Interstate 70 closure delays JUCO arrival for some teams
It’s all part of making adjustments on the field, or in this case, on the road.
Spartanburg (S.C.) Methodist College baseball coach Tim Wallace talked to his bus driver Wednesday morning in Denver before the Pioneers boarded the bus to Grand Junction, where they open play Saturday in the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.
The driver had heard of the wreck that closed Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon and thought they might have to change course.
“He was staying in touch,” Wallace said about noon Wednesday. The Pioneers, who earlier in the day moved to No. 1 in the nation in the final NJCAA poll, were in Steamboat Springs eating lunch. “We came down out of the tunnel and just before we got to Frisco we pulled off somewhere. We’ve wound around and we’re in Steamboat now; we’ll be (in Grand Junction) about 4, I guess.”
At first, Wallace talked about pulling over in Frisco to see if the canyon would be reopened soon.
“I thought we’ll just walk around Frisco and do whatever, and then I said, ‘What the heck, let’s just detour it and go,’ ” he said.
Neosho County (Kan.) Community College’s bus had reached Eagle about noon.
“We’re stuck,” Neosho coach Steve Murry said. “Right now we’re sitting in Eagle, and I guess we’re coming up to a grand halt for something like 35 miles.”
When he heard the delay could be lengthy to clean diesel fuel and make repairs, it didn’t take long for him to decide to stop looking for a trail for the players to hike.
“I’ll talk to my driver and get him charted out,” he said. “We’re in Eagle eating, but we’ll get them back on the bus and go the other way.”
The canyon was reopened at 1:30 Wednesday afternoon.
Connors State (Okla.) College’s team spent Tuesday night in Limon and was detoured to Steamboat Springs, too.
“We were making good time, but yeah, we’re seeing different country anyway,” coach Perry Keith said. “It’s OK; we could be in there backed up.”
Keith got a phone call from someone at the Quality Inn, where the team is staying during the tournament, alerting him of the wreck.
“He said they might get it cleaned up, but we didn’t hear anything until they detoured us,” Keith said. “We got within about 60 miles and we were going to stop and eat, and I said we’ll call here in a minute, and before you knew it, they were detouring us.”
The Cowboys left Oklahoma just after tornadoes did extensive damage in Oklahoma City and Moore. Keith said all of the players’ families are safe. Warner is about an hour and 45 minutes from Moore, he said.
“Horrible. Horrible,” Keith said of the destruction. “There’s a little town north of us, about five, 10 miles, and they blew the sirens there. About 5 or 5:30 (Monday evening), it got pitch dark when that big cloud came through, but (the tornado) had already gone back up, and we didn’t get anything from it.”
Some of Wednesday’s practice times had to be switched at the last minute, but the teams just rolled with the latest punch.
“The ride’s great, the view’s great,” Wallace said. “I’ve seen a moose, I’ve seen a bighorn ... it’s a red-letter day!”
Youth clinic today
The 11th annual JUCO youth clinic, with members of the teams serving as instructors, is from 5:30-7:30 p.m. today at Suplizio Field.
The clinic, sponsored by JUCO and the American Baseball Coaches Association, is free for all boys and girls ages 12 and younger.
The kids at the clinic go through 10 stations, ranging from pitching, catching, hitting and base running. Each child at the clinic will receive a free T-shirt and can receive autographs from the players.
While the youth clinic is going on at Suplizio Field, three teams — Spartanburg, Navarro (Texas) College and Midland (Texas) College — will serve as “buddies” for the Challenger Little League baseball teams from 5-7 p.m. today at Canyon View Park.
It’s the traditional season-ending game for the special-needs players, and it has become a highlight of the trip for the JUCO teams that participate.
The public is welcome to attend the Challenger games, played on the softball diamonds.