JUCO: Teams struck by GJ’s hospitality

JUCO players check out the JUCO Wall of Fame at Two Rivers Convention Center before the start of the JUCO Banquet.

When the Middle Georgia College baseball team arrived Thursday in Colorado, Dylan Scott was struck by the hospitality.

“The first thing I noticed is everybody here’s so nice,” he said. “They’re so into this thing.”

The thing he was referring to was the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.

The unofficial start of the 52nd annual event drew a capacity crowd Friday night at Two Rivers Convention Center for the pre-tournament banquet.

Nine of the 10 teams were in attendance for the dinner, which featured a keynote address by former major league baseball star Dale Murphy. Western Nevada College didn’t attend the banquet. The players voted not to attend because they will be up early for this morning’s game, according to Tournament Chairman Jamie Hamilton, who expressed his disappointment in one of the team’s skipping the event. Western Nevada opens against Howard.

“Our coach told us it’s a great atmosphere,” said Aaron Rosborough of Seminole State (Okla.) College, “(to) enjoy it, have fun.”

That’s just what Rosborough planned on doing.

After arriving in town around noon Thursday, the Trojans held an indoor practice, then got in one final workout Friday before today’s game at 3 p.m. against Santa Fe (Fla.) College.

Rosborough echoed Scott’s sentiments.

“Everybody’s really nice here,” Rosborough said.

Matt Williams is making his third trip to the JUCO World Series. In 2003, he pitched for Spartanburg (S.C.) Methodist College. Two years ago he was the pitching coach for the Spartanburg team that finished third.

Now he’s back for his second stint as a pitching coach.

Having been here as a player, he knows the emotions his team is experiencing.

“I think they’re real excited to be here,” Williams said. “You never know what it’s about until you get here.”

In fact, the Pioneers, who don’t play their first game until Sunday night, arrived Wednesday.

“(It was) just to (show the players) what it was like,” Williams said.

Williams has fond memories of his two previous trips to Grand Junction.

“They’ll never forget that,” he said of this year’s team’s experience.  “I never forgot it as a player.”

Four Howard (Texas) College players hail from New Jersey. As the team was riding through Colorado, one of the coaches called them out.

“Hey Jersey boys,” the coach said. “Look at the mountains.”

Arriving in Colorado has been a goal of the team since it lost its only two games of the regional tournament last year.

“Just to make it to Grand Junction is great,” Howard’s Jon Castillo said. “I’d rather have the first game just to show a point. We’re here for business.”


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