executive director Michael Weiner said he expected MLB — which has built its case on phone records, receipts and other information provided by Bosch - to present its findings to the players association “within the next month” and for disciplinary action and appeals to likely remain unresolved until the winter.

But Braun, who successfully appealed a 50-game suspension from baseball last season after a positive test for testosterone, apparently sped the process up after he met with MLB investigators recently and decided to admit he broke rules. He will miss the Brewers final 65 games this season. Milwaukee just swept the Marlins over the weekend.

“We commend Ryan Braun for taking responsibility for his past actions,” said Rob Manfred, Executive Vice President, Economics and League Affairs for Major League Baseball. “We all agree that it is in the best interests of the game to resolve this matter. When Ryan returns, we look forward to him making positive contributions to Major League Baseball, both on and off the field."

UM baseball coach Jim Morris, reached by phone after learning of the news, declined comment. 

July 10, 2013

Canes baseball coach Jim Morris is feeling like he does every time this time of year -- anxious over MLB Draft deadline

Five weeks after being released from a hospital in North Carolina following a near-death, two-week bout with pneumonia, University of Miami baseball coach Jim Morris is definitely feeling better these days.

Jim MorrisIn fact, he's pretty much zeroed in on one thing -- Friday's 5 p.m. deadline for Major League Baseball Draft picks to sign with their pro teams.

As usual this time of year, Morris, 63, is hoping to get lucky and have a few of his high-end recruits pass on big league money and head to college.

"We've got six guys, counting two guys on our team [pitchers Bryan Radziewski and Javi Salas] we're waiting on," said Morris, who is still receiving chest x-rays and having blood drawn once a week by doctors monitoring his recovery.

"You just don't know. I can give them a scholarship and tell them I love them. But the pro people can give them a scholarship plan, tell them they love 'em and give them a million dollars. I don't have to tell you which one they're going to choose."

Morris, 63, already lost two-high end picks who signed with their respective teams: outfielder Matt McPhearson (4th round, Diamondbacks) and right-hander J.D. Underwood (5th round, Dodgers).

The players the Canes are sweating out most are power hitting Hialeah Mater Academy outfielder Willie Abreu (Reds, 14th round) and Derik Beauprez (25th round, Red Sox), a 6-5, 210-pound right-handed pitcher from Cherry Creek, Colo. who can hit 95 on the radar gun.

Other Hurricanes signees who were drafted include C/1B Zack Collins of Plantation American Heritage (27th round, 825th overall, Reds) and OF Jacob Heyward of McDonough, Ga. (38th round, 1,153rd overall, Braves). Collins is already enrolled in classes at UM. Heyward is the younger brother of Braves right fielder Jason Heyward.

"Most of our guys are coming and most of our position players are back," Morris said. "I thought we would lose [outfielder] Dale Carey but we didn't. He's back. Tyler Palmer, our leadoff hitter, is back. We've got to replace Chantz Mack in right, but our catcher Garrett Kennedy is back. Kennedy is maybe our most improved player or MVP for last yer. Our pitching rotation, the strength of our club, should be back. B-Rad, [Chris] Diaz, [Andrew] Suarez, Salas our closer. You can tell I'm excited. I think we're going to have a good club next year with these guys and our recruiting class."

That's assuming of course Morris doesn't get a dose of bad news on Friday around 5 o'clock.


Freshman standout David Thompson, who had corrective surgery on his throwing shoulder last month, said Tuesday he's out of a sling and feeling better than he did a year ago when he had surgery the first time to repair a torn labrum.

"I've got a while to get 100 percent and get ready for the season, but I'm feeling great. We're taking it slow this time," said Thompson, who on Monday earned Freshman All-American honors from Perfect Game.

"Flexibility wise it's better. The strength obviously isn't close to where it needs to get to, but we have a great training staff and I know it will get there."

Morris said Thompson will be able to field grounders at third base when fall practice opens Oct. 21, but said he probably won't begin throwing again until January. Morris said he expects Thompson, who paced the Hurricanes with six home runs, 46 runs batted in, 84 total bases, a .462 slugging percentage and 14 multi-RBI games, to be able to play third base moving forward. Thompson split the season between first and third.

