Here’s a few opportunities for you to plunk down some cash and rub elbows with Miami folks:
* The University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame holds its 50th induction ceremony on April 19 at Jungle Island. This year’s class includes three football luminaries: coach Larry Coker, new Dolphins signee Frank Gore and recently retired Riviera Beach native Devin Hester. Baseball’s Yonder Alonso and basketball’s John Salmons are going in with them, along with Britney Butcher (soccer), Chanivia Broussard (basketball), Dominique Darden (track) and Tina Miller Lloyd (golf). Call 305-284-2775 or click here for more info.
* Mark Richt’s spring speaking tour brings him to four cities: Jacksonville (May 16), Orlando (May 17), Fort Myers (May 19) and Chicago (May 25). Athletics Director Blake James accompanies him. The Jacksonville event also features women’s basketball coach Katie Meier and former UM defensive end Calais Campbell, now with the NFL’s Jaguars. The Fort Myers event is part of a golf tournament. To register, call the Hurricane Club at 305-284-6699 or email email@example.com.
He is the fourth prep prospect known to be skipping UM for the pros. Shortstop Jeter Downs, taken 32nd overall by the Cincinnati, signed a contract on Monday. Third baseman Joe Perez (53rd overall, Houston) has told reporters he will also turn pro. Shortstop/third baseman Mark Vientos, taken 59th overall by the New York Mets, signed Tuesday for a reported $1.5 million, which is about $500,000 above slot value.
The rest of Miami’s prep draftees, including highly regarded right-hander Chris McMahon, are expected to head to Coral Gables. McMahon, No. 77 in Baseball America’s pre-draft rankings, slipped to the 33rd round.
Additionally, UM does not expect junior outfielder James Davison to return to the team, according to a source. InsideTheU reported Davison, who spent one season at Miami after transferring from junior college, plans to play at St. Mary’s University, a Division 2 school in Texas. Davison hit .234 with a team-high 14 steals in 55 games (45 starts) as UM’s primary left-fielder.
Shortstop Jeter Downs, of Miami-Pace High, was the 32nd overall pick (competitive balance round) by the Cincinnati Reds. Right-hander/third baseman Joe Perez (Southwest Ranches-Archbishop McCarthy) went in the second round (53rd overall) to the Houston Astros. Another third baseman, Mark Vientos, (Plantation-American Heritage) was taken six picks later by the New York Mets.
The MLB-standard signing bonus, or slot value, for Downs and the 32nd overall pick is $2.1 million. Perez, 53rd overall, could earn $1.3 million or more (and will have Tommy John surgery, reportedly). Vientos, 59th overall, could get at least $1.1 million.
Park Vista High right-hander James Marinan, rated as the 59th-best draft prospect by Baseball America, slipped to the fourth round (130th overall). The Los Angeles Dodgers nabbed Marinan, 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds, for a slot value of $401,000.
Marinan told The Post on Tuesday he was “not sure yet” whether to turn pro or become a Hurricane. Meanwhile, Perez told the Sun Sentinel he expects to sign with the Astros.
Entering the draft, UM was well aware of the possibility the players drafted in the high rounds — as in, the four mentioned above — could skip school.
Miami signees who may decide to head to college include West Chester, Pennsylvania right-hander Chris McMahon, No. 77 in BA‘s pre-draft rankings. The Atlanta Braves called his name in the 33rd round (980th overall). A pair of Miami-Gulliver Prep teammates were taken in the 37th round: righty Robert Touron (1,097th overall, Cincinnati Reds) and infielder Raymond Gil (1,101st overall, Oakland A’s). Expect both to become Hurricanes.
Signees who went undrafted include McCarthy first baseman Alex Toral, No. 200 on BA‘s list, Miami-Killian outfielder Gabe Rivera (No. 330) and Merritt Island first baseman Connor Allen (No. 441).
Two current Hurricanes were drafted. Junior center fielder Carl Chester went in the 12th round (349th overall) to the Tampa Bay Rays. Chester, a 38th-round pick in 2014, opted to become a Hurricane back then. It’s unclear if he’ll remain one now. Junior right-hander Jesse Lepore (24th round, 716th overall, Colorado Rockies) seems more likely to return to school.
