Maricopa JUCO athletes receive signs of hope

Forums, move of fall sports to 2021 stave off cuts

Posted 8/1/20

Trevor Baugh and hundreds or local athletes in his shoes could breathe a sigh of release.

On July 16, the Maricopa County Community College District announced its intent to maintain its athletic …

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Maricopa JUCO athletes receive signs of hope

Forums, move of fall sports to 2021 stave off cuts

Posted

Trevor Baugh and hundreds or local athletes in his shoes could breathe a sigh of release.

On July 16, the Maricopa County Community College District announced its intent to maintain its athletic teams in 2020-21 and mirrored the National Junior College Athletic Association's decision to shirt all fall sports competition into 2021.

In the last week of June, word leaked out that the district recommended canceling athletics at its schools for the 2020-21. Players, parents, coaches and people with no direct ties to Valley junior colleges responded, and a change.org petition to Governor Doug Ducey and the MCCCD gathered more than 17,000 signatures to stop the cancellation.

"I am very relieved that they will wait till 2021 to play all sports and at least try to get us a season. But, at the same time, I am very scared that they might decide it is too dangerous to play a season. Which will then put us all in the same situation we were in over the summer, except all the schools will have their full rosters and will be playing by then,' Baugh stated in an email.

Steven R. Gonzales, MCCCD Interim Chancellor, led two virtual forums for athletes, parents, coaches and the community to voice their concerns July 8 and 9.

Estrella Foothills graduate Racheal Jesionowski had moved past her senior softball season being cut short after only 10 games and was starting to focus on her freshman year at Mesa Community College.

Suddenly, that was on the verge of being called off. She listened in on the July 8 forum and felt better about the prospects of playing for the Thunderbirds.

“I listened to all the parents and a few of the players and they presented some ideas,” Jesionowski said. “I feel that a lot of people are fighting for us. It’s parents, student-athletes and even former athletes.”

More often than not athletes look at junior college programs to catapult them to the right university for their sport and their career goals.

From the 18 schools West Valley covers, 37 athletes in the Class of 2020 signed with MCCCD programs. Three sports make up an overwhelming majority of these signees — baseball (16), girls volleyball (9) and softball (7).

The impact would have been profound for recent Estrella Foothills and Millennium grads, though different than the prevailing trend. Three Millennium girls soccer players signed with Phoenix College,  where their head coach David Cameron coaches the men’s program.

Two girls volleyball players, two baseball players and Jesionowski make up the rest of the list, for a total of eight athletes from those two Goodyear schools.

"Hearing that announcement that they are trying to play all sports in 2021 was such a relief. After losing my senior season, having the season cancelled before it happen was devastating. I now have hope of getting to play my freshman season at Mesa CC.," Jesionowski said.

Baugh had signed with Paradise Valley Community College before the uncertainty arrived. He said the quality and friendly nature of the coaches led him to PVCC.

His Millennium coach, Matt Royal, stated in an email that it is extremely frustrating to see these boys potentially lose back-to-back seasons.

“Losing a season to a pandemic is one thing but losing another season due to the uncertainty of junior colleges makes it worse, especially with the amount of talent and prestige in this state when it comes to junior college baseball. It’s unfair to the players,” Royal stated. “At the end of the day I want my players to enjoy their baseball careers, wherever they choose to go. No one is certain what is going to happen and making decisions that have this massive domino effect prematurely is unfair to the players as well. They deserve the opportunity to see what happens, just like everyone else in the country is doing. Wait and see.” 

Jesionowski  said academics was her first reason for choosing Mesa. The school has the degree in applied science she wanted.

"After meeting with coach Moorhead, I knew Mesa was the perfect softball fit for me," Jesionowski said. "I have a workout program that I have been doing at home and I still practice with my club team, AZ Power. I hope soon I will get to practice and workout at Mesa. "

Baugh said when he first heard of the possibility of cancelling Maricopa JUCO programs, he considered taking a gap year - particularly since he is only 17 now.

That remains a viable option if the virus is the PVCC baseball season cannot be played.

"I had other offers to schools that would be willing to take me if PV wasn't able to have a season. I will be keeping those options available just in case, but I would most likely take a gap year with no baseball if that were to happen," Baugh said.

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