CORAL GABLES – The Wizard is finally safe at home.
After years of budgeting and planning, the statue of the late, great Ron Fraser is finally where it belongs, right in front of Mark Light Stadium, the House that Fraser Built.
"Having him stand in front of his stadium, shows that he is finally home," said Fraser’s daughter Liz Fraser Kraut. "It’s going to be amazing for everyone that misses him. It will be Ron Fraser welcoming everyone back into the stadium that he helped build."
"Papi is home."
When Fraser took over Hall of Famer Jimmy Foxx in 1963 after Foxx was tired of running a shoestring operation on a beer budget, Fraser was determined to give Miami baseball an identity. In a short time he did that. He was then determined to give them an on-campus stadium. Soon enough, he did that too.
"He always wanted a place that had a family atmosphere, a place where you could take your families and be safe and have a good time," Fraser-Kraut said. "He wanted his players to have a place that they could return to with their families for years to come."
Ron was a big family man and that is evident by the love that you can tell that his daughters share for not only one another, but for their mother Liane and for Coach’s widow Karen. The family members are all close and when Liane was stricken with cancer, Ron and Karen would take her to her chemotherapy treatments and sit with her and share the love that they all share as a family.
"It wasn’t very typical, but we were very close knit and we still are," Cynthia Fraser said. "My father grew up without a father as his dad died when he was nine and all he wanted was a family to love. The University of Miami was like an extended family to him and he loved everyone that loved him."
Liz remembers that before the NCAA changed the regulations and players could eat at the homes of the coaches, Ron and Liane would have players over at their home for Thanksgiving when those players could not afford to go home to enjoy the holidays with their families.
"I remember those kids either came in a suit, or they wore one of Papi’s sport coats," Liz said. "He always cared about his players and made sure that they had a meal to eat on Thanksgiving, before the NCAA changed the rules."
Lynda Fraser views her dad as a Renaissance Man. A man that was years before his time, doing what most men today cannot do. He juggled his duties as a father along with those as the coach of the most prolific team in college baseball, one that was trying to do extraordinary things.
"I don’t think that there is anyone out there like my dad," Lynda Fraser said. "It’s a difficult job to begin with just being a parent and having to touch so many lives. Most men today would have to give up one of the two jobs. They could not do both the way he did.’
I have always championed the fact that Fraser’s name should be on the stadium and not that of Alex Rodriguez, who never played an inning at UM. However, after talking to the Fraser daughters, I was convinced that this is a great honor for the Man that they still refer to as The Wizard of College Baseball.
"This is more fitting," Fraser-Kraut said. "He is standing in front of the house that he built. This is a bigger tribute. He will be greeting everyone at Mark Light for many years to come."
Lynda Fraser said that she remembers going out of eat after home games, sometimes as late as midnight, and the patrons would bring their sons or grandsons over and ask the Coach to check out their batting stances. He would look, critique and give a pat on the back.
"He did it because the people themselves meant so much more to my dad," Lynda Fraser said. "There was a real man behind all of those trips to Omaha and all of those World Series appearances. The man was our father and he loved people. He did what he did for the fans. He would never turn a kid away and he would talk baseball with anyone that wanted to talk to him."
Liz said that local restaurants would remain open late on Saturday nights knowing that Coach and clan would be coming in late to dine. It would be common for the Coach to pick up a check or two for a man in uniform, not forgetting that he had nothing when he left Europe after war.
"He never said no that’s for sure. He would quietly pick up a check, always anonymously, especially if it was a military man," Fraser-Kraut said. "The people there in Coral Gables, especially the ones close to the University, many of them are still our friends. We would have neighbors that would go to the games and they still do. Our math tutor will be at the ceremony."
Lynda summed it up perfectly.
"That was his legacy. At the end of the day he impacted people because of who he was and what kind of man he was," Lynda Fraser said. "It had nothing to do with trips to Omaha or College World Series trophies.
"Everyone just loved him as a man."