Casey welcomes fans to the Lincoln Park Sports Complex
The Lincoln Park sports complex has been around for years, growing from a quaint baseball field with some wooden bleachers and an adjoining football field with a cinder track and more wooden bleachers into what you see today.
Look around and you’ll see monuments to people throughout the park.
Front and center is Casey at the Bat, a 7-foot bronze statue of the legendary slugger of baseball poetry, standing on a concrete base. Casey was purchased by the JUCO Committee in 1989 and stood near the old first-base stands.
JUCO Committee member Tillie Bishop saw a smaller replica of Casey at a Sculpture in the Park show in Loveland in 1988 and decided it would be a great addition to the stadium.
Bishop and Sam Suplizio, the longtime JUCO tournament chairman, went to Vail to see a 14-foot Casey statue and after learning it came with a $200,000 price tag, they opted for a smaller version.
Sculpted by Loveland artist Mark Lundeen, Casey had to be carefully moved during construction of the new Lincoln Park Tower. His temporary residence, complete with a bright-orange safety vest, was under the right-field bleachers until the project neared completion.
Casey now greets fans at the south entrance of the stadium and is bound to be the centerpiece for dozens of photos taken by JUCO players and fans this week.
The year after Casey moved into the stadium, the Lincoln Park baseball field was named for Suplizio, Grand Junction’s “Mr. Baseball,” in a surprise ceremony the day before the 1990 JUCO World Series began.
A triangular-shaped pillar with a plaque for Suplizio Field and one for Stocker Stadium, named for former Parks and Recreation director Ralph “Red” Stocker, was erected at the stadium entrance.
After Casey was moved, the two plaques were mounted into brick pillars at the entrance to the respective stadiums.
Those, however, aren’t the only memorials in the stadium.
A “Broncos Country” stone structure holds flags at the football stadium, which was placed after the Denver Broncos helped fund a project to install stadium turf on the football field.
The stone wall that holds three flagpoles on the east side of the entrance is in memory of Maxie Carroll, a longtime resident of Grand Junction who helped establish the American Legion baseball program in Grand Junction and coached the Legion team for 25 years. A World War II veteran, Carroll coached the Legion team to the 1953 state championship and helped coach countless players at the youth, high school and semi-pro level. After his death in 1984, fellow veterans and sports friends of Carroll’s had the stone memorial built at the ballpark and dedicated it on Veteran’s Day in 1984. It remained in place throughout construction.
For several years, near the Casey statue between the two stadiums was a stone-encased water fountain in memory of Bob Evans, donated by his wife, in 1988.
When Bob Evans died, the family requested donations in his name to the Parks and Recreation Department, and decided a water fountain for players and fans was a fitting memorial for the longtime fan and former ballplayer.
The water fountain was removed during construction, but the plaque honoring Evans was kept and will be placed near near a new water fountain on the north end of the concourse.
On the locker room facility on the north end of the stadium is a plaque in recognition of the partners who worked on that project, and two new plaques were added to the tower.
One plaque embedded in the Tower at ground level recognizes the partnership that built the latest addition, and another is in the press level explaining the history of the old pressbox, which was named for former City Council member Reford Theobold in 2002. The plaque also honors the memory of longtime radio announcer Gene Rozelle, known as “The Voice of JUCO” for three decades.
A booth on the baseball side of the pressbox is named the “Gene Rozelle Broadcast Booth” and will be used by KTMM Radio during the tournament.