They endured days on the road and uncertainty over sleeping arrangements. They overcame equipment changes, and adjusted to a larger, louder venue. Reporters interviewed them regularly, and photographers captured their best moments. They attended tournament social and service obligations with a Grand Junction, Colo., Rotary Club as their escort. They lost, then they won, and won, and won again, before falling in a nail-biting, 11-inning contest to the eventual champion.
Cochise College President J.D. Rottweiler wishes baseball players Esteban Bastidas, left, and Kevin Dorantes luck before a game at the 2013 JUCO World Series.
Three made the all-tournament team, and one was later named a Third Team All-American. Some sophomores missed graduation. They spent part of two days on a bus ride home, returning on a hot Sunday afternoon to a campus vacant except for a small crowd of friends, family and well-wishers, signing baseball cards before going their separate ways, with some never to return to Cochise College.
By winning a berth in the Junior College World Series, the Cochise College baseball team put Cochise College on the national stage and then represented us well both on and off the field, finishing third in the nation and, when all was said and done, ranking No. 2 at perfectgame.org.
All I can say is, “Wow! What a ride!”
The team certainly found a way to make things around this college really interesting at the end of the semester. With a nearly flawless tournament record, they did it just in time to renew my appreciation for baseball as the professional season is hitting its stride. But there are some ways that professional ball just can’t compete with the junior college level.
1. With no pauses for commercial breaks, junior college games are efficient and enjoyable. There’s little need for sideline games and gimmicks to fill the time; players take the field promptly and if momentum shifts, it happens naturally, not because teams lost or gained focus waiting around for television coverage. Plus, the NJCAA streamed coverage online with knowledgeable commentators and also assisted with providing local radio coverage.
2. Grand Junction, Colo., is one organized town when it comes to the World Series. Community organizations host teams and help shuttle them around and generally smooth the way. Plus, game entrance and refreshments are affordable – free, even – so spectators don’t have to think too hard about what they’re spending after that trip west, which is long no matter how you look at it.
3. In my role as college president, there are few experiences more gratifying than witnessing our students “coming of age.” At the World Series, our players had the chance to play their best and also present themselves via the media and in person. Shortstop Austin Nelson of Las Vegas, Nev., made my very favorite comment, as captured by college Public Information Officer Liz Manring on the Cochise Baseball at JUCO World Series blog, “This isn’t what I thought it would be, because it’s better than I thought it would be.” How often in life can you say that? Now that’s what it’s all about!
I’m so proud of this team and commend Head Coach Todd Inglehart, Assistant Coach Eric Brown, Athletic Director Dr. Bo Hall, and everyone else who had a hand in shaping these young athletes.
J.D. Rottweiler is president of Cochise College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.