Controversial comments lead to JUCO dropping Schilling as speaker
The Alpine Bank Junior College World Series is the biggest sports event in Grand Junction every year. Tens of thousands of fans, 10 teams from across the nation and some fantastic baseball for more than a week every spring.
One thing JUCO has never had is controversy. That changed in 2016.
Baseball legend Curt Schilling was signed, sealed but never delivered as the keynote speaker for the highly attended JUCO banquet the night before the first game.
Schilling was a huge name and would have been a big draw for the JUCO banquet. A packed house was expected to listen to the former pitcher who had fantastic seasons with the Boston Red Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks. World Series memories, bloody sock stories, the evils of smokeless tobacco and more would have all been on the agenda when he spoke.
Making controversial statements and social media posts led to Schilling grabbing headlines across the nation in a different way as JUCO approached.
The Grand Junction Baseball Committee decided to cancel Schilling’s appearance at JUCO after he was fired by ESPN because of comments he made on his Facebook page regarding transgender rights.
The committee released a statement about the decision: “After careful consideration and in keeping with the mission to make this the best possible experience for the more than 400 student-athletes, coaches and fans in attendance at the banquet, the committee determined this was the correct decision.”
Predictably, the decision, which was made 35 days before the banquet, was met with both support and anger. JUCO Tournament Chairman Jamie Hamilton was the target of much of the backlash but he never backed down from believing the decision was the correct one, which came after consulting with members of the leadership team and the National Junior College Athletic Association.
Hamilton’s main focus was to not distract from the teams and the players who earned the right to come to Grand Junction and battle for a national championship.
“This tournament is about memories, we don’t want that memory for all those players to be, ‘That was the year Curt Schilling was here,’ ” Hamilton said. “It’s a distraction we don’t want to have.”
It was a rough month for Hamilton, who’s in his 30th year with JUCO.
“It’s a bump in the road, but we’re still going to have a great banquet,” Hamilton said a few weeks after the decision. “We’re in our 59th year, so in baseball terms, 58 out of 59 without any problems, is a pretty good batting average.”
The JUCO committee still had to honor Schilling’s contract, which made it difficult to find and fund another banquet speaker.
Ultimately, Hamilton and the committee decided to not bring in a keynote speaker for the 2016 JUCO banquet.
Even if the attendance was down a little, for many people who attended the banquet, the consensus was that it was still a great banquet with Hamilton serving as emcee.
In an ironic twist, Yavapai Community College (Arizona) won the JUCO title with a 5-2 win over San Jacinto College-North (Texas).
Thirty years ago, Schilling played for Yavapai and a reunion was planned for Grand Junction for players to celebrate that team. It was cancelled after Schilling was dropped as keynote speaker.