Wayne Baker resigns as NJCAA executive director
Wayne Baker was one of the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series’ biggest fans.
As the executive director of the National Junior College Athletic Association the past four years, Baker made several trips to Grand Junction each year and was a fixture during the tournament each May the past four years.
Baker resigned Friday, effective immediately, citing personal reasons. He had been the executive director of the NJCAA for only four years, but had been with the organization the past 24 years.
“It has been my pleasure to spend the last 24 years of my life working on behalf of student-athletes within the NJCAA,” Baker said in a statement announcing his resignation. “More than anything else, I will miss the contact with the volunteers and friends that I have established within the organization.”
In the statement, Baker said he was stepping down for personal and health-related reasons so he could turn his attention to his family. Mark Krug, the media relations director for the NJCAA, said Baker is not ill but needs to attend to some family issues, and that his resignation caught everyone at the office in Colorado Springs off guard.
Mary Ellen Leicht, who has been the associate executive director at the NJCAA, was appointed the acting executive director by NJCAA President Art Becker. The executive committee will form a search committee during the annual NJCAA meeting in April, Krug said.
Baker’s resignation also caught Jamie Hamilton, the chairman of the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series by surprise.
“I was floored,” Hamilton said. “On a personal basis, he’s worked hard to maintain that relationship (with the tournament committee). He worked hard to get to that position, and I feel bad for him personally.”
When Hamilton heard that Baker had resigned, he put in a call to Leicht and Becker. He hasn’t had a chance to speak with Baker since the announcement.
“Art and Mary Ellen said Wayne had done a good job of expressing his mantra before (he resigned), ‘Don’t mess this up,’ ’’ Hamilton said. “Both Art and Mary Ellen said they’re not sure what will happen, but that (JUCO) is the least of their worries. They’ve got 74 other championships to work with, and it’s their hope that we’ll continue to do what we do.”
Baker, only the second executive director of the NJCAA, took over in 2004 when George Killian retired. Baker was the associate executive director for 10 years before his promotion, and before that was the eligibility administrator.
“I liked what he did,” Hamilton said. “He changed some things. George was set in his ways and Wayne made some national contacts. They’ll make sure that continues.”
Baker signed a 10-year contract extension two years ago with the Grand Junction Baseball Committee, so Hamilton knows the tournament is safe in Grand Junction for the immediate future.
“We’ve got the contract in place but we’ll continue to establish those relationships. It’s not without angst, but we’ll get it done.”
He and Baker developed a close working relationship the past four years.
“We’re peers, and we did enjoy the games together and each other,” Hamilton said.
“Change happens. We’ll just keep on doing good work.”