Friday, June 6, 2008

Dade County's 100 Greatest High School Baseball Players

Pictured: Pace's Alex Fernandez (top) and Westminster Christian's Alex Rodriguez

Baseball has long been called the nation's "national pastime". In South Florida, football is considered king. Afterall, some of the best football talent comes from our back yard. But when you look at the baseball talent that has been developed and nurished from our backyard, South Florida takes a backseat to nobody.

Here's my list of the 100 greatest high school baseball players to come out of Miami-Dade County. You'll find a hall of famer (Steve Carlton), a bunch of soon-to-be hall of famers (Alex Rodriguez, Andre Dawson) and a who's who of great high school baseball players who excelled at various levels of the sport. Players are listed in alphabetical order with the high schools each attended.

Dade County's 100 Greatest High School Baseball Players

Yonder Alonso - Coral Gables
Alfredo Amezaga - Miami High
Robert Andino - Southridge
J.P Arencibia - Westminster Christian
J.D. Arteaga - Westminster Christian
Ronnie Belliard - Central
Nick Belmonte - North Miami
Tom Bernhardt - Columbus
Skip Bertman - Miami Beach
Kurt Bevacqua - North Miami
Randy Bush - Carol City
Juan Bustabad - Hialeah-Miami Lakes
Steve Butler - Westminster Christian
Marty Bystrom - Killian
John Cangelosi - Miami Springs
Jose Canseco - Coral Park
Ozzie Canseco - Coral Park
Adrian Cardenas - Pace
Ronald Caridad - Westminster Christian
Steve Carlton - North Miami
Tony Casas - Jackson
Frank Castro - Miami Springs
Lee Corso - Jackson
Leroy Cromartie - Booker T. Washington
Warren Cromartie - Jackson
Midre Cummings - Edison
Andre Dawson - Southwest
Bucky Dent - Hialeah
Orestes Destrade - Columbus
Nick Esasky - Carol City
David Espinosa - Gulliver
Eddy Martinez-Esteve - Westminster Christian
Jorge Fabregas - Columbus
Alex Fernandez - Pace
Mike Fiore - Coral Gables
Tom Foley - Palmetto
Fred Frink - Miami High
Mike Fuentes - Coral Gables
Alex Gonzalez - Killian
Gio Gonzalez - Pace
Orlando Gonzalez - Miami High
Yasmani Grandal - Miami Springs
Otis Green - Carol City
Rick Greene - Coral Gables
Pedro Grifol - Columbus
Ricky Gutierrez - American
Ben Grzybek - Hialeah
Garry Harper - Hialeah-Miami Lakes
Lenny Harris - Jackson
Bill Henderson - Westminster Christian
Chris Hernandez - Pace
Gaby Hernandez - Belen
Nick Hernandez - Hialeah
Steve Hertz - Miami High
Jackie Holmes - Norland
Charlie Hough - Hialeah
Raul Ibanez - Sunset
Ryan Jackson - Florida Christian
Calvin James - American
Jon Jay - Columbus
Ross Jones - Hialeah
Mickey Lopez - Westminster Christian
Mike Lowell - Coral Gables
Ed Lynch - Columbus
Jim Maler- Coral Gables
Chris Marrero - Pace
Eli Marrero - Coral Gables
Danny Matienzo - Columbus
Tony Menendez - American
Doug Mientkiewicz - Westminster Christian
Luis Montanez - Coral Park
Rob Murphy - Columbus
Steve Nicosia - North Miami Beach
Fred Norman - Jackson
Alex Ochoa - Hialeah-Miami Lakes
Orlando Palmeiro - Southridge
Rafael Palmeiro - Jackson
Jose Prado - Coral Gables
Danny Rams - Gulliver
Mickey Rivers - Northwestern
Alex Rodriguez - Westminster Christian
Javy Rodriguez - Gulliver
Sean Rodriguez - Braddock
Ricky Rojas - Hialeah-Miami Lakes
Al Rosen - Miami High
Wade Rowdon - Palmetto
Gaby Sanchez - Brito Private
Nelson Santovenia - Southridge
Howie Shapiro - Miami Beach
Dennis Sherrill - South Miami
Dale Soderholm - Coral Park
Eric Soderholm - Coral Park
David Sorokowski - Southridge
Shannon Stewart - Southridge
Bob Stinson - Miami High
Danny Tartabull - Carol City
David Yocum - Columbus
Eddie Williams - Edison
Woody Woodward - Coral Gables
Jason Woolf - American

Monday, May 26, 2008

All Time Canes Baseball Team

Ryan Braun

When I moved to South Florida in 1986 from suburban Chicago, I had no profesional baseball team to adopt. At the time, the Dolphins were the only pro sports team in town. This was before the Heat, Marlins or Panthers existed. So I continued to root for the Cubs, even though I no longer considered myself a Chicagoan. But it didn't take me long to find a local baseball team to embrace. That team was the University of Miami Hurricanes, coached by the great Ron Fraser.

