Mavs enjoying experience at World Series in Cary, N.C.
CARY, N.C. — Chris Hanks is experiencing the feeling all over again.
The Mesa State College baseball coach is back in a World Series again for the first time since he played in the 1988 Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.
This time, Hanks is coaching Mesa State College in the NCAA Division II World Series this week at the USA Baseball National Training Complex.
“It’s been a good experience,” Hanks said. “The field is beautiful, the hospitality has been great and our players have been dialed in. We’ll try to keep it going.”
The Mavericks, who won their first game in the Division II World Series, are playing Emporia State (Kan.) University at 3 p.m. (MDT) today at the four-plex facility.
The eight teams in the tournament have each played one game in front of an average attendance of 555 people. The Mavericks have played in front of the largest crowd of 762.
Hanks played in front of nearly 10,000 for the College of Southern Idaho in the JUCO World Series.
“There isn’t quite the same fanfare, but this is the first time this has been held here,” Hanks said. “That obviously makes a difference, but in terms of a location and venue, I think (the NCAA) got it right. The facilities are just fantastic. Everything is professionally done, but that’s pretty common with the NCAA and how they do things.
“It’s a little different setup with JUCO. The NCAA controls everything with their championships, where the NJCAA basically turns it over to the city of Grand Junction and the JUCO Committee. The NCAA has their hand in everything. They have a cookie-cutter mold they use. You can feel that NCAA presence, that’s for sure.”
The USA Baseball National Training Complex was built two years ago in hopes of luring the USA baseball program to Cary.
The $13.5 million facility was built to Major League Baseball specifications where a pond used to be located, facility director Chris Duty said.
“The World Series has a great impact on the town,” Duty said. “We look forward to hosting this tournament for many years to come if the NCAA will have us.”
The four fields are busy with USA baseball training and practices from June 15 to Labor Day, but USA baseball rents it out for tournaments and parks and recreation leagues.
The facility is surrounded by pine and Fraser Fir trees along the East side of the complex, creating an echo effect when fans cheer or when a bat makes contact with a ball.
The field is at a lower level than the stands and concourse, creating fan-friendly viewing.
The facility hosted the University of North Carolina games last year while the Tar Heels’ ballpark was being renovated.
The Division II World Series was in Sauget, Ill., last year and Montgomery, Ala., for 21 years before that.“I was telling my wife yesterday, I’m having every bit the experience, if not better,” Hanks said. “The number of people in the stands doesn’t matter. It’s an intense
environment, the games are highly important. The stuff outside the lines doesn’t matter.
You’re playing great teams. It’s a good experience for me and the players, I know.”