‘Wizard' will ring in new season for Miami

Friday night's University of Miami season-opener against the University of Tennessee at Mark Light Stadium will have a legendary touch as the Hurricanes welcome back one of their own.

Former Hurricanes head coach Ron Fraser, who guided Miami to national titles in 1982 and 1985 before retiring in 1992 with 1,271 coaching victories, will deliver the ceremonial first pitch to current UM head coach Jim Morris. The occasion will mark the 10-year anniversary of Fraser's retirement.

Before calling it quits, Fraser left the program as the third-winningest all-time coach in Division I baseball and the Hurricanes set a record during his tenure with 20 consecutive postseason appearances.

"Its always special whenever I get back there," said Fraser, who resides in Weston. "I have every fond memories and made some great friends and relationships at the University of Miami."

Said Morris, who took over in 1994 after a one-year stint by former Fraser assistant Brad Kelley: "He meant a lot to this program and put Miami on the map. It'll be nice to have him here."

Fraser had his No. 1 jersey retired on April 24, 1993.

TICK, TICK

Several of the Hurricanes are literally trying to change the face of the new clock atop the scoreboard out in left field. The Hurricanes have been throwing in some loose change in a winner takes all pot that will go to the player that hit the clock with a home run shot.

Morris, who doesn't think the Hurricanes will be as power induced as in the past, would welcome the sight of anybody striking the black and white clock. He can't wait for the verdict.

"Whoever that is we'll just have to move him into the clean-up spot," Morris said. "I'll tell you it'll have to be a moon shot."

Junior catcher Danny Matienzo, who hit 13 home runs last season, is one of the front-runners among his teammates to whack the clock. Although, Matienzo isn't interested in dealing with the consequences.

"I'd be more than happy to win the bet, but I can afford any damages to the scoreboard," Matienzo said.

So what player is being trusted to hold the money? Old reliable, Luke DeBold.

"DeBold claims that we can trust him, said pitcher Vince Vasquez."

BACK ON THE HILL

There will be a little extra meaning for the guy who will aim for Danny Matienzo's mitt on Friday night to commence the 2002 Hurricanes season. After missing the entire 2001 season and most of 2000 with an elbow injury, junior Troy Roberson will get the starting nod against the Volunteers.

Morris deemed Roberson as his starter after watching him consistently hit the high 80's and low 90's during the fall. And Roberson said last week he is pain-free even on days after throwing on the side.

"I'm ready to go," Roberson said. "I've been dying for this opportunity. Don't get me wrong it was great to see the guys win it, but its so different when you're involved. I never doubted myself. I just kept working hard and put the rest in god's hand. Fortunately, everything worked out."

FAMILIAR FACE

Greg Lovelady, who played at the University of Miami from 1998-2001 and started 18 games last season for the national champion Hurricanes behind the plate, opted to trade in the catching gear and reserve a spot next to Morris on the bench.

Lovelady, one of the most popular players ever to play for the Hurricanes, joined the UM coaching staff as an assistant coach several months ago. Lovelady will assist the players with their hitting among his duties.

"I'm really looking forward to working with these guys," Lovelady said. "I had a great time here and I'm ready to give back to this program. I have the utmost respect for Coach Morris and this program. I'm just thrilled to be a part of it."

TOUGH ROAD AHEAD

Despite having a young team, that includes 11 freshmen, the Hurricanes will have to deal with perhaps the toughest schedule ever assembled in school history. After opening with Tennessee, the Hurricanes host series against Florida, Minnesota, South Florida, UCLA and Long Beach State. The Hurricanes will travel to Cal-State Fullerton, Georgia Tech and Florida State.

"When you're Miami you're expected to play the best," said Morris. "Playing this kind of schedule should clearly make us better."

BREAKDOWN

Apparently, the Hurricanes have a liking for high school players out of local private schools and vice-versa. Miami's roster consist of four former Gulliver Prep players and five players from Columbus High. Among the former Raiders: SS Javy Rodriguez (1996-98), CF Danny Figueroa (1997-2001), 2B Paco Figueroa (1997-2001) and Brad Safchik (1998-99). Safchik transferred to Miami from the University of Tampa.

UP ON VOLS

The Hurricanes moved past Tennessee 6-4 in the all-time series, with a pair of victories (12-6 and 21-13) in the 2001 College World Series. The Hurricanes went on to win the championship with victories over Southern California and Stanford. The Volunteers finished third with wins over Georgia and USC as well.

Prior to their meetings in the 2001 CWS, Miami and Tennessee had split the previous eight meetings. Both teams have played two three-game series on each other's field with the home team pulling off the sweep. Tennessee took two of three games at home in 1996, while the Hurricanes did the same in 1994, Morris' first season. The first two meetings occurred in 1989 with each team recording a victory

FAST STARTS

The Hurricanes have a 37-21 record in season-openers, including a 9-3 victory over Florida Atlantic on opening-night 2001. Miami is on a four-game winning streak in season-openers since 1998 and has not dropped an opener at the ‘Light' since losing to Florida in 1984.

EARLY WARNING

‘Jim Morris Bobblehead Doll Night' will be Saturday night, Mar. 23 when the Hurricanes host UCLA. The first 2,500 fans through the gates will receive a liking of the UM head coach.

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