Atmosphere and a storied tradition illuminate ‘The Light’

From the memory of a dusty old field on the corner of campus to a vision of the premier facility of its kind, the University of Miami’s baseball stadium continues to evolve.

Mark Light Field, or simply “The Light,” has been the home of the Miami Hurricane baseball team since it opened in 1973. Dedicated in 1978, the field was named for donor George Light’s son, who died of muscular dystrophy.

Longtime PA announcer Jay Rokeach, affectionately known as “Jayro,” entered the world of Miami baseball as a freshman in 1969, even before the stadium’s construction, and has seen it all.

“It was just a very, very bare bones setup,” he said of the field before George Light’s donation, which allowed the stadium to be built. Rokeach described how he would announce from behind the backstop and how the wind would sometimes lift the records off the turntables and blow them onto the field.

Though officials hope for a state-of-the-art facility after current renovations are complete, one groundskeeper still remembers those good old days.

“It used to be the premier of college stadiums,” said Jack Hughes, who has worked at The Light for eight years. “It was the front-runner for a while and it’s still got a homey feeling to it rather than a major league atmosphere.

“It’s still got a community-type atmosphere to it,” he continued, but noted that “it used to be a lot better” before the parking garage, “monster” scoreboard and the installation of a warning track.

Hughes reminisced about the days when people used to park their motor homes out by the fence and watch the ball game.

“It was the only show in town before the Miami Heat, before the Marlins,” he said. “It was the best product in town.”

No matter what structure is in place, there is more to The Light than the physical aspects in the eyes of some players. For them, the draw of The Light also derives from the history and atmosphere.

Sophomore catcher Ben Vazquez came to the stadium when he was younger and dreamed of playing at The Light.

“Knowing that you play on the same field that Pat Burrell and Alex Cora, it just feels great,” he said. “There’s something special about The Light, I can’t really describe it.”

To Hughes, the quiet simplicity makes The Light something special.

“There’s nothing like being out here when there’s nobody here. It’s just peaceful, to me anyway. You come out early in the morning, you sit in the dugout, have a cup of coffee,” Hughes said. “[There’s] nothing like the smell of the grass being freshly cut or just sitting out here and just looking out at the ball field. You’ve got to be involved in baseball to appreciate that, I guess. Then it comes to life when the players start showing up.”

Greg Linch may be contacted at