Bichette adding to annual JUCO buzz
Former Blake Street Bomber to be banquet speaker
There’s a buzz about the Colorado Rockies this spring, just as there was in 1995 when Dante Bichette was in the midst of a playoff run as part of the “Blake Street Bombers.”
Bichette, one of the original Rockies, will talk about his baseball career on May 26 as the featured speaker at the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series banquet.
“It’s kind of fun to remember the Blake Street Bombers again,” JUCO Tournament Chairman Jamie Hamilton said Monday. “I even forgot how electrifying those games were. I actually do remember watching him hit that walk-off home run in the 14th inning, I remember staying up to watch that.”
The JUCO banquet begins with a social hour at 6 p.m. on May 26 at Two Rivers Convention Center, with dinner at 7 p.m. Tickets for the banquet are $50 each and go on sale April 3 at the JUCO office in the Home Loan building, 205 N. Fourth Street.
The 60th anniversary of the JUCO World Series is May 27-June 3 at Suplizio Field.
Bichette is one of the most popular Rockies of all time, and is still remembered for that 1995 game-winning home run in the inaugural game at Coors Field. Not only was he one of the Rockies’ best power hitters, he had an engaging personality that resonated with fans — and one of the best mullets in the game.
He returned to Colorado in 2013 as the Rockies’ hitting coach for one season, and was featured in a commercial during the club’s 20th anniversary. In the commercial, Bichette schooled young players in proper mullet maintenance, reminding them to “use it before you lose it,” taking off his cap and rubbing his now-bald head.
He was part of a Rockies Caravan in Grand Junction during his career, and has ties to the NJCAA as a player at Palm Beach Junior College (Florida). His club won the 1984 Florida state championship, but Palm Beach lost out to Middle Georgia that year in the Southeastern District playoffs for a JUCO World Series berth.
“Dante, with his relationship with Sam Suplizio, he’s been to Grand Junction and knows the Grand Junction people. Being a junior college guy, it’s the perfect storm for us,” Hamilton said.
“The Rockies have been very smart in how they have the GJ Rockies here, and over the weekend, you saw how the different GJ Rockies guys have been in the lineup (during spring training). People love the Rockies and I think this will continue that great tradition of having good speakers and high-profile MLB guys.”
The trip to Grand Junction will be the second trip back to Colorado this spring for Bichette, who on April 27 will join the other three members of the Blake Street Bombers in the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame.
Bichette made the 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1998 National League All-Star team, won the Silver Slugger award in 1995, when he hit .340. He also hit 40 home runs and drove in 128 runs that season, just missing out on the Triple Crown, and was the runner-up to Barry Larkin of Cincinnati as the National League MVP.
He, Vinny Castilla, Larry Walker and Andres Galarraga formed the Blake Street Bombers and led the Rockies to their first National League playoff appearance in 1995, where they lost to Atlanta in the NL Division Series.
He played seven seasons for the Rockies, hitting .316 in purple pinstripes with 201 home runs and 826 RBI. His Rockies’ batting average is fourth-best in franchise history, tied with Galarraga behind Walker (.334), Todd Helton (.320) and Matt Holliday (.319).
On April 7, 1993, he hit the first home run in Colorado Rockies’ history, a solo home run off Bret Saberhagen of the New York Mets.
His 23-game hitting streak in 1995 is the third-longest in club history, and he hit safely in 25 straight games at Coors that season, tied with Holliday for fourth among Rockies. He was the first Silver Slugger Award winner for Colorado and also the first Rockies player to hit for the cycle (June 10, 1998 against Texas).
He and the other Blake Street Bombers lived up to their reputation — 31 times, Bichette was part of back-to-back home runs for Colorado. Seven times, he hit a home run either before or after Galarraga, and six times he went deep just before Castilla.
Bichette, drafted in 1984 by the California Angels, played 14 years in Major League Baseball, retiring in 2001 with a career .299 average, 274 home runs and 1,141 RBI.
Bichette’s two sons are infielders in the minors, Dante Jr., in the New York Yankees’ organization, and Bo in the Toronto Blue Jays’ system.
“We feel good about it,” Hamilton said of landing Bichette. “It will be a good tie; people will be wearing their (Rockies) garb, and he now has two young men of his own in pro baseball, so that’s another good story, having his own kids in pro ball.”