MARIANNA, Fla. (Chipola) — Chipola College baseball celebrated Alumni Weekend (Jan. 26-27) in grand style, handing out rings to returning members of the 2017 National Championship team and welcoming back former players from the school’s storied history.
An even dozen players from the 2017 National Champions squad showed up. Most were busy at D-1 programs or pro training camps. Eleven players from last year’s squad were pick in the MLB Draft. Most of the others went on to play at universities.
“It was a great weekend for Chipola baseball,” said NJCAA coach of the year, Jeff Johnson. “To have so many of these guys take time out of their lives to come back year after year is a testament to how people feel about Chipola. This is a special place.”
The weekend’s events included a banquet with headliner Jose Bautista, a member of MLB’s 50-Homerun Club. Former players and friends of the program scarfed up major league bats and jerseys in the annual auction. Bautista, who has attended 9 of 11 alumni weekends addressed the crowd of 150-plus, along with Honorary alumnus Jeff Mathis of the Diamondbacks, who was drafted out of Marianna High School.
Chipola President Dr. Sarah Clemmons announced a campaign to name Chipola field in honor of Coach Jeff Johnson. “Coach Johnson has put Chipola on the map, and now we want to honor his legacy. His success in 20 years at Chipola is unparalleled.”
Former Chipola player Nathan Marks, who organizes the event each year, said, “The weekend just keeps getting better. Players from three decades were a part of this year’s celebration, and we’re already making plans for a big event next year.”
Players from Chipola’s 1965-68 teams attended to reminisce with their coach, Jim Duncan, who was recognized at the dinner and Saturday event.
Reynaldo Rivera, now with the Detroit Tigers organization, won the alumni homerun derby hitting 13 no-doubters in the final round. Last year’s winner Isiah Gilliam (Yankees organization) also participated, along with Mat Gamel who played for the Brewers organization (2008-2012).
This year’s Chipola baseball team—ranked first in both the state and national pre-season polls—managed to squeeze in two games, beating LB Wallace (11-9) and Wallace Dothan (4-2).
The Indians have four games at home Feb. 1-4 with Shelton State and Walters State. Chipola begins defense of their Conference title, March 6.
Visit www.chipolaathletics.com for information.