A sad day for the University of Miami, this community and for the game of college baseball all together as the legendary Ron Fraser has passed away at age seventy-nine.
The man officially named, “The Wizard Of College Baseball” came to Coral Gables in 1963 – at a time when ‘The U’ didn’t even offer baseball scholarships. Within a decade, Fraser had Miami on the road to becoming an eventual powerhouse, finishing second to Southern Cal in 1974.
Between 1974 and 1992, when Fraser retired, Miami reached the regionals every year, and the College World Series twelve times – winning it twice, in 1982 and 1985.
The previous year, 1973, ‘the streak’ started, regarding post-season appearances by Miami’s baseball program – a streak still alive and well today. This was also the the year Miami broke ground at Mark Light Stadium, which Fraser played a big part in raising funds for.
The two-time national champion compiled a 1,271-438-9 overall record and a .742 winning-percentage.
The Nutley, New Jersey native also proved to have a keen eye for great assistants, mentoring Skip Bertman, the legendary LSU head coach and athletic director who spent 1976 to 1983 under Fraser at Miami. Bertman also played for the Canes from 1958 to 1960 and spent eleven years as head coach at Miami Beach Senior High.
Fraser’s legacy is bigger than the University of Miami, though. When fans take in the College World Series on ESPN every June, it should be know that Fraser is the reason why. The legendary coach spent years lobbying ESPN to take an interest in college baseball and in time, the network finally understood and listened.
The first games covered; Miami against top-ranked Southern California, with the Canes sweeping all three games.
Stories of Fraser’s personality and style live in infamy. CaneSport’s Gary Ferman penned a great piece detailing Fraser’s showmanship and creativity.
The $5,000-a-plate gourmet dinner on Mark Light’s infield, complete with a harpist, violinists and a world-class chef cooking up a ten-course meal. Calling in favors with baseball legends like Ted Williams, or Stan Musial, who eerily passed away yesterday – as well as MLB broadcaster Joe Garagiola or the iconic San Diego Chicken.
Anything Fraser could do to build the brand and bring awareness to the program he did, and no doubt future football coach Howard Schnellenberger took notice as he too became a promoter when trying to raise awareness for Miami football in the late seventies.
allCanes general manager Harry Rothwell grew to know the Fraser family over the years and was saddened by Sunday’s news.
“Coach Fraser was one of a kind. He always treated the fans as the most important part of the game, which isn’t always the case anymore,” said Rothwell.
“He truly believed in entertaining and worked to make every game an event. Coach Fraser’s efforts set the table for bringing professional baseball to Miami, as well.”
Former Westminster Christian head coach Rich Hofman, winner of the 1992 and 1996 national championship, too to social networking on Sunday to share his thoughts on the legendary coach.
“I learned a lot from Ron [Fraser] and Skip [Bertman] to boost my career in the younger years. Who would ever forget Ron Fraser camp and the 120 degrees on the carpet?,” wrote Hofman on Facebook.
As a youngster I spent two summers at Ron Fraser Sports Camp and remember those sweltering days fondly. Fundamentals in the morning and filling our sweaty ballcaps with ice, in effort to cool off. Lunch. Swimming. Baseball. All-day camaraderie.
Coach even knew how to market to us kids as our counselors were current players. We’d get to know these guys – heroes to us ten-year olds – during summer and come winter, we couldn’t get out to Mark Light fast enough on the weekend, asking our folks to take us to games so we could root for the players we looked up to. Well played, Coach.
The University of Miami has started the ‘Ron Fraser Wizard Fund’ in effort to honor the coach with a bronze statue to be placed at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field. Fans can donate online or can email Rick Remmert, Director of Alumni Programs.
Aside from the statue, how about renaming the current venue “Alex Rodriguez Park at Ron Fraser Field”. Has a great ring to it.
Rest in peace, Coach. You were one of a kind.
Christian Bello has been covering Miami Hurricanes athletics since the mid-1990s. After spending almost a decade as a columnist for CanesTime, he launched allCanesBlog.com. – the official blog for allCanes.com : The #1 Canes Shop Since 1959. Bello has joined up with XOFan.com and will be a guest columnist at CaneInsider.com this fall. Follow him on Twitter @ChristianRBello.