With bug in ear, plus bat, ball and mitt in bag, Max McGhehey traveled to expansive Las Animas County earlier this spring for a tryout, with its anonymity unable to match his own upon arrival.
“I got all registered for the camp, tried to contact the coach, but the coach didn’t really respond,” he recalled. “So, I just showed up out of nowhere. They didn’t even have my name on the list.”
Things only seemed to head south, like nearby Interstate 25 toward Raton Pass and New Mexico.
“I went there and, in all honesty, I did pretty bad,” said McGhehey.
Or about the opposite from Bayfield High School teammates Jake and Hub Brandon, who’d preceded him to one of Trinidad State Junior College’s multiple prospect camps before Bayfield High School baseball’s spring practices began, and seemingly impressed right off the bat.
“We were online, saw they had a prospect camp, so we went to that. And after that we kind of e-mailed with the coach ... and he invited us back to tour campus a couple months later,” explained Hub Brandon. “So, we went back and talked, he showed us the campus, and we just kept e-mailing and they offered us a spot.”
Jake isn’t sure where the twins might line up when they play college ball, but the middle infield seems likely.
“We should be able to go in, make an impact,” Jake said.
With shortstop and second base checked off virtually simultaneously from his want list, manager Justin Wichert, who was hired last July, still had a decision to make regarding that outfield opening. Particularly with McGhehey, known as a center fielder, having performed perhaps not up to his own standards but apparently well above the event norm.
“And the coach thought I was pretty good; that was kind of weird,” McGhehey said. “But he and the assistant coach were talking to me, trying to get me to come play for them. And that was just a relief at that point.”
And fitting, for a program located in a town named for good things coming in threes.
Visible behind the third-base side of Central Park, geographic landmark Simpson’s Rest even appears a three-tiered mesa symbolic of a baseball player’s upward climb from high school, to college to the pros.
Trinidad is home to a relatively stable independent minor-league team — the Pecos League’s Triggers who began their ninth season last Saturday. The three Wolverines should progress in an atmosphere befitting the national pastime at a NJCAA Division I, Region IX power.
“We’re just grateful for the opportunity, and we’re going to try to make the most of it. The coaching staff seems to be knowledgeable, good guys, and their baseball team’s good; they’ve won their region five or six years in a row,” said Jake. “And it’s not too big of a town to start out in, so I think it should be good for us.”
Hub explained that the three will join the teams as recruited walk-ons. The college prefers to save its scholarships for pitchers.
“I’ve wanted to play college ball ever since I was little, so to get the chance to go on and play is a good deal,” Hub said.
McGhehey, who also starred on the football field at BHS, is eager to play baseball at the next level with a couple of pals.
“I have known for a while that I wanted to play baseball just as long as I can,” he said. “I mean, I can’t be more grateful to be going into college with people I know; it’s a better opportunity to achieve at the next level.”
Alma mater of Mark Grudzielanek (2B/SS) and Danny Jackson (pitcher), each of whom enjoyed a 15-year MLB career, Trinidad State began the 2019 season losing eight of ten games but fought back to finish 30-28 overall and a first-place 22-14 in Region IX, besting Lamar Community College by a game and Sterling-based Northeastern JC by two.
Expected to re-arrive on campus in early August, each Wolverine indicated an academic interest in Trinidad State’s well-known Line Technician Program.
“You know, we’re outdoors kids; we like to hunt, fish and stuff,” Jake said, also noting the school’s Gunsmithing curriculum. “So, I thought that would be kind of a cool one to get into. Keeps you out of an office all day, and there’s good money to be made in it.”
“I think it’s the way I’d like to go,” agreed Hub. “I think that’d be a good class to take.”
“And if I can continue somewhere else, go to a larger school,” McGhehey said, “I’ll try to get a business degree, master’s or whatever.”
Not one to let irony escape, McGhehey again came clean about his own initial resolve, or lack thereof.
“It’s a funny thing, because when I started playing I hated it. I didn’t want to play at all,” he recalled, admittedly becoming captivated by the game as a BHS freshman, and still developing his skills each summer through Strike Zone Baseball in Farmington. “My dad and sister forced me to play, and I did, like, two years of it. And I was good at it but still hated it.”
DID YOU KNOW Trinidad once had a professional baseball team. For 20 days in June 1912, the Trinidad Indians, having relocated from Pueblo (and Wichita, Kansas, before that after the 1911 season), were part of the short-lived Class D Rocky Mountain League, which disbanded on July 5, or about a week after the team re-moved to Cheyenne, Wyo.