“This is where they are celebrities,” said Jim Davis, who has been a play-by-play radio voice for the tournament for more than 20 years. “This is a place where everybody pays attention to them, and the young fans idolize the players and are always asking for autographs.”
The double-elimination tournament began May 26 with a quadruple-header that started at 9 a.m. local time. The first game, between Temple College of Texas and the College of Southern Idaho, drew a crowd of 7,218. Fourteen hours later, top-ranked Walters State of Morristown, Tenn., closed the marathon with an 8-6 win over Chipola.
It’s a 10-team, 19-game, eight-day grind that will conclude Saturday night.
This is the 61st JUCO World Series, the first of which was played in Miami, Okla., in 1958. It rained so much that hardly anyone showed up, and Grand Junction was awarded the tournament in 1959. The city’s junior college at the time, Mesa College (now Division II Colorado Mesa University), was given an automatic berth that created an instant fan base.
Sixty years later, the tournament is still here — and will be for a while thanks to a 25-year contract extension in 2010. It has been a showcase for dozens of players who went on to become major league stars, including Kirby Puckett, Eric Gagne, Cliff Lee, John Lackey, Bryce Harper and Brandon Belt.