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JUCO World Series continues tradition in Grand Junction

Brittany Markert
bmarkert@gjfreepress.com
The scene from the outfield stands during the Junior College World Series of Baseball. JUCO has been hosted in Grand Junction for the past 57 years.
Submitted photo |

GO&DO

WHAT: Junior College World Series

WHEN: May 24-31, with multiple games daily

WHERE: Sam Suplizio Field, Grand Junction

COST: $10 for single game, $35 for tournament pass

INFO: http://www.jucogj.org

The smell of popcorn; the refreshing sip of a cool drink; the snap of the bat; the cheer from the crowds; all these pieces and more make memories for the fans of Junior College World Series in Grand Junction.

For more than half a century, JUCO World Series has called Grand Junction home. Falling traditionally on Memorial Day weekend, it’s expected that more than 120,000 people will attend this week-long spring event.

“We crown a national champion every year and it’s pretty exciting,” JUCO’s director of tournament Walt Bergman said.



This year JUCO kicks off Saturday, May 24, at 9 a.m. and continues daily through the championship game Friday, May 30, with a possible game Saturday, May 31. Ten teams will battle to be World Champions, including Miami Dade College from Miami, Fla., Midland College from Midland, Texas, and Johnson County Community College from Overland Park, Kan.

For all 19 games, passes cost $25 per person for students ages 6-21, and seniors ages 65 and up. Adult tournament passes are $35 per person. Children 5 and under are free. Single game tickets are $10, and $12 for Friday and Saturday night championship game tickets. Tickets are available online or at the gate.



“My dad has attended the tournament for 37 years and I have gone for 36 years,” Fruita resident Jeannine Purser said. “It’s a family tradition. We sit in the same section every year and go to almost every game. My girls have gone ever since they were babies.

“They start talking about how they can’t wait for JUCO to come right after Christmas. We love it!”

Small coolers are allowed in the stadium, and parking is limited; be prepared to walk and plan accordingly.

HISTORY MOLDS TRADITION

Brought to Grand Junction in 1958 by Jay R. Tolman — former dean of students at Mesa Junior College and a coach — JUCO hoped for an increase in attendance over its first year in Oklahoma. Organizers, believing Mesa County was the ticket after talking with Buss Bergman (another baseball coach) and supporters in town, turned in a bid to the National Junior College Association of Athletics. In 1958, 4,700 fans came to the first Grand Junction event, netting a $137.53 profit.

Ingrained in Mesa County’s culture, it’s no wonder generations of families have helped with JUCO, including two Grand Junction residents — Walt Bergman and Tex Tolman, sons of Buss Bergman and Jay Tolman.

“It’s been a family tradition since the first one,” Walt Bergman said.

Though Walt is tournament director now, he didn’t start out in that position. He worked from the bottom, toiling first as a bat boy for Mesa Junior College and working his way up. His two sons are now involved in JUCO as well, and come from the Front Range every year to help.

Tex Tolman also has a lot to live up to with his dad being one of the founding fathers of JUCO tradition. He’s helped organize field time and batting practice for competing teams since 1972.

“When I was a kid I practiced on the same field they practice on now,” Tolman added.

JUCO acts as a family reunion of sorts for the Tolman family, too. Tex Tolman’s daughter met her husband at JUCO, and they now have children, who are brought to the games.

“It’s amazing how much of a community event it is,” he said. “My father was hoping it would stay that way and I think Jamie Hamilton has done a good job of keeping it where it should be.”


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