Miami lefties Michael Mediavilla and Jeb Bargfeldt, both juniors, were not drafted. Additionally, no Miami senior — including shortstop Johnny Ruiz (drafted in the 28th round in 2016; dealt with an elbow injury all year), first baseman Chris Barr (shoulder trouble) and third baseman Edgar Michelangeli — heard their name called.
UM’s roster doesn’t have a player as highly regarded as Zack Collins, the catcher who went 10th overall in 2016 to the Chicago White Sox, and should keep much of the same core after losing six juniors to the draft last year.
Five Hurricanes signees are ranked in Baseball America’s top 100: shortstop/third baseman Mark Vientos (No. 40), shortstop Jeter Downs (No. 54), Park Vista High right-hander James Marinan (No. 59), right-hander Chris McMahon (No. 77) and right-hander/first baseman Joe Perez (No. 99).
UM is well aware of the possibility that all could be drafted high, accept inflated signing bonuses and turn pro. In its latest mock draft, BA has Vientos going in the second round (No. 34 overall) to the Milwaukee Brewers and Downs heading to the Miami Marlins two picks later. It would be a surprise if either makes it to campus, though UM is concerned about the others as well.
Further down BA’s list of 500 prospects are first baseman Alex Toral (No. 200), outfielder Gabe Rivera (No. 330) and first baseman Connor Allen (No. 441).
MLB.com’s top 200 has six of the same players in a slightly different order: Downs (No. 37), Marinan (No. 65), Vientos (No. 67), McMahon (No. 100), Perez (No. 92) and Toral (No. 199).
No current Hurricane is listed in BA’s top 500, which can be thought of as approximately 15 rounds’ worth of prospects. Junior center fielder Carl Chester, Miami’s leading hitter and arguably its top draft prospect, was a 38th-round draft pick and BA’s No. 69 high school prospect in 2014. Among pitchers, right-hander Jesse Lepore (6-4, 220) and lefty Michael Mediavilla (6-5, 225) stand a good chance of being drafted, with “projectability” being the buzzword insiders use for both. They have large, power-pitcher frames and room to grow.
Junior lefty Jeb Bargfeldt, who became UM’s ace — and a second-team All-ACC pick — after transferring from junior college, also bears watching, though his height (listed at 6-0, 170) and lack of velocity (usually in the high 80s) isn’t as “projectable.”
UM will lose seven seniors including shortstop Johnny Ruiz (drafted in the 28th round in 2016), first baseman Chris Barr and third baseman Edgar Michelangeli.
The draft runs June 12-14 in Seacaucus, New Jersey, and is televised on MLB Network and MLB.tv.
“There’s no question it’s been on our players’ minds,” Morris said Monday. “It’s been talked about a lot, since the streak is unmatched in any sport in NCAA history. It adds a little extra pressure. Our guys are used to dealing with the pressure and people talking about it. We hear about it every day in Miami. The press is pretty tough on you in that respect.”
Usually at this time of year, the Hurricanes are making preparations to host a regional or at least wondering where they’ll go. Now, they’re assessing their resume in a different way. Miami (29-26 overall) plays in arguably the toughest conference, with six of the top 16 RPI teams. At the ACC Tournament in Louisville, UM can boost its case with games pool-play games against Wake Forest (No. 12 RPI) and Georgia Tech (No. 63). Morris would prefer to play beyond that.
“I think we need two or three wins,” he said. “If you get two wins, that puts you in the semifinals and you finish in the top four in the tournament, finishing sixth in the regular season. Last year we had 10 teams in. Our RPI is OK. We’ve had some good wins. Hopefully that will get us in. But we can’t take a chance. We’ve got to win the tournament. If we don’t win the tournament, we’ve got to finish second.
“We haven’t had that situation since I’ve been at Miami. We’ve always been worried about hosting.”
What hasn’t gone right?
“Well, what’s gone right? Next question,” Morris said.
He was kidding. He didn’t brush aside that query. His answer wasn’t brief, either.