Thompson, a two-sport standout when he was a star at Miami Westminster Christian, called giving up football and playing quarterback for the Hurricanes probably the hardest decision he ever had to make last month.

"It hurt a lot. I spent a lot of nights in tears just wondering if I made the right or wrong decision," Thompson said. "But ultimately I think it was the right decision to focus on baseball. I hadn't had a healthy season in a couple years. I always thought I would end up playing baseball in the long run."

Morris said the fact Thompson played football in the past is a big reason he was able to fight through the shoulder pain during his freshman season.

"Thompson worked very hard through his rehab, played through pain, sucked it up and played the whole season for us even though he was hurting," Morris said. "It takes a tough kid to do that. Sometimes it takes a football guy. I love our guys to play football because it makes them tougher."


Hurricanes sophomore lefthander Chris Diaz, who earned one of 24 coveted roster spots on the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team, traveled to Japan to this week compete for Team USA in its international schedule. He's made one relief appearance thus far, giving up one hit over two-thirds of an inning.

Upon returning home, Team USA will play a pair of exhibition games before opening up a five-game series against Cuba on July 18 in Des Moines, Iowa.

He's the first Hurricane to play for Team USA since Yasmani Grandal in 2009.

"I'm very excited for Chris," Morris said. "He had a great year. We didn't score any runs for him, but he still had a great year.

"I'm excited for him. I love to see these guys get an opportunity to play for their country. He's a Cuban-American kid. One of happiest days for Yonder Alonso's career was at the University of Miami was the day he got his citizenship. Sometimes I think everybody who is born here takes it for granted that you're a citizen of the U.S. and doesn't understand what it means. For a kid like him to put on a USA uniform and represent his country is very special."

May 27, 2013

Canes, a No. 2 seed, will play in Louisville regional

The Miami Hurricanes are hitting the road for their 41st consecutive trip to the NCAA baseball tournament.

UM (36-23) is a No. 2 seed and will open play Friday in the Louisville regional against No. 3-seeded Oklahoma State (39-17) at 2 p.m. Top-seeded Louisville (46-12) will take on 4th-seeded Bowling Green, the only team to make the tournament with a losing record at 24-29 at 6 p.m. that same day.

The winner of the Louisville regional would advance to face the winner of nationally-seeded Vanderbilt's region. The Commodores (51-9) have Georgia Tech (34-25), Illinois (34-18) and East Tennessee St. (36-22) in their region.

Vanderbilt is ranked No. 1 in the country according to Baseball America. Louisville is ranked 15th.  

January 29, 2013

Defense attorney for UM baseball conditioning coach says his client didn't break law or NCAA rules

The attorney for University of Miami baseball strength and conditioning coach Jimmy Goins told The Miami Herald his client hasn't broken any federal laws or NCAA rules and that the article in Tuesday's editions of Miami New Times has jumped to conclusions.

"I can tell you Mr. Goins has no knowledge of any wrongdoing and hasn't done anything wrong personally on the behalf of Miami. He's kind of been blindsided by this," said attorney Gordon Fenderson of Fenderson and Hampton, LLC.

"We're not going to talk about whether he was a patient or not. There are privacy concerns there. But as far as using or purchasing anything that would be contrary to any rules or laws, he's been blindsided by those allegations.

"It's very presumptive to just say because a list comes out and one person may be accused of wrongdoing everybody on that list is accused of wrongdoing."

Goins, who has been on staff at UM for the past nine years, declined comment when approached by The Miami Herald in person Tuesday and directed all inquiries to his attorney.

The New Times reported Goins' name was on multiple client lists at Biogenesis, the Coral Gables clinic that was allegedly supplying MLB players and others with PEDs. "In one detailed page dated December 14, 2011, [Biogenesis owner Tony] Bosch writes he's selling [Goins] Anavar, testosterone, and a Winstrol/B-12 mix and charging him $400 a month," the story said. "Another [report] from this past December includes sales of HGH and testosterone."

