Volunteers get baseballs ready for tournament with annual mud rub

Six-year-old Blaine Butler, a 6th grader at Thunder Mountain Elem Schoo,l rubs mud on some of the 300 JUCO baseballs in the first base dugout at Suplizio Field.

Walt Bergman used to do the traditional mud rub of every baseball used in the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series in his garage before the tournament.

“It goes pretty quickly when you’ve got a bunch of guys,” Bergman said Wednesday in the first-base dugout at Suplizio Field.

A dozen people spent part of Wednesday afternoon putting a thin layer of Mississippi mud on 25 dozen baseballs. It’s become an annual tradition the Wednesday before the tournament begins.

Rawlings supplies the tournament with 40 dozen balls each year. Another 100 dozen are used as give-aways to the fans during the tournament.

“It’s supposed to be the same ball used by the National League,” Bergman said.

The Mississippi mud used to come in large containers, from which Bergman would put it into old coffee cans. Now it’s more efficient with resealable plastic containers helping keep the mud fresher.

As a longtime assistant baseball coach at Grand Junction High School, Bergman never had any problems recruiting players from his team to join in the process.

This year he even went outside the traditional mode, recruiting Fruita Monument pitcher Cody Bell and the Wildcats’ manager, Taylor Harper, to join in the fun.

Bergman presented Harper with a Grand Junction baseball cap as a graduation present last week, something the die-hard Wildcat is still having a hard time donning.

“I put it on (Wednesday) morning and said, geez,” Harper said. “I couldn’t do it.”

Bergman’s sons, Brett and Eric, have been a part of the annual rubdown since they can remember. Eric, whose birthday is Monday, said he attended his first JUCO rubdown when he was only days old.

There were even a couple of first-timers.

Blaine Butler, a 6-year-old first grader at Thunder Mountain Elementary School, got his fingernails dirty in helping make this year’s JUCO baseballs playable. So did 10-year-old Gunnar Mort.

“Take some mud in your hand, put it in your palm and rub,” Walt Bergman said, explaining the process to Butler, who picked up the technique quickly.

In little more than a half hour, the 25 dozen baseballs were rubbed down and ready to go.


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