JUCO honors Franke as Home Run Alley Hero

Grand Junction Baseball Inc. was coming to a crossroads with the National Junior College Athletic Association and the World Series tournament 14 years ago.

That’s when Alpine Bank stepped forward, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Alpine Bank Regional President and former Grand Junction branch President Norm Franke is being recognized for his part in keeping the JUCO World Series in Grand Junction. Tuesday, he was inducted into the Grand Junction Baseball Home Run Alley Heroes during a ceremony before the start of the night game during the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series at Suplizio Field.

Franke stepped forward “during a time when we were feeling the pressure of expenses,” JUCO tournament Chairman Jamie Hamilton said. “It was a situation where we were looking for a major sponsor. Norm and his organization at that time gave us a five-year commitment. He’s always been there. Now, we give scholarships out every year because of him.”

Alpine Bank has been the title sponsor of the JUCO World Series since 1999. It recently extended its contract through 2016.

Franke agreed to extend the contract to help Grand Junction keep the JUCO World Series in Grand Junction for another 25 years when Grand Junction Baseball Inc., the nonprofit organization that organizes and runs the JUCO World Series, renewed its contract with the NJCAA a couple of years ago.

“I think we got the attention of the NJCAA that Grand Junction was serious about (the World Series),” Franke said of the reason Alpine Bank sponsors the event. “It’s been one of the long-term events. There’s been an economic benefit for Grand Junction by it staying here.”

Franke served as the Grand Junction Alpine Bank president for 22 years before being promoted to regional president in January. He is currently leading the expansion of its banking services in Denver.

Clay Tufly is now the Grand Junction branch president and has been involved in the tournament this year.

“I spoke to Norm (about the transition to a new president),” Hamilton said. “You can never say nothing’s going to change. Clay is energized and is committed to do whatever is needed to keep GJ on the map. I’m pleased with his energy.”

Franke is the 19th inductee into the Home Run Alley Heroes and second sponsorship-related inductee. Former Clarion Inn and Holiday Inn General Manager Lynne Sorlye was inducted last year. The hotel has served as tournament headquarters and has provided rooms for teams for more than 35 years.

The names of the inductees are on large baseball plaques hanging above the left-field bleachers at Suplizio Field.


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