Feb. 13, 2009


Miami Welcomes A-Rod, Renames Stadium

By Christina De Nicola



CORAL GABLES, Fla. - It was supposed to be a celebration of finished stadium renovations at Friday night’s preseason banquet for the 2009 University of Miami baseball team.


Instead, national and local press filed in for the “Dinner on the Diamond” because of the recent admission by 12-time All-Star and New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez of using performance-enhancing drugs from 2001-2003.


Rodriguez, who donated $4 million to UM, was in attendance for the renaming of the stadium to Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field.


As the program began with a highlight reel and speech by first-year Hurricane Athletic Director Kirby Hocutt, the Miami native had yet to arrive. Anxious attendees seemed to be waiting for the main attraction.


When he did show up with his mother, Lourdes, his oldest daughter, Natasha, and a few others to sit, kids began to approach him for autographs.


He signed each ball.


As Hocutt wrapped up and called A-Rod to the podium, the slugger received a standing ovation from the crowd.


“He got a very nice reception,” said Olivia Bevilacqua, a Barry University graduate and avid Cane fan. “It won’t be that way when he’s out there playing ball, but for this purpose I thought the people were very cordial and it was really, really neat what they did. I think he dealt with it in a very professional manner and he didn’t dwell on it. That wasn’t the purpose of tonight.”


In his speech, Rodriguez began by briefly welcoming the press and jokingly alluding to the recent media blitz regarding him taking steroids.


“I want to welcome my friends in the back. We travel together. Just like a family, a dysfunctional family,” he said. “As you all know, it’s been a very quiet week for me, so it’s really nice to get out on a Friday night.”


For the next seven minutes, the New York Yankee spoke about growing up in South Florida and almost playing for the program before signing with the Seattle Mariners, as well as giving some words of advice to the players.


He received another standing ovation and applause at the conclusion of his speech. The overall university and guest reactions were both welcoming and accepting.


Miami head coach Jim Morris and guest speaker Laz Gutierrez, who is a former Hurricane and now acts as a scout for the Boston Red Sox, only had nice things to say about No. 12 on the all-time home run leaders list.


“I bought the ticket way before the press about him came out,” said Jim Berlin, a Coral Gables, Fla., resident and UM baseball fan. “I think it went well. The university and the team are bigger than one individual, and that’s what he’s been saying. No, I don’t want it dug up anymore. It just doesn’t matter. A person caught with steroids is not a big deal.”