JUCO players enjoy being buddies for Challenger program

Charlie Nagy, center is congratulated by Howard JUCO players Caleb Nine, left and Brian Hohns after he scored in a challenger softball game at Columbine Park.

The Howard (Texas) College baseball players were eating dinner Wednesday when they were informed theirs was one of the two teams earning the honor of being JUCO buddies for the annual Challenger softball game Thursday.

“They told us it was a lot of fun,” the Hawks’ Ricky Dominguez said, “but we didn’t expect this. It’s great.”

In what has become one of the more popular pre-tournament traditions of the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series, qualifiers Howard and San Jacinto (Texas) College-North got the chance to be buddies for one night with players from the Grand Junction Challenger softball program.

“We do some community service but nothing like this,” Dominguez said as he watched Howard team members posing for pictures during the game with their
Challenger players. “This is a great experience.”

Hunter Hill of Howard couldn’t contain his enjoyment.

“We’re having as much fun as they are,” he said. “If they’re smiling, we’re smiling too.”

Richard Kucel of The Storm, one of the four Challenger teams playing Thursday, was making new friends among the Howard players at Columbine Park.

“I love these guys,” Kucel said. “Without these guys, it wouldn’t be as much fun.”

This is the 11th year the Challenger program has joined with JUCO teams for its annual season-ending game, thanks in large part to the efforts of Carma Brown, who coordinates the event.

“It’s great being out here, having some fun with these kids,” said Danny Hernandez of San Jac. “This really opens your eyes (and) makes you realize how grateful you are.

“It lets you know there’s more to life than just the game. It’s an honor for our team to come out here and do this.”

JUCO Chairman Jamie Hamilton addressed the crowd after the game.

“You need to know that of everything we do with the JUCO World Series, this is the most special thing we do,” Hamilton said.

After a rendition of ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’ by the Challenger players and their JUCO buddies, the Challenger players all received trophies for their participation in the program this year. As a bonus, they all got two tickets to their JUCO buddies’ first tournament game.

“I’ll root for Howard,” Kucel said.

“We’re making new friends in Grand Junction,” Dominguez said.


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