(Photos by Cayla Nimmo)
Saturday evening was the unofficial start to Hurricanes baseball, with the team hosting its annual Alumni Game and FanFest within the friendly confines of Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field. The 2013 Hurricane squad got the better of the former players, coming away with a 5-3 win.
More than 40 former Canes were in attendance, spanning more than six decades of baseball and including current MLB players such as Jon Jay, Gaby Sanchez and Yonder Alonso, among others. It was also an opportunity for the current Canes to face off against some former teammates, including last year’s starting shortstop Stephen Perez and closer E.J. Encinosa.
“It’s fun to see all the guys, find out what they’re doing. You don’t always get to see them that much,” coach Jim Morris said following the game. “It’s always fun to see Yonder, he had a big game swinging the bat. Watching him, you can see why he’s in the big leagues. All those guys are fun to watch and catch up with.”
The 2013 Canes struck first, picking up runs in each of the first two innings. Junior centerfielder Dale Carey hit an RBI single to drive in junior Tyler Palmer for the first run of the game. The team struck again in the second when, after a leadoff single by third baseman Brad Fieger, infielder Michael Broad hit a double off Encinosa to extend the lead.
The alumni struck back in the top of the third. After back-to-back walks, Alonso nailed a two-RBI double off starting pitcher Andrew Suarez to bring in brothers Paco and Danny Figueroa.
Broad hit a leadoff home run to left field in the fourth to give the Canes the 3-2 lead. Miami added another two in the sixth inning, and although the alumni scored once more in the seventh, the current Canes were able to hold on to their lead.
After the game, Morris praised the performance by Suarez, who gave up two runs in three innings with three walks and no strikeouts. Morris emphasized the importance of pitching and defense as the season kicks off.
“I thought starting out there, Suarez got out of some jams. The game all starts with pitching so you have to be able to do that,” Morris said. “[Suarez] threw good, AJ [Salcines] threw good. Our defense has got to be solid and I think it will be solid.”
Although it was an unofficial game and the statistics won’t count toward the season, the exhibition gave the current squad an opportunity to face opposition in a game-type setting before the regular season begins on Friday.
“I think it’s great when you get to play against other people. Some guys play good in games against other people or in real games versus intrasquad games,” Morris said. “I think that was it, just watching them play as a team was important today.”
The FanFest, which was open to the public, also included autograph signings from the coaches and players, as well as face paintings and bounce houses for the children in attendance. The event traditionally gathers a group of committed fans, but Morris mentioned the event may have been boosted by the timing of the Canes basketball game against North Carolina just down the road.
“I thought we had a really good turnout. The timing was great because the basketball game ended, and right when it ended we were starting off,” he said. “It was fun to see people again and sign stuff for them.”
The regular season begins on Friday night when the Hurricanes welcome the Rutgers Scarlet Knights to Mark Light Field at 7 p.m. Every Miami baseball game this season will be broadcast live by WVUM on 90.5 FM and wvum.org.
IF YOU GO
What: Baseball Season Opener
Who: Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Where: Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field
7 p.m. Friday
7 p.m. Saturday
1 p.m. Sunday