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Official Review by Scott Salomon, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
When traveling to South Beach in the spring and early summer, there are many things for the average sports fan to do. One of those things must be a visit to Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field to see the Miami Hurricanes baseball team,not only play baseball, but put on a terrific show for the fans.
Upon entering the stadium, fans are greeted by ticket takers that have been at Mark Light for decades. The stories that the ushers are willing to share with the fans go back to the early days of UM baseball and actually pre-date the construction of the stadium.
Stadium announcer Jay Rokeach just finished his 41st season as the stadium voice of the Hurricanes in 2014, and his booming voice and selection of walk-up music keep the fans entertained from batter to batter. The official mascot of the UM baseball team, The Miami Maniac, walks all around the stadium and visits with fans of all ages and leads the team in cheers in between innings.
Just to show how popular Rokeach is with the Miami following, one only needs to go to the concession stand and get a famous Mark Light Shake, which promotes the “JayRo.” The “JayRo” is one of the most popular shakes at the stadium, and features lots of chocolate and lots of fudge.
This entire baseball operation was all the dream of former UM legendary baseball coach Ron Fraser, who passed away before the 2014 season. He was known around the game as The Wizard of College Baseball. Without Fraser, and a generous gift from the Light family, there would be no baseball haven for the Canes. Other teams from up north come to The Light during the winter and early spring to play other teams, as their fields are covered with ice and snow. Miami has sunshine all year round, with the exception of the occasional rainout later in the season.
A $3.9 million gift from Alex Rodriguez allowed the University to make improvements to the aging ballpark, including a new concession area, press box and conference room for press conferences to take place. There is also a new state-of-the-art locker room courtesy of Rodriguez’s gift, which also entitled him to have his name on the ballpark.
When A-Rod was found guilty of using performance enhancing drugs, there was a strong UM contingent that attempted to get Miami President Dr. Donna Shalala to remove his name from the building. There were also those that believed that once Fraser died, his name should have been on the stadium. That debate will continue on in perpetuity.
Sitting in different areas of the ballpark, fans in attendance have a good view of the game at all times. There is no obstructed view, and some chairs for season ticket holders come with actual chairbacks. The seats behind them are mere concrete slabs.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The aforementioned Mark Light Shake is a must. The stadium also sells pizza, chicken tender baskets and the usual hot dogs, hamburgers and cheeseburgers. The prices are fairly reasonable, and the food is very tasty. Fans also go to the Shake Shack for a burger and shake before games, as it is right across from the stadium. This is a popular place for coeds to congregate both before and after games.
There is nothing like a game at The Light. The only damper on the experience when we attended was the rain and the fact that a Coral Gables city ordinance would not allow Rokeach to play his stadium music after 11:00 while the game was still being played. The 'Canes know how to put on a party and find a way to play a baseball game at the same time.
The stadium is right on the outskirts of campus and near the basketball arena. There are safe parking garages for the fans to use, and there is security on every floor during games. Take a trip to Miracle Mile and do some shopping in some of the finest stores in Coral Gables. 'Canes fans can also meander into AllCanes, which is a UM apparel and merchandise store across the street from the stadium, for all of their official UM gear.
Miami fans know how to turn out for an NCAA Regional Tournament. All of the UM games were played to a legion of fans that were cheering for the 'Canes and rooting for good baseball. UM fans are baseball-savvy and appreciate good baseball, from both teams. When Texas Tech threw two freshman pitchers to beat Miami in the 2014 NCAA Regional, the fans were respectful and appreciated the good play.
It is easier to take the Palmetto Expressway to Miller Road and go west to the University, as opposed to taking 95 and going through the downtown area, then having to hit the pre-Coral Gables traffic on US 1.
The tickets are very reasonable, and for very little money, fans are treated to a baseball game and a show that the Miami Maniac and Rokeach put on. For the sports dollar in Miami, this might be the best bang for the buck.
While at the stadium, take time to walk around and see all of the retired jerseys that are hung in the designated area. Fans can see past UM greats in their collegiate uniforms, before they were Major League stars. Be sure to pay homage to the plaque featuring Coach Fraser, which spells out how much of an impact he had on college baseball as a whole. The on-campus Rathskeller was recently renovated, and is a good place to grab some pub food and a beverage before or after the game. There is no alcohol served at the stadium, per NCAA rules.
Member Review by Jackson Wolek on Feb 20, 2012
What do you get with a program that has won four national championships, has notable alumni such as Ryan Braun, Mike Piazza, and Pat Burrell, and a location right in the heart of Miami? One of the best on campus baseball stadiums in Division I baseball. Opening in 1973, the stadium was originally only called Mark Light Field, after George Light, who was a fan of the team, donated money for its construction. Instead of having it named after himself, and dedicated it to his son Mark, who passed away due to muscular dystrophy.
It wasn’t until 2007 when the stadium went through a massive renovation, thanks in part to current New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez, who in 2003 donated a sum of $3.9 million. Interesting enough, Rodriguez never attended UM, but was recruited by them. He did, however, grow up and play high school baseball in Miami. The money went towards concession stands, a new press box, and four suites, as well as many other things. Now, the stadium seats 5,000 fans, and still houses one of the best college baseball teams. On top of that, they averaged 2,895 fans a game in 2011, the 23rd-best in the nation.
Although there is so much to see and do while in Miami, people still find time to enjoy the American pastime. From its wide variety of food selections, decent prices, free parking and terrific fan support, this truly is a must see.
5813 Ponce de Leon Blvd
Coral Gables, FL 33146
1450 S Dixie Hwy
Coral Gables, FL 33146
1306 Stanford Dr
Coral Gables, FL 33146
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