‘Dream come true’
Connors State's Korey Keith makes return trip to JUCO World Series, this time as a player
As a wide-eyed 11-year-old, Korey Keith made his first trip to Grand Junction in 2003 for the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.
As the son of longtime Connors State (Okla.) College baseball coach Perry Keith, Korey had always been around baseball, so it was easy to fit right in.
Generally viewed as part of the team, Korey sat in the dugout, signed autographs and soaked in the experience.
Being around a program that had made four JUCO trips before qualifying in 2013 — three after Korey was born — gave him the ability to dream big and provided the tools to achieve that dream. Korey had made three trips to Grand Junction, and he wanted to return as a player for the Cowboys.
He got that opportunity this year as a sophomore designated hitter and first baseman.
“He’s been around this program since he could walk,” Perry Keith said. “He’s grown up around this program. It’s really all he’s ever known. I’ve had program alums that have watched him grow up. So, it’s been great to see the calls and texts he’s gotten from them now that he has the opportunity to be here as a player. They’re as excited as anyone to see him do this. I told him, ‘You’re not just riding the bus this time, you’re playing with us now.’ “
Korey isn’t just the coach’s kid, he’s been one of the offensive leaders of a Cowboys squad that finished the season 53-11 and led the nation in RBI entering this year’s JUCO World Series.
With a .429 batting average, seven home runs, 56 RBI and 65 runs, Korey said his stellar season was motivated, in part, to make a return trip to Grand Junction.
“I told the guys in August how awesome of an event this is,” Korey said. “It’s been something I’ve been telling them for a while. Now that I’m finally here, it’s a dream come true.
“I’ve always been in the dugout, and it’s a lot different now that I’m out there. I feel like some of these guys might be a little shocked by the amount of people here, but I feel like being here before has prepared me for it.”
Perry said it is special to be coaching his son, especially during such a strong season, and it’s easy to treat him like any other player.
“You know, at one point this season he hit a home run, and he had already rounded third before it really hit me,” Perry said. “It’s easy to treat him like any other player, but he had already rounded third before I realized it was my son.
“Sometimes, in my shoes, you don’t really have time to appreciate it, and a lot of time he’s one of the guys. Sometimes I really have to step back and be like, ‘Wow, that’s my son.’ It’s after the fact when you can really sit back and savor it a bit.”
Korey finished the tournament 5 for 9 with three runs and an RBI.
Tuesday’s 3-1 loss to Cochise (Ariz.) College ended Connors State’s season and Korey’s career with the Cowboys, but he will continue playing baseball somewhere this fall. A handful of four-year programs have shown interest in him, but Korey has delayed making a decision while pursuing the same single-minded goal he’s had since he was 11 years old — playing for his father at Connors State and traveling one more time to Grand Junction.
“I haven’t really talked about where I’m going yet to anyone, no sir,” Korey said. “I tell everyone I have 10 or 15 offers, but I really want to finish (at Connors) first.”