New balls, new bats, new website will be on display for JUCO this year

Once the American Baseball Coaches Association convention is over, it becomes JUCO season for Jamie Hamilton.

The tournament chairman of the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series starts gearing up for May once the convention ends in early January after catching up with coaches he’s met over the years.

The JUCO contingent hosts a luncheon for coaches and meets with them about issues concerning the tournament, and, as usual, the discussion came up about the 10-team tournament during the convention in Dallas.

Many coaches want to expand to 12 teams, with a counterproposal for an eight-team bracket, which eliminates the unbalanced schedule that 10 teams cause.

He laughed that every year the coaches get younger, and it’s a matter of educating them about the tournament.

“It proves to me once again somebody from here has to be there because those 27-year-olds go, ‘How do you spell Grand Junction?’ ” Hamilton said, laughing.

The biggest issues this year for junior college baseball are new sponsorships the NJCAA signed with bat and baseball companies, going with Marucci bats and Spalding baseballs.

“It’s the new era, new bats and new balls and the guys (from) 30 years of doing business is now new,” Hamilton said of the relationships the tournament committee had built with Easton and Rawlings representatives over the years.

Tony LaRussa, who has signed on to speak at this year’s JUCO banquet, also spoke at the convention, and Hamilton said he was “spellbound” by the soon-to-be Hall of Fame manager.

New JUCO website

The JUCO World Series launched its redesigned website Tuesday at jucogj.org.

The site was built by Sidearm Sports, which specializes in college athletic sites and designed Colorado Mesa University’s website. The new site is easier for fans to navigate and will allow for seamless updates with statistics and live stats during games.

The site, which will have a mobile version, includes a ticker with updated scores and links to the current game being played.

Jermaine Williams and David Jahnke, the official scorers for JUCO, and Patti Arnold, the tournament’s media liaison, collaborated on the site’s design and will manage the site year-round.

“I love it,” Hamilton said. “I think it’s great. We can add so much stuff to it. It’s what we need to do in this day and age. ... I feel great about it.”

Quick coaching change

Joey Seaver was the pitching coach at Walters State for 14 years before being promoted to head coach last summer when longtime skipper Ken Campbell retired.

Six months later, the Senators have a new head coach, before Seaver could even fill out his first lineup card. Seaver was hired last week as the pitching coach for the Texas Rangers’ Arizona Rookie League team.

David Shelton, who was promoted to associate head coach last summer, got another promotion, to head coach of the Senators, who won the 2006 JUCO World Series title and reached the tournament last season.

Shelton had been an assistant with Campbell and Seaver the past 10 years.

Rardin a national coach

Iowa Western coach Marc Rardin will coach the NJCAA national baseball team this summer.

The all-star team plays a series against teams from other countries, and one year it played a team from Japan in Grand Junction. The dates and site of the series have yet to be determined.

Right now, Rardin is concentrating on getting the Reivers back to Grand Junction after not qualifying last season.

“Not making it for one year really feels like we haven’t been there for 10 years,” Rardin said in an email.

Hall of Famer

Cowley County (Kan.) Community College coach Dave Burroughs will be inducted into the Kansas Baseball Hall of Fame on Jan. 25. Burroughs, who led the Tigers to the JUCO World Series title in 1997 and 1998, has won more than 1,000 games at Cowley.

New look for Murry

If Neosho County (Kan.) qualifies for JUCO this year, fans might not recognize coach Steve Murry. The popular coach developed a kidney stone last summer, and as he was being treated for that, he was diagnosed with diabetes.

Murry immediately changed his diet and exercise regimen and has lost 80 pounds in six months.

Birmingham on national staff

Former New Mexico Junior College head coach Ray Birmingham, now the head coach at the University of New Mexico, will be on USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team staff this summer as the hitting coach.

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