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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

Take me out to the ball game!

Jul 02, 2019 11:38AM ● By Melanie Wiseman

From mid-October through March, local baseball fans are just like anyone else. But come April, they’re absorbed in spring training and planning the coming months around the Junior College (JUCO) Baseball World Series and the Grand Junction Rockies’ game schedule.

“When I was working, it was never a question that I was going to be gone the week of JUCO,” said Jim St. Clair. Now that he’s retired, he added, “Just don’t plan on me getting anything done around the house that week.”

While he and his wife, Janet, don’t consider themselves die-hard sports fans, it’s no secret they’re crazy about baseball—more specifically, local baseball.

“We’ve never been to a Colorado Rockies game and don’t even know if they win or lose,” said Janet. “We’re all about supporting local events. Unlike Denver where you’re so far away, here the players are right in front of you.”

And from their prime seats behind the first-base dugout, views of the game can’t get much better.

“We’re going to die in these seats!” said Jim.

With a jam-packed week of games during the JUCO World Series and 38 Rockies home games each year, the St. Clairs believe that reserved seating is a great investment. They reserve the same seats every year, and have done so since the minor league team came to town in 2012.

Big league for the rookies

While the JUCO World Series, which Grand Junction has hosted for more than 60 years, can be chaotic with the crowds of out-of-towners and kids scrambling for autographs, it’s a great example of why watching baseball is one of America’s favorite pasttimes and most loved sports.

“When the JUCO players hit Suplizio field, they might as well be at Yankee Stadium,” said Jim. “This is the big leagues for some of the teams from Kansas or Oklahoma who may play on fields of prairie grass and sage brush at home.”

Janet said it’s hard to pick a JUCO team to root for since elimination happens so fast, but she leans toward western teams or those who haven’t been there before.

“I find myself cheering for any good play or hit, or a team that forces three outs back to back,” said Jim.

The St. Clairs enjoy watching the competition and strategies that can make the game change so quickly.

“Some of the batting rituals drive us nuts,” said Janet. “One guy sniffs the bat, and others repeatedly adjust their gloves or tap the bottom of their shoes.”

America's sport

Nothing is more symbolic of American culture than baseball fans of all ages sitting in a ballpark on a sunny afternoon, enjoying ice cream and a smothered hot dog. The St. Clairs keep up the tradition that Janet started 30 years ago by sharing the experience with friends and family whenever they can. Janet was the first to get hooked on local baseball when she and another single mom started taking their 10-year-old sons to JUCO games. Jim’s first game wasn’t until after he married Janet in 1992.

“It’s just a nice evening out,” Janet said. “Everyone’s having a good time, and it’s nice to see the families there and it’s cheaper than a movie.”

They’ve created a lot of memories together in the years since. One in particular that stands out to Jim is the time he requested that the announcer wish Janet a happy birthday over the loud speaker. The announcer complied, but Janet was in the bathroom and never heard it. Jim and Janet have racked up a treasure trove of JUCO and Rockies prizes and giveaways. Janet is also a big participant in the audience games played between innings.

“I won’t do the frozen T-shirt contest though,” said Janet, referring to a game that has contestants racing to unravel a frozen T-shirt and wear it.

Most of all, knowing there are scouts in the bleachers as well as enthusiastic fans, they simply enjoy watching the kids play their hearts out.

“We make every effort to make sure someone is sitting in our seats,” Jim added. “We may not have perfect attendance, but our seats do.”

Home away from home

In past years, John and Angie Silva attended an occasional Grand Junction Rockies game at Suplizio Field. Today, they never miss a single one.

It all changed three years ago when they made the commitment to host a Grand Junction Rockies player in their home that summer.

“If your child had the opportunity to play professional ball, wouldn’t you want them to live in a loving home?” said Angie. “You also get to know the parents; not just the players. That eases both our minds.”

The young players stay with the Silvas and their two children one week on and one week off on average. Angie said arrangements for meals and transportation are up to each family.

“We’re not required to make a meal for them, but we like to have them as part of our family dinners,” said Angie.

With the young men dead asleep in the mornings, the Silvas never see them before heading off to work.

“We kind of have a kid playing out there now,” said Angie. “We’re their loving parent and support, cheering them on.”