Boulder Collegians moving forward despite uncertainty

Matt Jensen plans for a season he realizes might not happen

Brad Cochi/
Former Monarch baseball player Jake Given is one of several commitments to this year’s Boulder Collegians.

Monarch graduate Zack Given wonders when he’ll wake up in his dorm room at the University of Massachusetts, when he’ll get out and about and head over to Earl Lorden Field for some baseball.

None of this feels quite real.

“We were actually on the bus ready to go on our spring break trip (for baseball) when they took us off and said we weren’t traveling because of the COVID-(19) situation,” Given said. “A couple days later the season was (canceled). It definitely progressed a lot in just a few days.”

Zack, who joined the Minutemen as a freshman with his twin brother Jake, are in the group of thousands of collegiate athletes who were left dizzied after having their spring seasons bounced by the NCAA last month due to the coronavirus. And now, from the high-paid athletes and their empires, to the amateurs, they can only speculate when they’ll be safe to return to their fields of play.

The Given brothers, meanwhile, are holding out hope for summer ball, where they’re slated to join the Boulder Collegians. The town’s beloved team, through the voice of general manager Matt Jensen, said this week that it’s still planning to begin the season starting in late May despite the multiple unknowns of the current climate.

“How do you plan for a season that might not happen?” Jensen said. “That’s the challenge for me.”

Trying to set up for a future that can’t be predicted while dealing with the microscopic virus that rages on, Jensen faces his greatest challenge since he revived the longtime Boulder-based amateur team in 2013. Preparation for a season opener is done in mere hope — he knows managing budget, costs, sponsorships in chaotic times is just the beginning.

“At this point, we’re just keeping our fingers crossed,” Jensen said. “We’re hoping that we lower the curve as a community and as a country. And if we can, these young men who haven’t been able to have a baseball season this whole spring, they’ll be able to come out and play.”

Nothing at this point comes easy, though. Everything, he said, comes with a caveat.

The Collegians are on schedule to play at their home facility at Scott Carpenter Park this summer, Jensen said, yet have been informed by the city it might not be available depending on the restrictions in place for the pandemic.

As for their roster, it’s set, but a shakeup could be inevitable. Jensen sent the up-to-date list of players to BoCoPreps, raving over the fact that it included more local players than ever before in hopes of producing a more cohesive team on the field. The biggest obstacle will likely be the 17 players from out of state who typically rely on host families in the community to house them for the summer.

As of this week, Jensen said they don’t have enough committed families because of the social distancing measures. Realistically if it continues, it could mean turning players away if they can’t find a contingency plan (multiple players with one family, renting a place for players, etc.) or enough families come to open their homes.

“Oftentimes we’ve had to get the support of the community in almost miraculous ways,” Jensen said. “For example, my mother took five guys one year. Things like that. It’s just always fallen together for us, it is an emergency scenario, but as of right now we’re trying to come up with backup plans.”

If summer baseball is a thing in Boulder, or anywhere, it’ll no doubt be a season to remember. A reunion between the game and its fans and players, a return for college players who suddenly had their seasons stripped away.

The Collegians will include familiar faces like Longmont standout Brady Renck as well as other hometown guys like Ben Kowalski, Will Mossa, Jackson Dinkel, Johnny Suchor, Doug Blankenship, Sanjay Solomon, Luke Werkmeister-Martin and the Given brothers.

Jensen relished on what a sight it could be.

“(The Given brothers) were on the phone with me and they said, ‘We can’t wait to put this jersey on’,” Jensen said. “I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve put into this team over the last eight years, so to hear someone say that made it all worth it for me.”