For starters, he said, Miami “got hit hard by the draft.” A team that made back-to-back CWS appearances and was last year ranked No. 1 in the nation for a few weeks lost sluggers Zack Collins and Willie Abreu, closer Bryan Garcia, lefty starter Danny Garcia and outfielder Jacob Heyward as draft-eligible juniors. Shortstop Brandon Lopez graduated.
Morris has replaced talent before, but injuries became an unexpected issue. UM’s most reliable returning pitcher, reliever Cooper Hammond, spent most of the season recovering from Tommy John surgery. UM’s top returning hitter and starting shortstop, Johnny Ruiz, and first baseman Chris Barr have spent the year dealing with arm and back trouble, respectively (Barr had surgery last November). Freshman catcher Mike Amditis, expected to take over for Collins, broke his leg in March and had season-ending surgery. Speedy center fielder Carl Chester has been slowed by offseason hernia surgery.
It is a major reason Miami’s batting average (.229) is fourth-worst among Division I teams. Amditis was best on the team (.357) before his injury; Chester (.278) and sophomore Romy Gonzalez (.263, team-high 11 homers and 36 RBI) are the only players batting over .250.
“We don’t as much depth,” Morris said. “We lost a lot of players. … I feel like we’re playing better. We’ve gotten better the last 10 games, 15 games. Our guys, I can tell you, they’ve busted their butts all year.”
They begin every year with the highest of expectations. This week, it has turned into hope.
“I’ve tried not to talk to them about the 44-year streak. You let me handle that. You handle playing hard and let the chips fall where they fall.”
Noteworthy: Morris said freshman right-hander EvanMcKendry (4-2, 3.24) will start against Georgia Tech (11 a.m. Tuesday, ACC regional networks/ESPN3.com). “We feel like he ought to be in our weekend rotation anyway,” Morris said. He didn’t name a starter for Thursday against Wake Forest, but all signs point to lefty Jeb Bargfeldt (7-2, 2.20), UM’s Friday starter.
A tough season for the Hurricanes could have a somewhat-satisfying conclusion — if they leave Louisville with a couple wins.
Miami (29-26, 16-13 ACC), trying to extend a record 44-year NCAA Tournament streak, was seeded sixth in the ACC Tournament, which plays out this week at Louisville Slugger Field. UM will face third-seeded Wake Forest and 10th-seeded Georgia Tech in pool play.
Four pool winners play Saturday and Sunday to determine the ACC champion, which receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
That is Miami’s most direct path to the NCAAs, but that will be an arduous task given the teams that could be in the way: No. 1 Louisville (46-9, 23-6), No. 2 North Carolina (44-11, 23-7), Wake Forest and No. 4 Virginia (41-13, 18-12). UM hasn’t faced Louisville and is a combined 3-6 against the others.
The Hurricanes are 2-1 against Georgia Tech (27-26, 11-19), which they face at 11 a.m. Tuesday in the Pool C opener. UM’s other pool game is 3 p.m. Thursday against the Demon Deacons (38-17, 19-11).
By the numbers, Miami is likely a borderline NCAA contender at best, and would likely need to win its pool to solidify its case for the selection committee. One of its wins, a 14-2 rout of Division 2 St. Thomas, will not count on its resume. UM finished above .500 (28-26 in D1 play). Its RPI is 47th, according to WarrenNolan.com.
Miami, four times a national champion, hasn’t missed the NCAA Tournament since 1972. UM coach Jim Morris, 67, was in college then.
After losing several key players including Zack Collins and Willie Abreu — sluggers who helped UM get to the College World Series the last two seasons — the Hurricanes managed the the fourth-worst batting average (.225) and ninth-worst slugging percentage (.321) of 299 Division I teams during the regular season. It ranked 246th in on-base percentage (.341). Injuries to shortstop Johnny Ruiz and catcher Mike Amditis didn’t help.
However, pitching was a strong suit (56th in WHIP, 1.34) and junior college transfer Jeb Bargfeldt (7-3, 2.20) became a dependable starter. UM’s defense was decent (153rd in fielding percentage, .968).
UM Athletics Director Blake James — who was five years old the last time Miami missed the postseason — said the history of program is unmatched. He feels good about its future. But “anyone who wants to look at this year,” he said, “would see we haven’t met the expectations we established for ourselves.”