Former UM players Cesar Carrillo and Yasmani Grandal and South Florida-born baseball stars Alex Rodriguez and Gio Gonzalez were also mentioned in Tuesday's story. It's inferred Goins may have been supplying players with PEDs. It's not clear if it involved current or former players.

Fenderson said his client hasn't been charged with anything and they are representing him to be proactive in his defense.

Asked if Goins had been suspended by UM pending further investigation Fenderson said: "We're going to let UM do what they're going to do and we'll address it once they make it clear. Naturally the University is in a position that they're going to look at this because there are allegations. We're going to let them do what they're going to do.

"It's just some insinuations at this point. I haven't actually seen the list. It's unfortunate this conclusion has been jumped to."

UM releases statement on baseball strength coach Jimmy Goins

Unless you've been sleeping for three days you know by now a new scandal involving performance-enhancing drugs and a long list of major league baseball players and a Miami clinic has been in the news.

The Miami New Times released a report of a lengthy three-month investigation Tuesday morning and listed among the names of clients who allegedly purchased PEDs from this clinic is longtime University of Miami baseball and track and field strength and conditioning coach Jimmy Goins.

Goins, who has been at UM for the last nine years, is recorded in multiple client lists according to Tuesday's New Times story. "In one detailed page dated December 14, 2011, [Biogenesis owner Tony] Bosch writes he's selling [Goins] Anavar, testosterone, and a Winstrol/B-12 mix and charging him $400 a month," the story said. "Another [report] from this past December includes sales of HGH and testosterone."

It's not clear in the report how Goins was involved. But former UM players Cesar Carrillo and Yasmani Grandal and former South Florida baseball stars Alex Rodriguez and Gio Gonzalez are also mentioned. It's inferred Goins may have been supplying players with PEDs. It's not clear if it is current or former players. UM isn't commenting on anything right now. The feds are investigating. 

But Goins, who was listed on UM's baseball roster as of Tuesday morning, is no longer listed there. A source said he Goins was not at practice today and he'll likely be suspended pending further investigation. Here is a link to Goins' UM profile.

UM released the follow statement to The Miami Herald this afternoon: “The University of Miami is aware of media reports regarding one of our employees and an intensive review is underway. We will not comment further on personnel matters."

Stay tuned for more on this story.

January 28, 2013

Daughters of Ron Fraser share poem he wanted them to see once he was gone

This is the longer version of my story that will appear in Tuesday's editions of The Miami Herald

At one point before Alzheimer's disease began taking its toll, Ron Fraser saw a poem he liked, copied it down and put it in his briefcase -- a message he hoped would be delivered at the right time.

Ron FraserMonday morning, as the late father of University of Miami baseball was being remembered and honored with eulogies and choir songs, his three daughters shared the poem with a congregation of hundreds who gathered for Fraser's funeral mass at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church in Southwest Ranches.

The title of the poem Fraser had intended for his daughters to see once he was gone: "I'm Free."

"[Fraser's wife of 24 years] Karen found it. It talked about being free and don't grieve for me and that while they're are things I've left undone, God wants me and I'm with him now," Fraser's youngest daughter, Elizabeth Fraser Kraut, said fighting back emotion.

"It was left for us from Popie to help us deal with the grief of losing him. We hoped it would help the congregation get through their grief -- because we are all family. I can't even express to you in words how wonderful the outpouring of support has been."

Fraser, who passed away a week ago Sunday at age 79, will continue to be honored in the coming weeks.

The University of Miami has planned "A Celebration of the Life of Ron Fraser" for Saturday, Feb. 23 on campus with another event scheduled later that night during the baseball game against Milwaukee. The Ron Fraser Wizard Fund plans on honoring the Hall of Fame coach with a bronze statue at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field. Current UM baseball coach Jim Morris said the program is committed to dedicating the season to Fraser in other ways not yet announced. Kraut said a private burial service will then take place in her father's hometown of Nutley, N.J. in March or April.

