Ron Fraser, the former Miami coach who was dubbed “the wizard of college baseball,” passed away Sunday morning. He was 79.
Fraser, who coached the Hurricanes for 30 years between 1963-1992 and compiled a record of 1,271-438-9, battled Alzheimer’s disease after receiving the diagnosis two years ago.
He was inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.
“Coach Fraser was like a father to me,” current Miami baseball coach Jim Morris said in a statement. “He was the most influential man in my career and a great friend who I knew I could always rely on. He played such a significant role in the history of college baseball and of this program, and we will always be a tribute to him.”
Taking over a program that did not give scholarships for baseball at the time of his hiring, Fraser established himself as a pioneer not only for the Hurricanes, but also for collegiate baseball in general. A team that was once in danger of being cut from the athletic program, Fraser was at the forefront of building the legacy of a Miami baseball powerhouse.
The Hurricanes own the NCAA’s all-time best streak of 40 consecutive postseason appearances, which began under Fraser and is still alive today.
Fraser’s eccentricity led to several new traditions, including the Sugar Canes – Miami’s own bat girls – and the creation of the team’s mascot, the Miami Maniac.
The legendary coach was responsible for the development of Mark Light Field, the Hurricanes’ very own on-campus stadium that was considered the best in the nation. In fact, the stadium served as a model for future construction around college baseball.
“Coach Fraser had a tremendous impact on the baseball program at the University of Miami at a pivotal point in our history,” UM President Donna E. Shalala said in a statement. “His love of the sport and the program can be felt years after his legendary tenure at ‘The U.’”
Fraser pushed for ESPN to broadcast Miami baseball games and eventually host a number of collegiate games during the regular season and postseason, which the network continues to employ to this day.
During his time with Miami, Fraser led the Hurricanes to 12 College World Series, including national championship triumphs in 1982 and 1985.
He was the NCAA Coach of the Year four times, and was honored as Coach of the Decade by Collegiate Baseball for his work in the 1980s.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Coach Fraser,” acting UM athletic director Blake James said. “The impact he had on our university, on college baseball and on the game itself worldwide is immeasurable. His legacy will live on through the lives of those whom he touched and through the innovations he incorporated into America’s pastime.”