“When you look at the history, no one can compare to what we’ve been able to do,” he said. “We’re still playing this season, but obviously this season hasn’t gone it the way we would have wanted it. The guys are fighting hard.”
All tournament games will be televised on the ACC’s regional networks, and streamed online at WatchESPN.com and the Watch ESPN app. The Sunday championship game is on national TV (ESPN2).
Coming off last year’s College World Series run, the preseason expectations for Miami are a little lower.
The Hurricanes, who lost six draft picks from a 50-14 team, were all over the place in the polls: ranked eighth in Collegiate Baseball’s preseason poll, but 17th by the coaches, 18th by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers’ Association and 21st by D1Baseball.
They didn’t even make Baseball America’s top 25.
But that doesn’t mean coach Jim Morris, whose 24th season at Miami commences Friday with a 7 p.m. opener against Rutgers, doesn’t think his team will get to Omaha. He just has some issues to sort out this spring.
Here are nine questions for his Hurricanes (and yes, we’re saving the biggest one for last).
Where’s the power? Without leading home-run hitters Zack Collins (16), Willie Abreu (12) and Jacob Heyward (six), the Hurricanes don’t expect to have the same pop. Coaches aren’t shy about expressing that, either. “We’re not going to be a power team,” Morris said. “I don’t think we’re going to score a lot of runs.”
Third baseman Edgar Michelangeli, he of bat-flipping prowess, and shortstop Johnny Ruiz, a 28th-round pick who opted to return to school, combined for 11 homers and both can knock in runners. But expect a healthy serving of bunting and base-stealing this spring, rather than parking-garage bombs.
What are the strengths? Pitching, Morris said, “and it better be defense, too.” It may well be. Miami set a school record for fielding (96 percent) last year and had the nation’s top-ranked defense. It returns three of four infielders, though Ruiz has an injury that affects his ability to throw and first baseman Chris Barr, an outstanding fielder, is still recovering from December back surgery. Second baseman Randy Batista has a strong glove, and Michelangeli can pick it at third.
There’s plenty of range in the outfield, especially in center. Junior Carl Chester, the leadoff man, is a preseason All-American and rated No. 36 among draft-eligible college players by Baseball America. The Hurricanes also boast an excellent defensive catcher in Boca High grad Michael Amditis, a freshman who will take over for Collins behind the plate.
How about that pitching staff? Should be a good one. Six-foot-four junior Jesse Lepore (9-0, 2.20 as a midweek guy last year) takes the ball Friday night after a strong fall and spring. “It’s such an honor to be the opening-day starter,” said Lepore, who uses his slider as an out pitch. “Glad and proud to finally achieve that.” Junior college lefty Jeb Bargfeldt will start Saturday. He was the ace of a Junior College World Series team (Cisco College) last year, going 12-1 with a 4.45 ERA and 120 strikeouts and 25 walks in 91 innings.
Former freshman All-American Michael Mediavilla (11-2, 3.40) struggled with his location in the fall, but Morris isn’t concerned about the junior left-hander. He was a bulldog last spring. He’ll start Sunday for now, and like last year, could move to Friday as he finds his stuff. Midweek options include sophomores Kevin Pimentel and Andrew Cabezas.
Who’s in the bullpen? Losing All-American closer Bryan Garcia hurts, but bespectacled freshman All-American Frankie Bartow (6-0, 2.72) should have no problem shifting from the set-up role. “Big shoes to fill, but everybody has to move on,” Bartow said. “None of us are afraid.”
He’ll have help from Cabezas, who has a wipeout slider but struggled with control last year, and freshman Evan McKendry. Sidewinding right-hander Cooper Hammond (Tommy John surgery last May) will be a boost if he returns in April, as UM hopes. UM has no go-to southpaw, but coaches were impressed with how freshman righty Albert Maury handled lefty bats in spring practices.
What’s the lineup? We may be asking this question again and again. “Whatever lineup I put out there Friday night, it won’t be the lineup a month from now, I guarantee you,” Morris said. With so many new faces, Morris expects to try different combinations as players develop.
