Home Run Alley Heroes honored by JUCO
Home Run Alley Heroes was formed to recognize major contributors to baseball and the community in the Grand Valley.
So this year as Grand Junction celebrates the 60th annual Alpine Bank Junior College World Series, it’s fitting that two of this year’s inductees have had an involvement spanning back to the event’s earliest days, with another providing financial stability to help insure the tournament’s longevity in Grand Junction.
Four people were recognized prior to Friday night’s game between Chipola College (Florida) and San Jacinto College-North (Texas), at Suplizio Field.
Buford Butcher helped provide Boy Scout color guards for every night game — and sometimes every game — for more than four decades. Jim Hanks was part of the first Mesa College baseball team to host JUCO in 1959 and left a baseball legacy behind him. Jim and Evelyn Davis, whose philanthropy in the community and to JUCO, were also recognized.
The Home Run Alley Heroes recognition is something JUCO Chairman Jamie Hamilton deemed necessary for the inductees — even though some of those honored didn’t want it.
“All we’re trying to do with this event is make a lot of people have a great experience,” Hamilton said. “It’s about filling these stands for these student athletes who’ve hardly played in front of 100 people much less 10,000 people.”
Butcher dedicated his life to the Boy Scouts of America and was a Boy Scout and Cub Scout master in Grand Junction for more than 40 years prior to his death on March 11 of this year. In recent tournaments, he’d orchestrate a formation of Boy Scout and Cub Scout troops to display his collection of 15 flags, which included a 48-star United States flag. Past tournaments saw his scouts present flags for every JUCO game.
“It is my honor to be here for him,” said J.R. Benson, a member of the Western Colorado council for the Boy Scouts of America who knew Butcher for 15 years. “Buford to me was a very close friend. He meant a lot to us, and so does this honor.”
Hamilton said Hanks’ recognition came thanks to the legacy of baseball and educators he left behind. Hanks’ nephew, Chris, is Colorado Mesa University’s baseball coach, and his children, Jim, Andy and Jennifer, are all school principals. They followed in their father’s footsteps: Jim Hanks was a long-time principal at Meeker High School.
He played at Mesa College on the Mavericks’ 1959 JUCO team. After he left Mesa, his children said, he played baseball at Colorado College and pitched both games of a doubleheader against Colorado State College (now Northern Colorado), pitching one game with his right arm and the other with his left.
“To be here is a way for us all to honor him as a family,” said Jim, the oldest of the three siblings who joined several other family members during a pregame ceremony. “It brings us all together.”
The $75,000 contribution the Davis family provided to JUCO helped fund the video board installed at Suplizio Field prior to this year’s tournament. Hamilton said it covered the fundraising shortage the JUCO committee had to reach the $210,000 price tag needed to complete the project.
But Hamilton said the recognition went far beyond the Davis family’s donation to the tournament. It ranged from their contributions to Colorado Mesa to time spent contributing to the Grand Junction Lion’s Club.
“They’re those quiet people who never want to be recognized,” Hamilton said. “It was hard for me to get them to allow us to recognize them today. They said to me, ‘Nah. We don’t need that.’ My response was, ‘Well, yeah you do.’ ”