Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field is scheduled to get its official dedication at the Hurricane Club’s “Dinner on the Diamond” this Friday, in the wake of the Sports Illustrated story indicating Alex Rodriguez tested positive for steroids in 2003.
And as of right now, Rodriguez is still expected to be the guest of honor, a UM spokesman said.
The event starts at 6 p.m. with a tour of the renovated Hurricanes' ballpark and silent auction, followed by dinner at 7 p.m. Tickets to the banquet are sold out. The Hurricanes open the 2009 baseball season on Feb. 20 against Rutgers at Alex Rodriguez Park.
The stadium has been renamed for Rodriguez, who in 2002 gave the university $3.9 million – the largest donation ever to the school’s baseball program. Of that donation, $3.4 million was to kick off upgrades of the stadium and $500,000 to endow an annual UM scholarship for a member of the Boys & Girls Club of Miami.
Construction began in October 2005 and was conducted in three phases. Phase one modified seating, added new restrooms, dugouts and lights. Phase two renovated the area under the grandstand and added new concession areas, clubhouse, weight room, meeting and video rooms, academic area and pressbox with VIP suites on either side. The final phase, which is being completed, is the renovation of the Ron Fraser Building housing the team’s baseball operations. Check out photos here.
Whether the New York Yankees third baseman actually attends the event remains to be seen.
Back in 2002, when Rodriguez, was still shortstop for the Texas Rangers, his donation to UM’s baseball program was announced on a sunny October day to much fanfare. Rodriguez, MLB’s No. 1 draft pick in 1993, had been accepted to UM, but signed with the Seattle Mariners instead. Rodriguez spoke at the time about taking a bus from his Kendall home to Mark Light, jumping over the outfield fence and watching the Hurricanes for free. Here’s an excerpt from the piece I wrote about the donation in 2002:
He would practice baseball, serve as batboy and just relish watching the Hurricanes, growing sad each Sunday afternoon as the weekend series came to a close and he had to wait another week to watch more baseball. …
"For me, this was my Yankee Stadium, my Candlestick Park, my Dodger Stadium," the graduate of Miami Westminster Christian said from a spot near home plate. "This is a very dear special place to me." …
"Although I didn't have the privilege to be a college student here," he said, "I've always been a Hurricane at heart."