On Friday, Chester will lead off and junior college transfer Michael Burns – who has a remarkable backstory – will play right and hit second. Ruiz is a likely DH for now and will bat third. Michelangeli – who had a Mark Light milk shake named after his bat flips (vanilla, with a churro “bat” in it) – will hit behind him. Even that’s not set in stone, and that’s a reason the polls are unclear on Miami.
“We don’t look at it like a big important thing to be ranked high in the beginning of the season,” Michelangeli said. “Coastal Carolina wasn’t ranked, and they won it [last year].”
What the story on Burns? “He’s a scrappy-type guy,” Morris said. “In basketball, they have gym rats. He’s a gym rat for baseball.”
He was describing the playing attributes of Burns, who is 5-9, 180 pounds and wears No. 44. He’s a heck of a scrapper off the field, too.
“You wonder whether he’ll be here or not,” Morris said. “Not only will be play baseball, but will he walk and be alive? It was a very traumatic experience. He’s a great kid who has a smile on his face every day. Just happy to be alive, and he loves playing baseball.”
The Littleton, Colo. native will make his Miami debut in front of his parents, Mike and Anita, and a group of fans he called “the best in the country.”
It will be “like a dream,” he said. “On Friday I don’t know how I’m going to feel. … Kind of like I’m floating on a cloud at the Light.”
Who are the new faces to know? With all those losses, Miami brought in eight freshmen and five junior college players. It will rely on a lot of them. Other than Bargfeldt and Burns, Amditis is the newcomer most likely to be in the spotlight.
UM feels lucky he’s here. He was Baseball America’s No. 67 high school prospect before a shoulder injury cost him his senior year at Boca High. He’s healthy, and eager to get behind the plate Friday.
“The pitching staff’s really deep,” Amditis said. “I feel really confident about them.”
One of those guys is Greg Veliz, a freshman right-hander from Key West. He tops out at 96 mph, is likely to help in the ‘pen and has potential to be a middle-of-the-order bat. He’ll play first with Barr out.
Outfielder Hunter Tackett will turn heads with his Rollie Fingers mustache, long blonde curls and double-sleeve tattoos, but he’s also a solid line-drive hitter. A former Auburn signee from Knoxville, Tenn., he was the Florida junior college player of the year at Northwest Florida State after hitting .441 with 10 homers, 58 RBI and 20 steals.
James Davison, another starter-caliber junior college transfer, is 5-7, 150 pounds and can fly. He’s a Chicago native who was drafted by the White Sox out of high school (a story that was featured on MLB Network) and spent the last two years at Howard College in Texas.
Junior college transfer Brandon Gali (Polk State) could play short with Ruiz unable to throw. Sophomore infielder Romy Gonzalez has a good stick – despite his .173 debut season – and should get at-bats.
What are the key series to watch? The rivalry games are always the most fun. Miami visits Florida, which is No. 3 in Baseball America’s preseason rankings, from Feb. 24-26 and hosts preseason No. 2 Florida State from April 21-23. Now that former Morris assistant Turtle Thomas has moved on from FIU – the two had beef – the crosstown Golden Panthers are back on Miami’s schedule. They’ll play their first regular-season series since 2008, with midweek games at FIU (Feb. 22, March 8) and at UM (March 7, April 26).
The ACC is strong as usual. Miami gets FSU and Georgia Tech (No. 21) at home, and faces preseason North Carolina State (No. 14), Virginia (No. 16) and North Carolina (No. 17) on the road. The Hurricanes avoid both preseason No. 7 Louisville and No. 10 Clemson.
Will this team make it to Omaha? A third consecutive College World Series appearance will be a surprise, given the offseason losses. But Morris, given his experience, has a story about that. In 1998, he had a team with Pat Burrell, Aubrey Huff, Jason Michaels and was the second seed in Omaha. They didn’t get it done. “All those guys signed, and the next year, we were very, very young, and we won it,” Morris said. “It’s a crazy game. It depends on the players, how hard they work and how much they progress. Some guys turn it up a notch sooner than others.”
Last year, Miami reached No. 1 in the country during the season, was seeded third in Omaha and was the only national seed in its bracket. It went two-and-out for the first time since 1979. Knowing how a season can go, Morris isn’t concerned after losing all those draft picks.