Monday's two-hour long mass -- as well as Sunday's eight-hour visitation at Stanfill Funeral Homes in Miami -- provided an opportunity for those closest to him to share stories and remember not just the man who was dubbed "The Wizard of College Baseball" but who served as a father figure for many young men, said Kraut and close friends.

UM Sports Hall of Famer Mike Fiore, part of Fraser's second and last national title team in 1985, was the first of five men who delivered a eulogy Monday. The others: former Catholic priest Leo Armbrust, longtime friend and former UM baseball sports information director Rick Remmert, current coach Morris, and family spokesman and TV personality Tony Segreto. Fiore, now the vice president for the company of famed baseball agent Scott Boras, called Fraser a "life coordinator."

"The family asked me to speak about him as a coach and what he meant to players like myself," Fiore said of the morning service. "I told one story today about how one time when we were playing Florida State my freshman year, down one run, late in the game, I'm standing on third thinking 'Do I let the ball go through? Do I run home if it gets past the catcher?'

"He walks up to me and looks at the crowd of six, seven thousand and says 'How many hamburgers and hot dogs do you think we sold tonight?' It was his unique way of alleviating stress from me, his way of saying I trust you, trust the way you play, go ahead and react. That was the greatest thing about coach Fraser. He always made you feel comfortable."

Fraser, who amassed a 1,271-438-9 record at UM and coached the Olympic team after retiring following the 1992 season, began coaching at UM for a $2,200 salary. He took a cow pasture for a field and raised the money for a ballpark with fundraising and marketing genius -- and not much financial help from UM.

Remmert, now UM's Director of Alumni programs, recalled how when Fraser first became coach of the Hurricanes he took a second job as athletic director of the Coral Gables youth center and borrowed equipment from there because UM didn't have any. The team's first uniforms, Remmert said, Fraser got those through his U.S. Military Academy connection.

"They took the A, R and Y off [the uniforms] and left the M on," Remmert said. "That's where the famous M came from.

"One of the first promotions he had after getting lights and fences for the baseball field and charging $1 for tickets was the 'Baseball from Outer Space.' The plan was to have a parachute jumper come in with a neon colored ball. The jumper got caught up in the wind and ended up landing in the old serpentarium instead. Coach also brought the first mascot to college baseball with the Miami Maniac.

"He saw the modern game of college baseball and what it could look like. [Former LSU coach] Skip Bertman said Ron was 30 years ahead of his time and proved to athletic directors baseball could be a revenue sport."

Kraut said she heard stories about her father on Sunday and Monday she hadn't heard before and that it has comforted the family.

"The phone calls, the tweets, text messages, the Facebook postings," Kraut said. "it's amazing how much people loved Popie and how much they've taken us under their wings."

January 25, 2013

News and notes from the start of Canes spring baseball practice

Al Golden didn't get a chance to see David Thompson rifle passes to receivers this fall, but Jim Morris will get to see him use his bat this spring.

The talented freshman, who set a state record for career home runs and wiped Alex Rodriguez's name from the top of the record books at Miami Westminster Christian School, said Friday he is healthy and ready to make an impact for the Hurricanes.

Although Thompson doesn't have a set position just yet -- he's working at third base, first base and left field – chances are he's going to find a spot in the starting lineup.

"He can hit," said Morris, whose team practiced for the first time this spring on Friday -- exactly three weeks before the season opening weekend series at home against Rutgers.

"He's a good athlete, knows how to win and works very, very hard. And he can hit. When you can hit, you find a place to play."

Thompson, who had right shoulder surgery in June to repair a torn labrum, is one of a handful of newcomers -- and a few players coming back from surgery -- Morris is counting on to help turn the program around.

The others: left-handed starting pitchers Bryan Radziewski (the only player who wasn't ready to go at the start of practice Friday coming off shoulder surgery) and Andrew Suarez (a ninth round pick in 2011 who only pitched three innings in an exhibition game against the Marlins before having shoulder surgery himself); middle infielders Brandon Lopez (who could get a chance to compete for the closer's role) and Alex Hernandez (a JUCO transfer from Palm Beach Central who was the team's unofficial MVP in the fall) and left-handed power hitting freshman outfielder Grant Heyman (an 11th round pick of the Blue Jays  whom Morris said was hitting balls into the upper deck of the parking lot in the fall).