Back then I had never seen a college baseball game before. The "ping" of the aluminum bat still sounds funny to me. But I've always loved baseball and decided to check out a game at Mark Light Stadium and quickly fell in love with the Canes program. It was baseball the way I liked it--good pitching, lots of aggresiveness on the basepaths and good fundamentals. Mike Fiore was the Canes best player at the time. And from that time, I've been a diehard Canes baseball fan.

So I've decided to make a list of who I believe are the best UM baseball players to play their respective positions. The list wasn't easy. There have been a lot of great players who've contributed to a program that's won 4 College World Series titles. Most of the players listed are guys I've seen play in person. But there are a couple who were stars at UM before I followed the program. So here we go, here' my all time Canes baseball team.

All Time Miami Hurricanes Baseball Team

1B Yonder Alonso
2B Jemile Weeks
SS Alex Cora
3B Pat Burrell
LF Mike Fiore
CF Doug Shields
RF Jason Michaels
DH Phil Lane
UTL Ryan Braun
C Charles Johnson
SP Neal Heaton
SP Alex Fernandez
SP J.D. Arteaga
SP Cesar Carrillo
RP Rick Raether
RP Danny Graves

Canes Baseball: South Florida's Ultimate Sports Dynasty

UM catcher Yasmani Grandal and pitcher Kyle Bellamy celebrate the Canes first ACC championship.

In the amazing history of the University of Miami baseball program, the Hurricanes have won just about every kind of trophy and championship you can imagine. But there was one piece of hardware still missing in the trophy case--an ACC championship. Sunday afternoon, the Canes filled that void by beating Virginia 8-4 in the ACC Championship Game at Jacksonville.

When you think about it, UM baseball is by far the greatest sports dynasty South Florida has ever seen. It's a dynasty better than Don Shula's Dolphins. It's better than Canes football. It's better than Miami High, Coral Gables or Northwestern High football. Canes baseball stands alone and here's why.

* No losing seasons since 1957. Think about it. That's more than a half century of winning baseball. It's a string of unparalelled consistancy that's unmatched.

* 36 consecutive NCAA postseason appearances. Every season since 1974, the Canes have reached postseason play. That's an NCAA record. Even super powers like Nebraska football or UCLA basketball have had an occasional bad season here or there. Not Canes baseball. A bad year for UM baseball is losing in the regionals.

* 22 College World Series appearances. Only USC and Texas have made more appearances.

* 4 National championships. Although UM football has won one more championship. Canes baseball is more impressive because you have to win the championship on the field. Football national championships are often awarded by sportswriter polls with no playoff system. Consider this, FSU has made a bunch of CWS appearances and never won a national championship. It's much tougher to win a baseball national title.

UM baseball is even more remarkable when you consider its recruiting disadvantages. College baseball is the toughest sport to recruit. You not only have to recruit against the top schools, you also have to recruit against Major League Baseball. Most of the very best high school baseball players sign with professional teams when they graduate. Also, there are far fewer scholarships available for college baseball. Many college baseball players are on partial scholarship. When you consider the huge tuition at UM, it's even more amazing what the baseball program has accomplished.

In his previous 14 seasons as UM head coach, Jim Morris has guided the Canes to 10 College World Series appearances-winning two national championships. But this year's team may be his best. The Canes are currently 47-8 and were ranked #1 in the nation for most of the season. Three junior stars: Yonder Alonso, Jemile Weeks and Dennis Raben are ranked among the top prospects for the upcoming Major League Baseball Draft. Freshman pitcher Chris Hernandez is a perfect 11-0. Shortstop Ryan Jackson may be the best defensive player at his position in the country. In other words, there aren't many weaknesses in this group.

Whenever I hear of a dynasty, I think of an organization that has sustained a standard of excellence for a long period of time. The Canes baseball machine is the epitomy of that definition. Don't look for that to change anytime soon.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Jacory Harris Named Florida's Mr. Football

Congratulations to Miami Northwestern High School quarterback Jacory Harris for being named Florida's Mr. Football award. Harris is the first player from Miami-Dade or Broward counties to receive this honor, which goes to the state's player of the year.

