JUCO World Series returns to Grand Junction
WHAT: Junior College World Series of Baseball
WHEN: May 23-30
WHERE: Sam Suplizo Field, Grand Junction
COST: $10-12 per game; $35 for event pass.
Having a passion for baseball has helped Junior College World Series of Baseball’s current tournament chairman, Jamie Hamilton, continue the tradition over the last several years.
“I truly believe that it’s the 80-plus volunteers that keep this tournament alive,” Hamilton said. “Everyone has a passion to make sure the student athletes and fans have an experience that is the best they can ever have.”
During an interview, Hamilton — who annually volunteers — reminisced about many times former athletes returned to JUCO to reconnect with the event. Plus it’s a huge tourism draw; more than 110,000 people attend JUCO games throughout the week. And ticket sales help pay for the use and recent upgrades to Sam Suplizio Field.
JUCO’s economic impact has continued to grow as well, Hamilton explained, with millions of dollars spent in Mesa County annually.
“It’s about having a passion for baseball and a passion for the community,” Hamilton said. “Everyone enjoys it and has a stake in it. It truly is community owned.”
MORE ON JUCO
Junior College World Series of Baseball tradition kicks off the summer season in the Grand Valley on Saturday, May 23, and it runs until Saturday, May 30.
More than 10 teams will compete for the world series title including Dodge City Community College from Kansas. This will be the first appearance the team has made since the very first JUCO in 1957, which was before Grand Junction hosted the event.
The tournament is set for Sam Suplizo Field, located near Lincoln Park at the corner of 12th Street and North Avenue.
Tickets cost $35 for a general admission pass, which includes all tournament games. Single game tickets range from $10-$12.
JUCO came to Grand Junction in 1958 due to efforts by Jay R. Tolman — the former dean of students at Mesa Junior College and a coach. In 1958, 4,700 fans came to the first Grand Junction event, netting a $137.53 in profit.
Today, more than 100,000 visitors head to the diamond to watch their favorite junior college teams.
Cory Hahn — who became a quadriplegic after injuring his back playing baseball — now works for the Arizona Diamondbacks; he will speak at the annual JUCO banquet.
According to the JUCO website, the JUCO World Series banquet is Friday, May 22, at Two Rivers Convention Center (159 Main St., Grand Junction), with a social hour at 6 p.m., followed by dinner at 7 p.m. The 10 qualifying teams will be introduced and the new members of the JUCO Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame will be inducted prior to Hahn’s presentation. Tickets cost $50 per person for this event.
As the JUCO tradition continues, Hamilton knows he can’t lead the event forever. He hopes the next person shares the same passion for the event.
“I hope the organization can transfer to another young business leader who understands the tradition,” he said.
For more information, visit http://www.jucogj.org.
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