The Hurricanes, coming off a disappointing 36-22 season in which they lost their first regional at home since 1990, were tabbed to finish fourth in the Coastal Division in a preseason poll by ACC coaches on Friday. That hardly bothered Morris as much as the fact UM is entering the season unranked in Baseball America's Top 25 poll for the first time since he took over in 1994.

"There's a lot of questions we need to answer," Morris said. "I think we're going to have a good club and surprise some people, but to be honest, the polls aren't showing us a lot respect, which I don't like. We've got to prove we're as good as we've always been."

Morris said his biggest concern is the bullpen. Even though 2012 team MVP and left-handed reliever A.J. Salcines (3-0, 1.40 ERA, 7 SVs) is back along with right-hander Eric Nedeljkovic (0-1, 1.78 ERA, 4 SVs), Morris said Salcines is "not a prototype closer" and the team needs to find "guys that are proven that can do it every day."

"I think our defense will be much improved,” Morris said. "Our starting pitching should be good. We just have to figure out the bullpen."


> Thompson said his arm strength is “getting back to what it was.” Although he experiences some natural soreness, it’s not hurting him at all. Thompson said he’s making sure to throw a football around every couple days to stay sharp.

“I play catch with a lot of these guys after practice,” Thompson said. “[Center fielder] Dale [Carey] is a pretty good receiver. He's got the speed.”

Although Thompson missed the majority of fall baseball practices recovering from surgery, he was able to get some work in, hitting .316 in 19 at-bats. Three of his six hits went for doubles. He also said he was able to hit one ball out of the park at Mark Light Field.

“I have to be more patient than I was in high school,” Thompson said. “I always thought I could any pitch in high school no matter where it was. The way the ball moves, speed, and location, it’s a big difference.”

Morris said although Thompson is full committed to play baseball in the spring and football in the fall, he expects he will sneak over to get some spring work in on the gridiron.

"I'm sure he's going to still be over there some," Morris said. "I just know his mentality. I know he's a worker and David feels like he can play sports at the highest level."

Heyman called Thompson "a great hitter, probably the best hitter I've ever seen."

"He doesn't miss," Heyman continued. "It was amazing. He came out here first fall ball game and faced one of our better pitchers and just ripped a double down the line. I wasn't like that. It took me a couple weeks just to see the pitching.

"I'm really looking forward to playing with him the next three or four years. It's going to be really fun. He's a great guy too. Hopefully we'll make a good duo in the future."

> Suarez, who had surgery on April 9th, 2012 to repair a slight tear on his labrum and a bone spur on the back of his rotator cuff, said he hasn't felt any pain in his come back. He pitched in a few scrimmages over the fall and expects to be ready for the season. But he expects to let loose for the first time over the weekend and test his velocity.

"They haven't really gunned me yet. Sunday I'll find out," said Suarez, who allowed only two hits and struck out one in three scoreless innings of work in his only start for the Hurricanes last March in an exhibition against the Marlins. "I'm excited. The hitters told me I was throwing hard and stuff. We'll see what the [radar] gun says."

Morris said Suarez "may have the highest ceiling of anybody on the pitching staff."

"He's the highest drafted player on the team," Morris said. "He was hurt in high school, had the surgery last year after a few weeks. He's doing really well. He's doing good and had absolutely no setbacks in his program. We think he has a very good chance to start for us on the weekends."

> Morris said senior Michael Broad, who hit just .243 with four home runs and 30 RBI last season, should start in left field and hit somewhere in the middle of the lineup.

"We've moved strictly from the infield to the outfield, it should help him relax a little bit at the plate," Morris said. "He was hurt last year, but didn't have the type of year he wanted to have."