The 6'4, 170 pound Harris led the Bulls to a perfect 15-0 record, while passing for 3,445 yards, 49 touchdowns and just 6 interceptions. During his high school career, Harris started 30 games and never lost. An honors student, Harris graduated early from Northwestern and will begin classes at the University of Miami on Monday. He is expected to compete with Robert Marve for UM's starting quarterback job this spring. Coincidently, Marve was last year's Mr. Football after starring at Tampa's Plant High School.

Past Mr. Football Winners

1992 Jammi German Fort Myers
1993 Shevin Wiggins Bradenton Manatee
1994 Daunte Culpepper Ocala Vanguard
1995 Frankie Franklin Jacksonville Sandalwood
1996 Travis Henry Frostproof
1997 Zain Gilmore Tampa Robinson
1998 Anquan Boldin Pahokee
1999 Willie Green Kissimmee Osceola
2000 Adrian McPherson Bradenton Southeast
2001 Leon Washington Jacksonville Jackson
2002 Andre Reese Pierson Taylor County
2003 Xavier Lee Daytona Beach Seabreeze
2004 Antone Smith Pahokee
2005 Tim Tebow Ponte Vedra Nease
2006 Robert Marve Tampa Plant
2007 Jacory Harris Miami Northwestern

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

RIP Jim Dooley (1930-2008)

Jim Dooley, one of Miami's greatest football legends and sports pioneers , passed away yesterday after battling Lou Gehrig's disease for the last few years. Dooley was the first consensus All American in University of Miami football history in 1951. He also became the first UM player to be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft and the first UM player to have his jersey number retired. In 1997, Dooley was inducted into UM's Ring of Honor at the Orange Bowl.

Born James William Dooley in Stoutsville, Missouri, he moved to Miami as a boy and later became one of the city's great schoolboy athletes while attending Miami Senior High School. As a senior at Miami High in 1947, Dooley led the Stingarees to a 9-1 record and the state championship while playing halfback on both offense and defense. He was named All City and All State, while playing for head coach George Trogdon. At the time, Miami High was one of the nation's top high school programs and scheduled teams from 5 different states during Dooley's senior year.

He chose to stay home and play his college football at the University of Miami and then head coach Andy Gustafson. During his junior year in 1950, Dooley led the Canes to an upset victory over then #1 ranked Purdue at West Lafayette, Indiana. The victory sparked a huge celebration in Miami which saw thousands of fans greet the team upon their arrival at the Miami International Airport. The Canes went on to play Clemson in the 1951 Orange Bowl Classic, losing 15-14 after Miami's Frank Smith was tackled in the end zone for a safety late in the 4th quarter.

Dooley was a true 60-minute player and played both offense and defense as a junior and senior. He was the first UM player to rush for over 1,000 yards in his career and set a UM bowl record with 4 interceptions vs. Clemson in the 1952 Gator Bowl. In 1951, Dooley intercepted 10 passes--a school record that has since been tied by Bennie Blades and the late Sean Taylor.

He was selected in the first round by the Chicago Bears in the 1952 NFL Draft and played 10 seasons from 1952-1961. As a rookie he played defense, intercepting 5 passes. But in 1953, he became more of an offensive specialist, playing wide receiver. He finished his pro career with 211 career catches for 3,172 yards and 16 touchdowns. In 1968, Dooley succeeded George Halas as Bears head coach and compiled a 20-36 record from 1968-71. He spent the next 30 years working in the Bears organization as assistant coach and a team executive.

Jim Dooley is survived by his wife, daughter, four sons and 16 grandchildren. He was 77 years old.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Happy Birthday Don Shula

Happy 78th birthday to former Miami Dolphins head coach Don Shula. Shula retired as the Dolphins head coach after the 1995 season with more career victories (347) than any other coach in NFL history. He earned the respect of nearly everyone connected with professional football.

After an NFL playing career that was built more on dedication and hard work than athletic ability, Shula became a very young head coach in 1963 with the Baltimore Colts. From 1963-69, he compiled a 73-26-4 record and guided the Colts to Super Bowl III. However, the Colts suffered a devasting to loss to the New York Jets at the Orange Bowl. When the Dolphins offered him its head coaching job in 1970, he took it.

Shula immediately amplified his standing in the coaching community. In 1972, he coached the Dolphins to the only perfect season (17-0) in NFL history, including a victory in Super Bowl VII. He won Super Bowl VIII too. Before he retired, Shula took six teams to the Super Bowl.

Throughout his career, Shula adapted to his personnel. With Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick and Mercury Morris in the early 1970s, the Dolphins won mainly with a powerful rushing attack. With Dan Marino in the 1980s and 1990s, the Dolphins opened up the passing game.

"The secret of success is getting inside different personalities and getting the most out of them." Shula said.