The sullen, charcoal sky opened with a vengeance Saturday afternoon at Mark Light Field in Coral Gables, signaling several University of Miami baseball players to race through the torrents of rain and unfurl a giant, white tarp.
Legendary Miami Hurricanes coach Jim Morris ran into the clubhouse with his players, the Canes down 4-3 to Boston College in the bottom of the third and runners on first and second with two outs.
Turns out it would be Morris' final sprint through that dugout. The game was called at 4:36 p.m. after a 2-hour, 14-minute delay, ending UM's regular season at 27-25 overall (16-13 Atlantic Coast Conference) after a 10-game win streak — and ending Morris' career at The Light.
The ACC tournament opens for UM Tuesday or Wednesday at Durham Bulls Athletic Park in North Carolina. The only way UM can definitely qualify for the NCAA tournament is by winning the ACC tourney, which will put the No. 7 seed Canes in a bracket with No. 2 Clemson and No. 11 Notre Dame.
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On Saturday, both rain and tears fell at The Light, as Morris coached his final home game of an illustrious 41-year career as a head baseball coach— the past 25 leading the Hurricanes to 13 College World Series berths and national championships in 1999 and 2001.
"Last day. Special day. Emotional day,'' said Morris, 68, just moments before his family and about 35 former players, all his current players, 50-year public address announcer Jay Rokeach and athletic director Blake James took part in a touching pregame ceremony.
"It's the right time for me, but still, you don't want to take the uniform off,'' Morris said, his voice trembling. "You want to leave it on. But I've been in a uniform since I was 8 years old.
"The more I think about it, the more emotional I get. It's my last game to coach on this field. I can remember when Coach [Ron] Fraser did it [in Fraser's last regular-season game] in 1992 and I was here [as the Georgia Tech coach]. He had to be feeling the same emotions that I'm feeling. I told the team, 'Let's win one for the old guy today.'"
Unfortunately for Morris, his Canes never got the chance to win one more 'for the old guy' at The Light, where a late-arriving crowd cheered during the ceremony but dispersed with the rain. When officials canceled the game, the BC coaches summoned Morris and he began shaking hands with their players.
Morris, who has the fifth most victories in history among NCAA Division I baseball coaches, had a 1,593-715-4 Division I record going into Saturday. His record at Miami: 1,089-471-3.
"Yesterday, during Senior Day, he started tearing up and it was just surreal,'' said outfielder Michael Burns. "He's a legend and this is something I'm experiencing first-hand. One day I'll be able to tell my kids that I played for '3.' If I ever have a son and he gets to play college baseball, he'll know Jim Morris.''
The soon-to-be coach, current associate head coach/hitting coach/recruiting coordinator Gino DiMare, has been with Morris for 19 years.
"There are a lot of emotions going on,'' DiMare said. "But we're kind of focused on winning games right now, and believe it or not, so is Jim Morris.''
Canes pitching coach J.D. Arteaga, now in his 16th year on the UM staff, was a freshman pitcher the year Morris began his tenure at UM in 1994. "It's the end of an era,'' Arteaga said. "I was here as a fan for Fraser's last game. Now I'm here for Coach Morris. I'm a little sad, but forever grateful for everything he's done for me and for the opportunity he gave me as a player and coach.
"To do what I love to do in the place I love, I owe it all to him.''
Morris' players presented him with a home plate that featured all his accomplishments with UM to remind him that "he is always welcome home here at The Light,'' Rokeach said.
"On behalf of our players, alumni and Hurricane baseball fans across this nation, today we tip our caps to one of the great coaches in the history of the game...'' Rokeach said during his heartfelt address.
James presented him his framed original tickets from the 1999 and 2001 College World Series championship games.
There were several video tributes, and to make the day even more special for Morris, his 6-year-old son Will threw out the first pitch.
"That was my only request,'' Morris said, "that my son throw out the first pitch, and that I catch it. We went and practiced a little bit after the game last night. I think he has a chance to be pretty good.''
Said like a proud dad, and on this day, an equally proud coach.