Bill Fanning Classic gets prep baseball season started

Photo by Gretel Daugherty—As Wayne Landini, bottom, of the Fruita Monument baseball team ties his shoe before practice, he finds himself an impromtu desk for Shannon Reynolds, whose shoulders work for Alex Mende, who provides a flat surface for Jake Williams, whose back is perfect for Ryan Mixon to fill out team picture paperwork on.

The first weekend in March means one thing for the local baseball teams: it’s time for the Bill Fanning Classic.

Beginning today, three straight days of baseball fill Suplizio Field and Canyon View Park.

Grand Junction, Fruita Monument and Central will each play three games. Palisade plays two and Montrose plays one on Friday.

“This is an opportunity to play a lot of games at home,” Fruita Monument coach Ray McLennan said. “You get to work on some things and we are excited to play.”

Class 4A teams Golden, Elizabeth and Woodland Park are in the field, as well as Class 5A Coronado.

McLennan said no matter who the Front Range teams are, he always expects competitive baseball.

“We expect to go into this thing and have three good games like we did last year,” McLennan said. “You don’t know about these teams, but we know they are going to probably be three good teams.”

Fruita opens with Coronado, then plays Elizabeth and Golden.

For the Wildcats’ senior Cody Bell, the Fanning is one of his favorite times of the year because it is the first time the teams get to play at the two baseball fields in town.

“The first time you step on the field, it brings back all the good memories,” Bell said. “This is one of the most fun times of the year, but these are important games because they can dictate the season.”

The Fanning not only provides the more experienced players an opportunity to knock off some rust, it also serves as the first time for some underclassmen to see their first varsity action.

“This is a time to play a lot of guys but at the same time you want to establish some roles and establish where you are going to go for the season,” McLennan said.

Most importantly for all of the teams, the Fanning Classic provides a chance to see a variety of pitchers.

“It is like football, where you practice in the beginning and you are bumping heads with your own guys all the time. It is fun to go bump heads with someone else,” McLennan said. “It is the same for a hitter. You are used to your own pitching, so it is nice to go out and see someone else.”


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