Hurst Otto has been there from the start.
The retired optometrist was one of the 12 original JUCO Committee members who brought the National Junior College World Series to Grand Junction and is the lone remaining original member on the committee today.
That is ending, though.
Otto, 84, is retiring from the committee after this year’s tournament for personal reasons.
“He’s one of a kind; a wealth of information,” said Lee Young, who has worked directly with Otto for the past 15 years on the host committee. “We certainly enjoy having him around. There’s always a place for Hurst at the table. We encourage him when he feels up for it.”
The original committee traveled to Hutchinson, Kan., to make a presentation to convince the NJCAA to bring its national baseball tournament to Grand Junction.
Grand Junction first received it on a trial basis and was then awarded a five-year contract.
Otto, who was the director of the Grand Junction Parks Improvement Advisory Board for 23 years, served mostly on the team hosts sub-committee, which organizes the service clubs with the teams to help the teams get around Grand Junction and find things to do with down time.
“I’m honored to say the least,” Otto said of his opportunity to serve on the JUCO Committee. “I enjoyed it. There have been some amazing changes.”
Local businesses were the first team hosts before the service clubs got involved.
Redlands Mesa Lions Club has participated as a host for 40 years, Otto said.
The service clubs routinely spend thousands of dollars entertaining the teams with trips over Colorado National Monument and Grand Mesa and hosting team barbecues or picnics.
“I never heard a complaint” from the coaches about their treatment, Otto said.
Otto has seen committee members come and go and believes the tournament is heading in the right direction under the leadership of current chairman Jamie Hamilton.
“I can’t say enough about Jamie and Bruce Hill,” Otto said. “They are two terrific leaders. They go all out. I can say that for the rest of the committee.”
Now, Grand Junction has a 25-year contract with the NJCAA to host the World Series. The proceeds from the tournament throughout that contract will help pay for stadium improvements that begin the week after this year’s tournament.
Another committee member, Tex Tolman, won’t be involved with the tournament as much this year because of job commitments, but plans to return next year.
“I’ve been doing this since 1973,” Tolman said. “When I first started taking care of the field. It wasn’t until 1980 when I was actually on the committee. Bus Bergman asked me to take care of the field.
“I remember when they started with 10 teams in 1977. They tried to get five games in one day.”
Tolman has been in charge of the practice schedules and the practice fields for more than 30 years.
“We’re trying to get Tex to not work so hard on the practice field,” Hamilton said. “Tex found a guy in Kenny Johnson with his youth and enthusiasm (to take over at the practice field).
“Tex can be an ambassador to him. That area (practice fields) is a key ingredient to how this operates. Coaches already have pressure and when practice doesn’t go well, it’s additional pressure. When things go well, it is so much more calm.”