Friday marked the 33rd anniversary of Miami’s first national championship in baseball.
Gene Stephenson, whose Wichita State team lost 9-3 to those 1982 Hurricanes, not only harbors no ill will toward Miami but says he considered a request by legendary coach Ron Fraser to come to Coral Gables and take over the program.
Fraser was replaced by assistant Brad Kelley after retiring in 1992. Kelley was fired after one season with current coach Jim Morris taking over in 1994.
“Ron Fraser was a great friend of mine,” said Stephenson, who spent time Friday by the batting cage chatting with Morris.
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“At one time, Ron wanted me to be his heir apparent. I just couldn’t leave what we were doing in Wichita. I had guys in Wichita I was concerned about. I couldn’t leave.”
The 1982 Hurricanes won school’s first major national championship as they beat Stephenson’s Shockers twice in the tournament.
Broadcast nationally by ESPN, Miami’s “Grand Illusion” hidden-ball play against Wichita State during the College World Series brought plenty of recognition to the game — and the tournament.
College baseball’s final series enjoyed much success and popularity during the 1980s as Rosenblatt Stadium was expanded because of the heavy demand for tickets.
In 2010, the final CWS was held at Rosenblatt, with the series moving to downtown Omaha and 24,000-seat TD Ameritrade Park.
The $125-million park is under contract to host the CWS through 2035.
“I think all of this has been way overdue,” said Stephenson, who was fired after 36 seasons at Wichita State in 2013 despite taking the Shockers to Omaha seven times and winning a national title in 1989. “There have been so many great teams and players come through here. It’s been extraordinary for many, many years. Teams today are so good, the talent is spread across the country.
“This is a great thing to watch.”
Miami ace Andy Suarez had an admirer on the field for Friday’s opening workouts.
Ava Ambrose, a soccer player at Miami, is from Omaha and is spending the summer interning for the local NBC affiliate.
Ambrose and Suarez have also been dating for the past year.
Wearing her press credential and watching batting practice from the field, Ambrose smiled when recalling the first time she told Suarez where she was from and seeing his reaction.
Ambrose, a junior this past season, has been in Omaha the past few weeks rooting on her Hurricanes to make it here from afar.
“I go to the series every year, so it’s great to see my team here,’’ Ambrose said. “I know the rivalry between Nebraska and Miami, so I upset some family members by going to Miami.
“But this is cool. This is really fun.’’
The University of Florida is back in Omaha for the first time since 2012 — with coach Kevin O’Sullivan saying after making it to the CWS inconsecutive years from 2010-12, the long drought made him really appreciate this run to Nebraska.
“I think I’ve enjoyed this journey a little bit more than the other ones,” O’Sullivan said. “I think I’ve maybe kind of taken a step back and appreciate how difficult it is to get here.’’