> Morris said the baseball team will do plenty to honor the late legendary coach Ron Fraser this season.

"We're going to do a lot of stuff. It's going to be a big thing, rightfully so," Morris said. We're having a Ron Fraser night and doing some special things you need to be here for that nobody is going to know until game time. We've talked about the season being committed and dedicated to Ron Fraser. I wouldn't be surprised if we pull somethings out of the hat Coach Fraser did."

David Thompson isn't the only hitter at UM who can throw a football

Turns out freshman David Thompson isn't the only athlete at the University of Miami who can swing a big bat and fling a football around.

Grant HeymanOutfielder Grant Heyman, a three-sport star at Pittsford-Sutherland High School (N.Y.) and 11th round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in June, said Friday he's had discussions with the football staff about going out for football in the fall.

Heyman (6-4 1/2, 205) was an All-State quarterback and said he had offers from Rutgers, Syracuse and Buffalo as well as some Football Championship Subdivision programs. He said UM coaches told him he would come in as an athlete and potentially play "quarterback, receiver, really anywhere."

But right now, Heyman said, he's concentrated on trying to earn a starting spot on the baseball team and not worrying about football. Coach Jim Morris and the baseball Hurricanes held their first official practice of the spring Friday and have three weeks to prepare for the season, which begins at home against Rutgers Feb. 15.

"I guess when I originally came here they said I could play football. That's part of the reason I came, not the biggest reason," Heyman said. "I'm just trying to put on more weight before I go over there."

Heyman, who hit .424 with nine homers in just 18 games his senior year of high school, was the recipient of the Rawlings National High School Gold Glove Award his senior year. He said he was timed at 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash and 6.6 seconds in the 60-yard dash.

Grant HeymanUnlike Thompson, whose first love was baseball, Morris said Heyman's first love has always been football. Morris said Heyman is certainly talented enough to play both, but he loves his raw baseball skills. Because he lived in the northeast, though, Heyman just hasn't had as much time as others to focus on baseball.

"He has to progress," Morris said. "He's the highest drafted player on our team to come in here [this season as a freshman]. [In fall practice] he hit balls on the deck [of the parking lot behind the right field wall at Mark Light Field]. He just hasn't had the repetition. So he has a lot of work to do to learn how to play the game. But that guy is going to be a very good player for us.

"He's got great tools. Number 1, the power. He can run. He's 6-5," Morris continued before slipping in a joke. "He's a prototype quarterback -- I mean outfielder."

May 28, 2012

UCF, Missouri State, Stony Brook will be in Coral Gables Regional with Canes

The NCAA released its field of 64 bracket in baseball Monday and the good news for the Hurricanes is that No. 1-seeded Florida and No. 3-seeded Florida State can't hinder them from getting to Omaha this year.

UM, selected as one of 16 host sites on Sunday, learned Monday that UCF (43-15), Missouri State (39-20) and Stony Brook (46-11) will be the three teams coming to Coral Gables this weekend to compete in the double elimination regional tournament.

The winner of the Coral Gables Regional would then face the winner of the Baton Rouge Regional, where No. 7-seeded LSU (43-16), Oregon State (38-18), Belmont (38-22) and Louisiana-Monroe (31-28) are.

The Hurricanes (36-21) haven't been to the College World Series since 2008. They've lost each of the last three seasons to Florida in either the Regional or Super Regional round.

UM split its season series with UCF this season. The Knights are ranked higher than UM (22nd, 21st) in both the Collegiate Baseball News poll (21st) and USA Today/ESPN College Coach's Poll (18th).

UM will open tournament play Friday at 7 against the fourth-seeded Seawolves of Stony Brook, who earned a berth by capturing their fourth America East Conference Championship in program history. The Hurricanes have faced the Seawolves only one time, winning their March 19, 2003 match-up in Coral Gables by a final score of 9-8.

Despite dropping their most recent match-up, the Hurricanes hold a 16-4 all-time advantage overUCF. The Knights will open its postseason at 2 p.m. against Missouri State. Similar to their brief history with the Seawolves, the Hurricanes have little experience facing the Bears of Missouri State.

