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In February, as Major League Baseball teams across the country were preparing to open spring training campaigns in Arizona and Florida to usher in the new season, a coach in Boulder was at home in town, figuring how to make the best-kept secret in Boulder a little less of a secret. Tony Rouco was starting his third season as president of the Boulder Collegians, once one of the most formidable names on baseball’s collegiate summer circuit and now a team trying to recapture some of its past glory—and relevance—in a city where non-traditional sports (and Deion Sanders’ revamped college football team) are kings.
Rouco has big plans for the Collegians, which will look for their third-consecutive Mile High Collegiate Baseball League championship with a roster he hopes will be a mix of both in-state and out-of-state talent. “It’s kind of a never-ending job,” says Rouco, who doubles as the Collegians’ manager. “We’re looking to build for right now, but we also want to build baseball in this city for the future. I want to see Boulder baseball the way it used to be, and I think we can do that.”
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Summer league baseball is a niche within the sport—with leagues from Alaska to Massachusetts. For hardcore fans (and sports fans on a budget), though, summer leagues offer competitive ball (most players have aspirations to go pro) at a fraction of the cost, in cities and towns where the nearest professional team might be hours away. “The Collegians are as close to Field of Dreams as you’re going to get in Colorado,” says Lindsay Whitcher, whose family hosted a Collegians player this past season. “We’ve got this throwback to a different time. It’s like Boulder’s little gem.”
It’s hardly been an easy road for baseball in the city, which saw the University of Colorado cut its team in 1980—the same year the Collegians ended their first run, after nearly two decades dominating high-elevation baseball. Founded by former Baseline Liquors owner and baseball lifer Bauldie Moschetti, the team would become one of the nation’s most dominant college summer programs. Collegians rosters included more than 100 future professional players across its initial 16-year span, including Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn and former World Series hero Joe Carter. Boulder teams won the prestigious National Baseball Congress World Series four times, and Moschetti later would be named to both the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame and to the NBC Hall of Fame. Joe Maddon, the former World Series-winning Chicago Cubs manager, played with the Collegians in the 1970s (he worked at the liquor store for a summer and proposed to his wife in the parking lot) and often credits Moschetti for getting him into professional baseball.
The Collegians’ name reemerged in 2013, when a local real estate agent and former college pitcher named Matt Jensen created the non-profit to revive summer baseball in the city. The team set up shop at Scott Carpenter Park—near the CU campus—where it ended play 33 years earlier. “The Collegians represented such a cool time for the sport in Boulder, and I wanted to recapture some of that feeling,” says Jensen, who grew up in the city. “The team was part of the fabric in the community for so long. I figured, ‘Why can’t we make that happen again?’”
Jensen essentially operated the Collegians as a one-person front office for nearly a decade, posting competitive—if not championship—results in the Rocky Mountain Baseball League. Jensen later hired Rouco to manage the team, and the former college catcher took the Collegians to Alaska, where Boulder won a tournament title.
When the pandemic hit in 2020, Jensen was trying to balance his family, his business, and his team through the chaos. “It was very overwhelming at times, and it got to a point where it was either my family or this team,” says Jensen, who asked Rouco if he wanted to take over as president after the first COVID season. “I thought it was important that baseball kept going in the city.”
Rouco won the league title the next year and the next, with half the roster featuring players from outside Colorado. (Most players flit through for a single season to shore of skills and techniques between college years.) The team also included a college pitcher from Japan and its first female player, Luisa Gauci, a second baseman from Australia who played college ball in Washington. “Tony and the rest of the guys took me seriously and respected me from the start, and I appreciated that,” says Gauci, who will attend graduate school in Arizona later this year after helping coach a Cape Cod Baseball League team this summer. “Once they said I’d get a chance to play, it was a no-brainer for me. Who wouldn’t want to play baseball in Boulder?”
This year, Rouco is trying to expand his team’s recruitment reach while also shoring up the operation’s business side. Paul Parker—who retired in 2018 as the Colorado Rockies team historian—took over as the Collegians’ general manager and has been charged with everything from cold-calling potential sponsors to organizing first-pitch dignitaries for games. “Tony was left with about $600 in the bank account when he took over, so we’ve had to take a slow process and build everything up,” Parker says. “But we’ve made it work, and I think we’re on the right track to make this a very special thing.”
While Parker manages the ledger, Rouco’s been scouting players from California and the Midwest, and has expanded his reach to the East Coast and to the baseball-rich South. It’s all part of a short- and long-term plan. “I want to get back to the days like when Bauldie had it,” Rouco says. “I want to make the Collegians a nationwide thing, where we’re getting recognized as one of the premier summer teams. The city sells itself, and it’s up to us to put the product on the field every year. I want people to be proud of Boulder baseball, and I think we can do that.”
The Boulder Collegians’ season kicks off on May 31. They will play through July and into August, depending on how well they do in the league-ending tournament. Find their complete schedule and roster at bouldercollegians.com.