The old gray stadium sits quietly these days, wondering where all of the baseball has gone. It waits to be euthanized, as concrete will soon be turned to rubble to make way for a new football facility.
This was a column that was going to be written at the end of this baseball season because we didn’t know what this last season would bring.
But as we know, there will be no more baseball at McKethan Stadium, a season canceled because of COVID-19.
The Mac brought us so many memories even as fans cursed the sun that seemed to be hotter the more intense the games were.
The Mac was rebuilt for the 1988 season and was supposed to go out in a glorious celebration as we counted down the days before Florida’s new stadium would be ready to go.
That would have happened at the end of this season because Florida planned to bid for NCAA Regional play at the new stadium, leaving the Mac behind with so many snapshots of moments that will never be forgotten by Gator fans who were there for so much history.
In a way, it’s sad to see it go. But progress is progress. And to be honest, not that many people will miss it once Florida starts playing ball in its new digs.
Still, we can look back at so many incredible moments. These are my 10 favorites. Feel free to disagree.
1. The bang from Lang
There isn’t enough space to truly deal with how nerve wracking the game was. All that was on the line was a trip to Omaha after Auburn had made a third game necessary in the 2018 Super Regional.
Up stepped sophomore Austin Langworthy, who had already made a circus catch to keep Florida alive heading into the 11th inning. When he ripped one to right, you thought it would be the game, but right fielder Steven Williams got a glove on it at the wall.
Somehow, the ball bounced out of his glove and over the fence, setting up one of the wildest celebrations we’ve seen at the Mac.
2. “Let me go win the game”
In the 1998 regional, Florida lost the second game to Baylor and appeared to be in trouble with a shaky situation on the mound.
The No. 1-seeded Gators were in more trouble when Illinois took the lead three different times, including in the top of the 11th. But Florida scrapped out a run to tie it bringing Derek Nicholson to the plate with the bases loaded.
Florida coach Andy Lopez called time to talk to Nicholson. He was gripping the bat so tightly you thought it might disintegrate in his hands.
He finally looked at Lopez and said, “Let me go win the (expletive) game.”
And he did, lining a ball into left center to bring home Brad Wilkerson to send the Gators to Omaha for the second time in three years.
3. The Badge delivers
OK, so that was our nickname for Chuck Hazzard because he had joked once, “There’s a new sheriff in town.”
The day before, he had taken a bad-hop grounder to the face and needed 16 stitches. Couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep. South Florida had so many chances to win the game in extra innings, but Florida kept making play after play to keep the winning run from getting to third base.
In the top of the 13th, Hazard delivered a moon shot over the left field fence to give UF a 6-4 lead and the Gators went on to win. The next day, they beat UMass to head to the College World Series,
4. No-no almost not enough
John Burke had a major league fastball and showed it off in the first round of the 1991 regional against Furman. Trouble was, Florida couldn’t score either.
Burke finished off a no-hitter in the top of the ninth and was told by Joe Arnold he was done after 120 pitches and 14 strikeouts.
But in the bottom of the ninth, Brent Killen delivered a two-run homer to end the game.
5. JJ’s record breaker
JJ Schwarz had shown power as a freshman, but this was ridiculous. In a regular-season game against Stetson, he became the only Florida player in history — and only the second in SEC history — to hit four homers in a game.
He got the silent treatment after the fourth, slapping imaginary hands and he went back to the dugout. Oh, and he also had a two-run double in the game to finish with 10 RBIs.
6. Tucker’s bomb
In the deciding game of the 2011 Super Regional against Mississippi State, Florida wasted a 4-0 lead and trailed 6-4 in the seventh.
Preston Tucker, who was one of the best hitters we saw at the Mac, launched a three-run homer over the center field fence to give the Gators the lead. Daniel Pigott hit his second homer of the game in the eighth to give UF the 8-6 win and Kevin O’Sullivan’s second straight trip to Omaha.
7. Another no-no
Jonathan Crawford had been left off the travel squad the year, but he got the start in the 2012 regional opener against Bethune-Cookman.
In his first NCAA start, Crawford needed only 98 pitches to throw a no-hitter, facing the minimum (one walk was erased on a caught stealing).
The game ended with Casey Turgeon, who had all four RBIs in the game, leaping to snag a line drive.
8. Finding a way
Andrew Miller was a star at North Carolina, a Buchholz pitcher who decided not to go to Florida. The intensity level was palpable for this regional game and Miller lived up to his billing.
Miller only gave up five hits, but the Gators found a way to manufacture runs. Tommy Boss threw a complete game, as SEC champion Florida won 5-2 on its way to a CWS trip under Pat McMahon.
9. The Miami problem
With the Hurricanes in town in 2010 for a Super Regional, the stands were packed, but Florida trailed entering the ninth inning of the second game. That’s when the seventh Miami error of the game on a play that would have ended Florida’s season sent the game to extra innings.
In the 11th, Austin Maddox delivered a two-out double to win it for the Gators and give O’Sullivan his first trip to Omaha.
10. The celebration
There was no game, because the season was over. Florida had won its first national championship with a dramatic win over LSU.
Bleary-eyed players rolled off the bus to an amazing celebration of the title, something we wondered if it would ever happen. It was a special day.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at email@example.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley