The University of Miami baseball program will look brand-new this season, from its players to the stadium they call home.
At the close of the 2005 season, 10 players left Coral Gables to join the professional ranks. The losses left vacant spaces on the team, which are being filled by younger players.
Additionally, Mark Light Field is undergoing dramatic changes that range from the structural to the name itself.
Construction began in spring 2005 and will continue in two phases.
“We are totally renovating our park. The seats are going to be redone, the dugout and everything in the locker rooms,” Head Coach Jim Morris said. “We’ll have a very nice locker room with a weight room, meeting room, video room and a computer room for the players. We’re also getting new fences and new lights.”
Phase I is expected to be completed by opening day. This portion of the renovations includes alterations to the actual stadium. There will be the same number of seats, but there will be an addition of box seats closest to the field. General admission rates will not increase. The only additional costs for tickets will be in the box seats.
Phase II of the renovations will continue after the regular season has completed and will end in fall 2006.
The multi-million dollar project is funded entirely from donations contributed by fans and alumni.
“It all started with [New York Yankees third baseman] Alex Rodriguez, who gave us $3.9 million,” Morris said.
The new name will be Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field.
Morris said Alex Rodriguez signed with UM, and had he not been the first player picked during the draft in 1993, he would have been a ‘Cane.
“He grew up here and he is a perfect role model and maybe the best player to ever play the game,” Morris said. “So, to me, it is a perfect fit to have the park named after Alex.”
The construction has made minor inconveniences for the team as they begin fall practice, but Morris said he is confident in the team and doesn’t foresee a setback because of the remodeling.
“I expect us to be prepared and to be good,” Morris said. “Every night before I go to bed I always remember that 1997 to 1998 we had some great players and we lost those guys in 1998. Then, in 1999, we were young and we won. We’ve got to work harder. We have great, quality young players.”
Stacey Arnold can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.