The History

QUICKREAD

Q: Who’s won the most JUCO titles?

A: San Jacinto (Texas) College-North has won a record five JUCO World Series championships in a record 18 appearances

Q: Who’s been here the most without winning one?

A: Seminole (Okla.) State College has qualified 16 times but has yet to win the championship. The State College of Florida (formerly Manatee CC) and Indian Hills (Iowa) CC-Centerville are both 0 for 11. The 2010 JUCO champion, Iowa Western, won its first title in 12 tries. On the other end of the spectrum, Howard (Texas) College has won the national title both times it has qualified (1991, 2009).

Q: Did John Elway really come to JUCO?

A: Yes, John Elway made an appearance in 1989, threw out the first pitch and signed countless autographs, so many that the session had to be stopped so he could get to the pitcher’s mound.

Q: When did it go to 10 teams?

A: Originally, the NJCAA national tournament was eight teams. The 1977 JUCO World Series was the first to feature 10 teams, NJCAA Assistant Executive Director Mark Krug said after a check of the files in Colorado Springs.

Q: Why did it expand?

A: The NJCAA membership jumped to 567 in 1976, Krug said, which prompted the expansion of the tournament. Women’s athletics were added, which had the various sports committees talking about adding and expanding national tournaments.

Q: When did JUCO move to Grand Junction?

A: The tournament was first played in Grand Junction in 1959 after one rain-plagued year in Miami, Okla.

Q: How long will it be here?

A: The Grand Junction Baseball Committee and the NJCAA just signed a 25-year contract extension that will keep the tournament here through 2035.

Q: Did Grand Junction ever have a baseball team when it had a junior college?

A: Yes. Mesa Junior College played in 13 JUCO tournaments, first as a host school, but later had to qualify. The Mavericks reached the championship game three times.

Q: Who played at JUCO and went on to be the biggest baseball stars?

A: Kirby Puckett is generally regarded as the biggest star to play in Grand Junction, but he’s not alone. Some of the former JUCO World Series players to hit it big in the show are Adam LaRoche, Jim Leyritz, Travis Hafner, Cliff Lee, Curt Schilling, Donnie Moore, Kevin Ritz, Paul LoDuca, Eric Gagne, John Lackey, Brandon Lyon, Jim Brenneman, Kurt Bevacqua, John Grubb, Ron Cash and Jay Buhner.  For a list of all the former JUCO tournament players to reach the bigs, pick up a copy of this year’s tournament program.

Q: Has any player participated in a JUCO game and returned to Grand Junction as a team coach?

A: Yes. Craig McMurtry played for McLennan (Texas) in 1980 and brought his Temple (Texas) team to the series in 2006 and 2010. McMurtry was also selected to the tournament’s Golden Anniversary team. Grayson (Texas) coach Dusty Hart played third base for Grayson in 1998 and coached the Vikings to the national championship 2008. Hart and Grayson are back this season.

Q: Has there ever been a no-hitter?

A: In 1959, Billy DeBruhl of Wilmington (N.C.) threw the only no-hitter in the tournament’s history.

— Answers compiled from NJCAA records, Daily Sentinel archives, JUCO history files and past programs



The way Bernie Williams played center field for the New York Yankees was, in a way, a work of art.

Big and agile, Williams could cover a lot of ground at Yankee Stadium with ease.

After his baseball career ended, Williams went on to his second career, that of a musician, with that same ease.

“It’s exciting,” JUCO Tournament Chairmain Jamie Hamilton said of Williams agreeing to appear at this year’s tournament banquet. “To get one of those guys who was just at the peak of his career, the dollar amounts (for an appearance fee is usually prohibitive). You cannot pass up something like this.”

Williams, who played center for the Yankees for 16 seasons, retiring in 2006, will talk about both of his carers, baseball and music — he’s now a critically acclaimed guitarist, and has agreed to play a couple of tunes at the banquet.

He grew up in Puerto Rico and fell in love with a flamenco guitar his father brought back from a tour in Spain with the Merchant Marines. He attended a performance school, Escuela Libre de Musica, when he was 13, and excelled in sports and music.

Williams signed a pro baseball contract with the Yankees at 17, but kept his guitar with him, whether it was in the minor leagues or the Yankees’ clubhouse.

He released his first album in 2003, “The Journey Within,” that fused jazz, rock and the tropical music of Puerto Rico. It reached No. 3 on Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz chart.

His second album, “Moving Forward,” had guest appearances by Bruce Springsteen, Jon Secada, Dave Koz and some of the top studio musicians in the business. It debuted at No. 2 on the Contemporary Jazz chart and had two No. 1 singles, “Go For It” and “Ritmo de Otono.”

The album was nominated for a Latin Grammy Award for best instrumental album in 2009.

He’s working on a third album and is also writing a book, “Rhythms of the Game: The Link Between Music and Athletic Performance,” due out in July.

“I saw him perform at a baseball game and went to his website (bernie51.com),” Hamilton said. “I thought it would be neat to get a baseball guy with a little entertainment.”

On the field, Williams was a five-time All-Star and won four Gold Glove awards. He was on four World Series championship teams and was the 1996 American League Championship Series MVP.

He won the 1998 American League batting title and is among the Yankees’ all-time leaders in every major batting category. He has more postseason RBI than any player in Major League Baseball history.

Having a guitar-playing former All-Star as the banquet speaker is a first, and Hamilton is hoping it’ll be a hit with fans.

“We want something different that people can talk about, like people did last year,” Hamilton said. “It should be an exciting night. I think it’ll be different.”


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