Pool play could add spice to JUCO

I get it; it’s too cold to think about playing baseball in Grand Junction anytime soon.

Thinking “JUCO weather isn’t that far away” helps a bit.

A couple of weeks ago, junior college baseball coaches met during the annual American Baseball Coaches Association convention in Chicago.

The convention is pretty much standard stuff, with a couple of exceptions pertinent to the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.

Bruce Hill, JUCO’s vice chairman of operations, was elected to the NJCAA Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He’ll be inducted during this year’s JUCO banquet.

And, as is the case every couple of years, the 10-team bracket was discussed.

Coaches dislike having two teams eliminated before two teams have played their first-round game. Agreed.

They don’t like the possibility of a coin flip determining a spot in the title game. Agreed, wholeheartedly.

So, the coaches ask, can we go to 12 teams? The more the merrier, they figure.

The earliest any of this could happen is 2015 — if it’s voted on this spring in the NJCAA administrative meeting — but it’s fun to play what-if. Call it JUCO Hot Stove League.

Google being what it is, I searched for “12-team double-elimination tournament” and found PrintYourBrackets.com, which has brackets for about anything you can imagine.

Case in point: Beer pong, up to 128 teams. Single or double-elimination. Blind draw or seeded. Now there’s a claim to fame: I’m the No. 1 seed in Beer Pong XLVII.

Back to baseball. I found a 12-team, 23-game double-elimination bracket.

It calls for four games each of the first four days, which is a whole lotta baseball.

Game 23, on Day 9, is the “if” game, which would be the second Sunday.

That’s the day members of the JUCO Committee re-introduce themselves to their families, take a long nap and get ready to return to their day jobs.

JUCO Chairman Jamie Hamilton and I wondered if pool play would be an option.

Then I did the math. That’s 30 pool-play games, and we still don’t have a champion. Doesn’t quite fit into one week.

A 10-team pool-play tournament, though, with two five-team pools, intrigues me.

There are several scheduling options, including 20 pool games played Saturday through Thursday. Each team gets one day off.

The top two teams in each pool advance to Friday’s semifinals, with a winner-take-all title game Saturday.

Another option is pool play throughout the week, with the pool winners playing Saturday night for the championship.

It keeps teams in town longer (which will increase their expenses, but also increase the money pumped into GJ’s economy) and guarantees them four games.

Coaches would love 12 teams, but they’ve also discussed eight, which works better in a double-elimination setup.

It also opens the possibility of a best-of-three championship series.

It would be a tough sell to drop two teams from the tournament when the coaches are clamoring for expansion. Which districts are combined to cut those two teams?

“With eight, I point out the two weakest regions that are happy to be here even if they ‘2 and Q,’ are going to fight you tooth and nail,” Hamilton said. “(They’ll argue) ‘At least we got a chance to participate, go to the banquet, do the clinics and play. Even if we’re only there 72 hours, at least we got to the World Series.’ “

JUCO notes

Fans can get 10 percent off their reserved tournament passes by purchasing them before Jan. 31.

Reserved Tower section passes are $136.80 ($152 after Jan. 31), with reserved grandstand passes $68.40 ($76 after Jan. 31).

Information: jucogj.org.

The JUCO committee will start meeting in small groups next month, and Hamilton said he hopes to have a banquet speaker secured this month.

Dahl returning to GJ

No, not another season of Rookie ball, but the Pioneer League MVP will be in town next weekend for the Grand Junction Rockies Winter Caravan.

Dahl, front-office personnel and, of course, Corky the Coyote, will meet fans, sign autographs and hand out door prizes Jan. 24–26 across the Western Slope.

Here’s the schedule:

Thursday, Jan. 24: Horsefly Brewing Co., Montrose, 
5–6:30 p.m.; CB’s Tavern, Delta, 7–8:30 p.m.

Friday, Jan. 25: Colorado Mountain College, Rifle, 
5–6:30 p.m.; Big Daddy’s Sports Bar, Glenwood Springs, 
7–8:30 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 26: Rib City Grill, Fruita, 5–6:30 p.m.; Ale House, Grand Junction, 
7–8:30 p.m.

All sessions are free. Information: 970-255-ROCK (255-7625).

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