Carlos Marrujo, a 2007 Bronco baseball alum, tries to complete the double play by jumping over the slide into second base by current Bronco Chris Suarez during an alumni baseball game Friday evening at NMMI Ballpark. (NMMI Photo)
Homecoming isn’t just for football at New Mexico Military Institute. For the last four years, the Bronco baseball team has hosted a game against the school’s alumni, and Friday, 16 former Broncos from several different decades got together to challenge the current crop of baseballers.
“We’ve got guys who were here last spring and we’ve got guys who are the same age as me, who were here back in the 1990s,” said current Institute coach Chris Cook.” It’s a fun day and I hope the alumni enjoy it.”
Even though they lost 10-3, the returnees did seem to be having fun. The rules were very loose, with batting orders just a suggestion, pitchers moving in and out on a whim and a rotating crew of players — from both sides — serving as umpire.
And for the first four innings, the “old guys” played it close.
Bronco Colby Brown scored off Alum pitcher Tyler Gibson in the first inning, walking, then advancing on a pair of wild pitches before coming home on a sacrifice by Alex Howard. But that was the only run the current Broncos would score through the first four innings, and, in the third, 2005 alum Mathew Castor struck out the side.
The Alumni couldn’t get anyone home early, but did get hits from Troy Oswald, Castor and Carlos Marrujo.
The Broncos finally broke it open in the fifth, scoring five runs on three hits and a hit batter.
The inning actually opened on a fun note as David McLean, a 1995 grad, went to the mound to face just one batter: his son, NMMI outfielder Marion McLean, who flew out to left.
“It’s fun to be able to play against him, and still be able to move,” the elder McLean laughed, noting coming back makes them realize how old they are.
But after that, it was all Broncos. Pancho Mariscal singled, then Jake Wells and J.D. Franco each singled to load the bases. Alex Pimentel was hit, scoring Mariscal, then pinch hitter Joseph Escarcega slammed a shot over the left-field fence for a grand-slam home run.
The Alumni made it 6-1 in the bottom of the inning when Joe Dilldine — who was on the mound in the top half after McLean — tripled to deep right then came home on a sacrifice by Matt Garley.
“I was looking for something good to hit, and I squared it up pretty well,” the former NMMI reliever said. “First hit in an alumni game, so it was a good experience for me.”
The Broncos came back in the sixth with four more runs, this time scoring with two outs on two errors, two walks, a single by Dallas Griffin and triple by Mariscal.
The first out of the seventh came on another legacy pairing, when Sam Turcotte came in to pitch to his younger brother, Cub Turcotte, and struck him out on a called strike by the somewhat biased umpire. (The Alum coach.)
And besides the McLean and Turcott legacies, there was another brother pair in the game: 2014 grad Austin Grier was there with his brother Kohl, a Bronco sophomore, making the whole thing a family affair.
The alumni scored a final two runs in the bottom of the seventh when Justin Villareal and Oswald walked, advanced on wild pitches then came home on a single by Domingo Alonzo. Two final strikeouts and the game was over, but winning or losing isn’t the reason for the fall ballgame.
“It was just a fun game,” Cook said. “Nothing more to it than just letting the guys get out and play and have some fun and spend some time together.”
“It’s always a good experience, being back here with the guys in the field and just the environment in general. It’s a lot of fun,” Dilldine said.
Before the game, the Alums squared off in a home-run hitting contest, with three groups divided by graduation dates, and the top three hitters from each group squaring off in a final hit-off.
Not surprisingly for those who remember his college career, Turcott won overall, smashing six dingers, with Alonzo getting four and McLean surprising even himself with one in the “emeritus” group.
Cook says the players as well as the fans that packed the stands — who cheered for each player as his name was announced — appreciate the chance to get back in uniform.
“They want it to continue,” he said. “I’ve had comments, ‘When you’re gone from here, we hope we can continue to do it,’ and I think it’s a positive thing. Gets them back involved. Gets them to be back with their buddies and it’s been a good event.”