Miami has taken the only two head-to-head match-ups with the university, formerly known as Southwest Missouri State. Miami enjoyed an 8-2 win in the Austin, Texas regional of the 1996 postseason, and also captured a 7-5 win on June 17, 2003 during the College World Series in Omaha.

May 27, 2012

Canes to host 24th NCAA baseball regional

Guess the experts were wrong.

Despite losing the ACC championship game to Georgia Tech and being projected to be a road team by most experts, the 21st-ranked University of Miami Hurricanes were one of 16 teams selected as hosts for the NCAA Tournament Sunday, which begins Friday.

It's the 24th time and first time since 2010 UM will host a regional. The Hurricanes have been to the Tournament an NCAA-record 40 consecutive years, but haven't reached the College World Series since 2008. 

They've lost to the University of Florida in the tournament each of the last three seasons -- whether in the Regional or Super Regional round.

The fact UM (36-21) was named one of the 16 host sites for the regional round came as a bit of a surprise despite being ranked 10th in RPI. Baseball America Magazine and ESPN both projected the Hurricanes as a No. 2 seed -- and likely headed to Gainesville.

UM is one of five ACC schools to serve as hosts.

The other 15 regional sites, with host institutions and records are as follows: LSU (43-26), Baton Rouge, La.; North Carolina (44-14), Chapel Hill, N.C.; Virginia (38-17), Charlottesville, Va.; Texas A&M (42-16), College Station, Texas; South Carolina (40-17), Columbia, S.C.; Oregon (42-16), Eugene, Ore.; Florida (42-18), Gainesville, Fla.; Purdue (44-12), Gary, Ind.; Rice (40-17), Houston, Texas; UCLA (41-14), Los Angeles, Calif.; Stanford (37-16), Palo Alto, Calif.; NC State (39-17), Raleigh, N.C.; Florida State (43-15), Tallahassee, Fla.; Arizona (37-17), Tucson, Ariz.; Baylor (44-14), Waco, Texas.

The last season Miami hosted a regional was 2010, when the Hurricanes went on to win the Coral Gables Regional with wins over Texas A&M and Dartmouth.

Ticket packages for the entire Coral Gables Regional are $90 for field box, $60 for chairback, $45 for adult general admission and $30 for youth, seniors and students. Those packages will go on sale at 9 a.m. on Tuesday. Individual day passes will go on sale later this week.

The Coral Gables Regional field will be announced Monday at 12 p.m. on ESPNU.

The University of Miami and the ticket office are closed for Memorial Day on Monday but normal hours will resume on Tuesday, May 29. To order tickets, click here or call 305-284-2263. The UM ticket office will be open Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Canes taking on Georgia Tech at noon for ACC title -- but even with win hosting regional is unlikely

With North Carolina's 4-0, 12-inning win over North Carolina State late Saturday night, your 21st-ranked Miami Hurricanes earned a spot in today's ACC Championship game against eighth-seeded Georgia Tech -- and potentially a shot at hosting a regional.

But that shot at hosting a regional -- Baseball America college baseball expert Aaron Fitt says -- really isn't that good.

Even if they win today, most expect Florida State, North Carolina and North Carolina State to be the only ACC teams to earn host sites. UM's ranking in the RPI is 10th.

The NCAA will announce its 16 host sites at around 3:30 p.m. today, Fitt said.

"In my opinion what happened this week really didn't matter in terms of hosts," said Fitt. "It's nice they got some momentum back here. But they're probably behind some other teams in the pecking order in this conference. Miami got swept by [fourth seeded] Virginia, and Clemson also won two of three against them in the regular season -- in addition to N.C. State beating them at the tournament. Those teams just have more quality wins, a better body of work. It's nice Miami got hot a little bit here so maybe it will carry over with them next week. But the hosts are probably set right now."

First pitch for the ACC title game is at noon on ESPN2. The game can also be heard on 560 WQAM and WVUM 90.5 FM.

