Former Miami baseball coach Ron Fraser dies

CORAL GABLES, FLA. (AP) - Ron Fraser coached the national teams from two different countries, is a member of 10 different Halls of Fame, won two NCAA baseball championships and never had a losing record in a 30-year career with the Miami Hurricanes.

He’ll be remembered for so many other reasons.

The longtime Miami coach _ dubbed “the wizard of college baseball” _ died Sunday morning after fighting Alzheimer’s disease for many years, family spokesman Tony Segreto said. University officials said Fraser was 79, though a statement issued by his family did not divulge his age or other private matters, including a cause of death.

“The impact he had on our university, on college baseball and on the game itself worldwide is immeasurable,” acting Miami athletic director Blake James said.

Fraser’s legacy will be, as he once said, his penchant for “doing crazy things out there.” He raffled car batteries, hosted bikini nights, threw nine-course gourmet dinners on the Hurricanes’ infield, even is credited for helping bring batgirls into the college game. If any idea to drum up interest or money for his program came his way, Fraser wanted to make it happen.

“No one did it better,” said Texas’ Augie Garrido, the NCAA Division I coaching-wins leader.

But Fraser’s finest moment may have come at the College World Series in 1982.

A few Hurricanes stuck fingers in their ears, the signal for the hidden-ball trick, known to this day as “The Grand Illusion.” Miami was leading 4-3 in the sixth inning of a winner’s bracket game in Omaha, Neb., and Wichita State’s Phil Stephenson was on first base. With his team down by a run, Stephenson was going to try to steal; everyone in the stadium knew this, especially since he already had swiped 86 bases that season.

So the play, which was installed in 15 minutes the day before, was called. Skip Bertman, Fraser’s associate coach at the time who went on to become a great at LSU, gave the signal. Mike Kasprzak was the Miami pitcher, and made a few throws over to first to get Stephenson’s attention.

Then came the moment. Kasprzak made another “throw” to first, one where Hurricanes’ first baseman Steve Lusby dove for the supposedly errant ball and, as the story goes, swore to further sell his displeasure. Several Hurricanes started chasing the “ball” along the right-field line, and others in the dugout pointed up the line excitedly, getting in on the act.

And what an act it was.

“He would teach the bat girls to scramble as if they were getting out of the way of it,” Florida State coach Mike Martin said Sunday. “They were sitting on a chair. He also had the bullpen and had a guy call it, `There’s the ball! Get out of the way!’ It was theatrics at its best.”

Sure was. Kasprzak tossed the ball _ he had it the whole time _ to second base, a stunned Stephenson was tagged out trying to advance, Miami won the game and went on to capture the national championship.

When the play was called, Kasprzak remembers exactly what was going through his head: “What if this doesn’t work?”

“I’m not sure if every coach would have allowed their teams to attempt something like that,” Kasprzak said Sunday in a telephone interview. “He was always the showman type. Doing something like that on a stage as big as the College World Series was something that maybe only he would have attempted. That worked right into his personality and his approach to the game and putting on a good show.”

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