Former Spartanburg (S.C.) coach gets to see the mountains again
The year was 1983, the first year Spartanburg (S.C.) Methodist College made a trip to Grand Junction for the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.
“We had to bring the state flag with us out there,” said Lon Joyce, Spartanburg’s coach from 1978-91. “(JUCO) hadn’t yet had access to any.”
In five years, Joyce brought Spartanburg out of junior college mediocrity and began filling its schedule with teams such as Georgia Tech, Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina.
That was the beginning.
In the end, Joyce had led the Pioneers to seven conference titles, five NJCAA Region 10 championships and two JUCO World Series appearances.
Joyce will be back in Grand Junction tonight for both the World Series and his induction into the NJCAA Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame.
“It’s a great honor,” said Joyce, now a full-time scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The honor will allow Joyce to see the Rocky Mountains for the first time since 1986, the Pioneers’ second World Series appearance. The team flew into Denver, then drove to Grand Junction.
“The players were excited to see the mountains,” Joyce said. “Here the mountains aren’t that high; you don’t see all those high peaks and all that snow out there on top of the mountains.”
Joyce will return to Grand Junction having advanced 115 players from Spartanburg to four-year colleges or universities and 45 players to professional baseball. The most notable player may have been Reggie Sanders, a shortstop with Spartanburg and outfielder for eight teams, including the 2001 World Series champion Arizona Diamondbacks.
Joyce was an affiliated scout for the Dodgers for 11 years (1979-89) and a part-time scout from 1990-91. The Dodgers gave Joyce the Larry Sutton Scout of the Year Award in 2001 and he was the Professional Baseball Representatives Scout of the Year in 2007.
One year later, he was inducted into the Professional Baseball Scouts Hall of Fame.
But scouting — if you listen to Joyce talk about it — isn’t so complicated.
“I think we all look for certain tools,” Joyce said. “Look for guys who can run, guys that can throw, guys with a good arm, good bodies, pitchers that have good frames.”
But only scouts such as Joyce are successful enough to remain a full-time scout for the Dodgers and coach 45 players to the majors.
“Hopefully I had a part and helped develop their baseball skills,” Joyce said, “helping them get better as hitters, better as pitchers, better as defensive players and hopefully, maybe, help them get faster.”