UM will start sophomore right-hander Javi Salas, while Georgia Tech will counter with freshman right-hander Josh Heddinger. UM took two of three from the Yellow Jackets last week in Atlanta.

UM is making its return to the championship game after a three-year hiatus. The last time the Hurricanes made it to the tournament's finale was in 2008, when they beat Virginia 8-4.

UM finished Pool B round-robin play tied with the Tar Heels at 2-1 and advanced to the championship via head-to-head tiebreaker.

Georgia Tech won Pool A by finishing a perfect 3-0 in round-robin play. After opening their tournament with an upset of No. 1 Florida State, the Yellow Jackets reeled off a 17-5 win against Virginia and a 5-1 win over Clemson on Saturday afternoon to earn their spot in the championship.

The complete NCAA Tournament brackets are scheduled to be revealed at noon Monday on ESPNU. The Hurricanes, who entered the ACC Tournament seeded sixth, have been projected for weeks to be the No. 2 seed in Gainesville.

But Fitt said he doesn't think the NCAA selection committee will send UM to face the Gators yet again.

"I hope they get sent somewhere else this year. They need some variety," Fitt said. "I have a feeling they will get sent somewhere else. There are a few other two seeds you can send to Gainesville that are close by. Miami can go out West or go to a place like LSU. But I see them traveling this year."

May 20, 2012

Canes to open ACC Tourney play vs. NC State Wednesday

If the Miami Hurricanes are going to serve as a host for an NCAA regional and avoid hitting the road yet again, they're going to have to perform really well -- and probably win it all -- at this week's ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C.

UM (34-19) is seeded sixth out of eight teams at the tournament and will open play Wednesday in Pool B against third-seeded N.C. State at 3 p.m. Thursday at 3, they'll take on No. 2 seeded North Carolina, whom the swept earlier this season. They'll then close out pool play Friday night against 7th-seeded Wake Forest.

The championship game is Sunday at noon.

Pool A consists of top-seeded Florida State, Virginia, Clemson and Georgia Tech.

May 15, 2012

Canes projected to go back to UF for baseball regional

There was probably no one as disappointed as Miami Hurricanes’ third baseman Brad Fieger when Tuesday night’s game against Florida Gulf Coast was cancelled due to lightning and rain.

Fieger hit a two-run homer to left field in the first inning. It would have been his fourth homer of the season and his second in consecutive at-bats, counting the grand slam he hit in Sunday’s win over Wake Forest.

But because the game was cancelled – Miami led 3-2 in the fourth when it was called – none of the statistics count.

The Canes (32-18), though, could sure use Fieger’s suddenly hot bat. They will play the rest of their season on the road, starting with a trip to Atlanta Thursday through Saturday for an ACC series against Georgia Tech.

After that, the Canes will play in the ACC Tournament, which is set for May 23-27 at Greensboro, N.C.

Judging by projections, the Canes would then play an NCAA regional on the road. ESPN, for example, projects the Canes as a No. 2 seed at Gainesville, behind Florida and together with Washington and Florida Atlantic.

In other Canes news, since Tuesday was the last scheduled home game for Miami, the team announced its year-end awards, and there were at least a couple of surprises.

It’s not often an MVP award goes to a middle reliever, but that’s what happened with A.J. Salcines, who had a team-best 1.39 ERA along with four saves.

The MVP award almost surely would have gone to catcher Peter O’Brien had he not broken a bone in his left wrist, missing 13 games. O’Brien, who hopes to return for the Georgia Tech series, still hit .354 and won awards for fan favorite and top home run hitter (10).

Eric Erickson was named top pitcher and was also given an award for exemplifying what it means to be a winner.

Garrett Kennedy, who stepped in for the injured O’Brien at catcher, was named the top freshman. He hit just .150 with four RBI in 23 starts but was praised for his defense.

Other freshmen who saw significant time this season were infielders Esteban Tresgallo (.246 in 39 starts) and Jarred Mederos (.231 in 36 starts).

-- These notes were sent in by Miami Herald writer Walter Villa, who covers the baseball team frequently.