JUCO Q&A: The Fun

Mr. JUCO was an immediate hit with fans when he burst into his first game in 2007, just in time for the golden anniversary of the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.

The tournament mascot makes his rounds during games, almost always with youngsters running behind him. His giant baseball head, cradled in an even bigger baseball glove, attracts a crowd wherever he goes.

I tried to get an interview with Mr. JUCO. Honest.

Problem is, Mr. JUCO doesn’t talk. He doesn’t do interviews.

The next best thing, though, is having experienced what it’s like to be Mr. JUCO.

A little backstory is needed: The Daily Sentinel has a costume contest every Halloween. The newsroom rarely participates; you never know how people will react to a reporter dressed as a member of Kiss.

Last October, I was going to be in the office all day, so why not?

I’ve got the greatest idea EVER! A quick text to my connection, and I’ve got my costume all lined up; just have to pick it up the next morning.

I’ll be Mr. JUCO!

I never knew how much goes into getting suited up to be Grand Junction’s favorite giant baseball glove.

Mr. JUCO lives in two giant red cases — one just for his head.

The cases filled the back end of my Forester, and I rummaged through the duffel bag that held his jersey, hands, pants, socks and the shoes — the giant baseball cleats (without the spikes, thankfully).

After a few minutes of trying to figure out how to assemble Mr. JUCO, I decided against the shoes ... I’m enough of a klutz on the stairs without size 40s tripping me up.

I finally decided to just wear the jersey, his big red gloves and, of course, the head.

I grabbed the jersey, then unzipped the big red case.

There he was, grinning back at me — Mr. JUCO.

I stepped inside the building and quickly suited up before anyone came around the corner.

I was Mr. JUCO.

There’s something about being a mascot that just makes people smile. With an escort in tow — that head can throw you off balance — I visited every department in the building.

Never said a word, because, as you know, Mr. JUCO doesn’t talk. He just smiles and waves, poses for pictures with every little kid who comes up to give him a hug or a high-five — and he runs the bases. How he can do that is beyond me, but after an hour in only half the costume, let me tell you, Mr. JUCO is da man.

I smiled that big baseball-face smile and waved, patted people on the back, gave them a hug, posed for pictures and handed out candy (not easy with those gloves, by the way).

I made my rounds and managed to get a little work done, even with Mr. JUCO’s head bobbing back and forth.

After a while, the sweat started to run down my face. Mr. JUCO needed to take a break.

His head sat in a chair next to my desk, just in case any little kids came by.

Richie Ann Ashcraft, our mobile journalist, asked if I would put the head back on when she brought her kids by after school.

“Soren loves Mr. JUCO,” she said.

Unfortunately, I had to go to football practice (sans Mr. JUCO), but said I’d be happy to volunteer someone else to take my place ... although I got no takers.

I left Mr. JUCO perched in the chair, and when Richie and the boys came in, I hear they didn’t run right to the candy bowl. Nope, they spied Mr. JUCO.

Soren insisted on putting on the head, even though it probably weighs more than he does.

How many 4-year-olds can say they’ve been Mr. JUCO?

I thought for sure my getup would at least get me in the top five in our costume contest. C’mon, the sports editor dressed as the JUCO mascot? What could be better than that?

One vote.

Guess I should have worn the shoes.

# # #

Q: Is the track open during games?
A: “Sure. Just watch your head. It’s open all the time and it’s lighted, so even at night people can walk. They go in the gate by the (Lincoln Park) barn.” — Rob Schoeber, director, Grand Junction Parks and Recreation Department

Q: What do the teams do if they aren’t playing? 
A: “A little bit of everything. We’ve taken them over the (Colorado National) monument, to Grand Mesa, those are the two big ones. A lot depends on the coach. Some of the kids from Florida might not have ever seen snow, so they’ll go to the mesa. Sometimes the hosts will have (picnics) at their homes, including the club barbecue. They all do some type of get-together for the team, parents, athletic director. Most of those happen on Saturday or Sunday unless they’re in the bye bracket and you know they’re going to be here a little longer. By the time they’ve played three or four games, lounging around the motel is as good as anything.” — Lee Young, chairman of the hosts committee

Q: How many pounds of fireworks are used on Monday night?
A: Night Musik of Denver uses an electronic firing system that makes for a safer, crisper show.
“Generally we shoot off 500 shells and then probably another 15 round displays. We always put together the American flag (display).” — Gary Carr, entertainment committee
There is one significant change in Monday’s parking situation: On Memorial Day, the grass lot behind the left-field bleachers will be open parking. The fireworks will be shot from the golf course driving range, allowing fans to safely park in the grass lot. The driving range at Lincoln Park Golf Course will close at noon on May 30.

Q: How do they pick the national anthem singers?
A: There are open tryouts every year, usually in early March.

“We had about 40 this year. We’ve had tryouts for 10 years but we’ve gotten more sophisticated with it, going two nights instead of one and we’ve gotten better media coverage, so word gets out.” — Errol Snyder,  entertainment committee chairman. He, Gary Carr and Paul Nelson select the singers.

The rules are simple: Anyone can try out, solo or groups. “Primarily, it’s their ability to sing the straightest version a cappella they can,” Carr said.

Thirteen are selected and there is a list of alternates. There’s one singer for the first game of each day and every night game. “The younger kids who don’t have a lot of experience but have a good voice, we’ll give them the day game so they can get a feel for what it’s like before we put them in front of 10,000 people,” Carr said.

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