Master motivator: Suplizio Field’s atmosphere excites juco players in stands

Suplizio Field's atmosphere excites juco players in stands

Troy Owen, right, and Connor Hayden watch Western Nevada College play Cisco (Texas) College on Sunday during the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series at Suplizio Field. Owen is a member of the Seward County (Kan.) Communty College team that had hopes of making it to Grand Junction, and said he couldn’t imagine playing at such an incredible facility.

Troy Owen sat in the stands at Suplizio Field over the weekend and thought, “What if?”

What if his baseball team had played better in the Central District subregional?

What if Seward County (Kan.) Community College had advanced to the district final four?

What if he was on the field instead of sitting in the stands?

“We were the No. 1 seed on our side of the region,” said Owen, who was a freshman catcher for Seward. “We went out in two games.”

“This doesn’t make it much easier,” said his high school buddy, Connor Hayden, as they watched Western Nevada College play Cisco (Texas) College on Sunday.

Seward County went 0-2 in the subregional, losing to eighth-seeded Allen County 15-11 in 10 innings and then heading home after being drubbed 13-4 by Colby County.

Instead of going to Wichita for the district tournament, as the host team, they had to watch Coffeyville win the subregional on the Saints’ home field.

Owen and Hayden, who attends Colorado State University, played baseball together at Standley Lake High School. Owen played in 22 games as a freshman, hitting .214 with 11 RBI and seven doubles. He injured his right elbow and will have an MRI this week when he goes home to determine if he tore the ulnar collateral ligament and needs Tommy John surgery.

Watching the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series for the first time since he “was real little” makes him eager to get back to school in the fall.

“It really motivates you coming out and seeing this,” Owen said. “It makes you want to go out (on the field).”

He’s taking plenty of photos on his phone and sending them to his teammates, letting them know what they missed.

“It’s crazy. This many people and the atmosphere is nuts,” Owen said. “I can’t even imagine playing here.”

The Central District champion, Neosho County, won its first game of the World Series on Saturday with Owen watching from the third-base line.

“They small-balled them,” he said of Neosho’s 11-3 win Saturday over Spartanburg Methodist (S.C.). “They knew how to play in the wind because we play in it all the time. It was like home for them.”

Hayden’s father and uncle grew up in Grand Junction, and although they’ve since moved, they make it a point to come back every year for the long holiday weekend and have a guys’ weekend with their dad. Now that Connor isn’t playing summer baseball, he’s joined the group.

“He graduated from high school last year and had a lot of graduation parties and didn’t want to miss those,” Connor’s dad, Darren Hayden, said. “But he said now that he’s not playing he’d like to come with me.”

And next year, they hope to be watching Owen on the field.

“From the beginning, before every practice, we broke the huddle and yelled, ‘Junction,’ ” Owen said. “All the time. We talked about it all the time.”

So, is he pulling for Neosho, or is it hard to root for another team from the Central District?

“Yeah, for our region’s sake, why not?” he said. “Have another Jayhawk (Conference) team win it.”


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