It is telling he hasn’t selected captains yet. He doesn’t know who his leaders will be.
That doesn’t mean they won’t emerge.
“We have potentially a very good club,” he said. “But we’ve got a lot of questions we’ve got to answer right now.”
Based on what’s out there, it would be surprising if he did so Thursday.
The commissioner might be loath to steal headlines from the league’s coaches and players, but when he speaks to several hundred credentialed media at The Westin Charlotte hotel to kick off the ACC season, he might confirm reports that the ESPN-ACC partnership has borne a sizable piece of fruit.
As first reported by the Raleigh News & Observer, ESPN will launch a digital channel in August and a standalone TV network by 2019.
Sports Business Daily reported that the digital network, called ACC Network Plus, will carry Olympic-style events and count on schools to produce some of the programming. Miami is already a conference leader in that area. UM self-produces coverage of every one of its 16 men’s and women’s sports but swimming, rowing and golf. It then sends feeds to ESPN for show on ESPN3.com and the WatchESPN mobile app.
“It’s an area we made a significant investment in,” UM Athletics Director Blake James said in February. “It’s been a great return for us.”
According to SBD, the TV channel, called ACC Network, will be modeled after ESPN’s SEC Network, which means it is a mix of live games, analysis, talk shows and feature programming. SBD reported ACC Network will carry at least 400 events, including 40 football and 150 men’s and women’s basketball games each year. More well considered thoughts here from North Carolina radio host (and Miami native) Joe Ovies.
Another massive measure of security for the league: according to ESPN, the ACC extended its grant of rights deal nine years, through 2035-36.
A grant of rights deal essentially keeps schools from leaving a conference; under such an agreement, the league owns media rights and some revenues from home games for the length of the deal. ESPN noted that the ACC extending the deal also locks in Notre Dame as a non-football member; if the Irish want to join a conference for football in the next 20 years, they are under contract to the ACC.
Despite overtures from Florida International, Miami pitching coach J.D. Arteaga will remain with his alma mater, the Post learned Monday.
Arteaga, a Miami native who has been in his current position since 2003, will not succeed former UM assistant Turtle Thomas, who left FIU after nine seasons as coach.
FIU’s Rivals.com affiliate named Arteaga one of the top choices for the job, along with four head coaches: Merv Melendez of Alabama State, Mark Calvi of South Alabama, Greg Lovelady of Wright State and Greg Brown of Nova. Longtime UM fans will remember Lovelady as a catcher on the 1999 and 2001 national championship teams.
Arteaga played for the Hurricanes from 1994-1997, reaching the College World Series all four years. He left Miami as the program’s career leader in wins (43) and starts (72). He still ranks second in innings pitched (458.1) and is fifth in strikeouts (343). His number 33 was retired in 2003.
Zack Collins is officially a former Miami Hurricane.
The junior catcher signed with the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday, according to MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo. The White Sox selected him with the 10th pick of the MLB draft’s first round.
Collins agreed to a signing bonus of $3,380,600, the exact value the league recommended for the 10th overall pick. He was one of seven Hurricanes drafted.
Two more juniors expected to sign, outfielder Willie Abreu (sixth round, 170th overall, Colorado Rockies) and closer Bryan Garcia (sixth, 175th, Detroit Tigers), had not done so as of noon Tuesday.Senior shortstop Brandon Lopez (10th, 303rd, Minnesota Twins) lacks eligibility beyond this year.
Update (3 p.m. Tuesday): According to Mayo, Abreu signed for $303,700, the exact slot value for the 170th pick.
Lefty Danny Garcia (15th, 447th, Seattle Mariners), outfielder Jacob Heyward (18th, 545th, San Francisco Giants) and second baseman Johnny Ruiz (28th, 847th, Houston Astros) were also drafted.
The Hurricanes (50-14) ended their season with Monday’s 5-3 loss to UC-Santa Barbara in a College World Series elimination game. Miami, which dropped its opening game to Arizona, went two-and-out for the second time in the program’s 25 appearances in Omaha. The other instance was in 1979.