Almost a dream come true

Former Palisade player Tyler Day returns to JUCO, but injury keeps him from pitching

Blinn College’s Tyler Day is quite familiar with the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series at Suplizio Field because he started coming to the tournament when he was 5 years old and living in Palisade. After his family moved to San Antonio, Day signed with the Buccaneers with the hopes of playing at JUCO. Day was slated to be one of Blinn’s starters, but an injury sidelined him and relegated him to cheerleader for the Bucs at Suplizio Field.

This is the dream that ends just before the good part.

No! No! No! I don’t want to wake up! Come back!

The ending never comes back, even if you immediately fall back asleep.

Tyler Day grew up in the Grand Valley. It’s where:

■ his parents were athletes at Mesa State College, Steve Day playing baseball and Jenny Day playing volleyball for the Mavericks.

■ he attended Palisade High School.

■ he played baseball for the Bulldogs.

■ he went to the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series every year without fail, attending every game he could, from the time his family moved here when he was a preschooler.

Then, his family moved to San Antonio, Texas, because Steve got a job promotion, and Tyler, after playing on the Palisade varsity baseball team as a sophomore and junior, had to start anew at Johnson High School.

Leaving here wasn’t the premature ending.

San Antonio was good to Tyler, who admitted he was bummed to leave Palisade, but “I went down there, and it was like a movie, everything that happened. … So, it was a blessing, and God definitely knew what he was doing.”

His senior season led to Day signing with Blinn College, a junior college in Brenham, Texas, to be a pitcher.

And guess who’s in this year’s JUCO World Series: Blinn.

But guess who isn’t playing because of an arm injury: Tyler Day.

No! No! No! I don’t want to wake up.

Day blossomed into a pitcher good enough to get a scholarship to Stephen F. Austin University this fall. Before playing NCAA Division I baseball, though, he dreamt of coming back to Grand Junction to play at Suplizio Field for the JUCO championship.

Wouldn’t that be cool?

But the right-hander’s throwing shoulder betrayed him in mid-March, and he hasn’t pitched since.

Day said he was throwing against San Jacinto-North (Texas) when “something just didn’t feel right in my shoulder, a lot of grinding and popping to where it felt like it was about to dislocate after every pitch.”

So, he saw a couple of doctors, had a cortisone shot, got an MRI and learned he had “an internal impingement to where it was pinching all kinds of stuff in between my shoulder blade and the ball and socket.”

That ended his season, and that’s a shame, Blinn coach Harvey McIntyre said. He was going to count on Day for a lot of innings this season.

“He’s really emerged,” McIntyre said, adding Day was dazzling during an early season simulated game shortly before the injury. “Man, the ball’s getting out of his hand. I mean, the breaker had some flash to it, and it was kind of like he was getting to where we thought he would be. … He was a big arm for us, and man, you kind of look at that list (of pitchers) and you go, ‘Man, I wish I could have him right now.’ “

Day said he went to physical therapy for about a month, then started a throwing program, and, “I’m healthy now, but I’m not game-ready, so that’s why I’m not throwing while I’m here.”

That’s tough to take, but Day still can smile even if he can’t play. He has an aunt and uncle in Grand Junction who came to the park to see him, as did a bunch of former Palisade High School classmates and family from the Denver area.

“I was beyond thrilled to even be coming here,” he said. “I mean, there’s 10 teams in the entire nation that come. That I could leave two years ago or three years ago and come back as a player is unbelievable. Even though I’m not playing, it’s just a good thing to even get me back here to where I can see my friends and family and be on a team that’s actually competing to hopefully win this thing.” (Blinn lost in an elimination game Wednesday.)

There’s no questioning Day’s sincerity. This tournament has meant more to him for much longer than most players can understand.

He believes he was 5 years old when he attended JUCO for the first time. He went to every game. Then, he did the same the next year, and the next year, and the next year.

“I think I only missed it one year,” Day said, “and it was to go watch (Colorado) Mesa play in the World Series in Cary, North Carolina (in 2009).

“Even last year, I was a freshman at Blinn, we didn’t make it (to JUCO), I still came back and watched. I’ve been coming here since before I can even remember.”

So, the dream was not perfect, but for Tyler Day, something about JUCO always will be.


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