Jul 192005
Authors: Brett Okamoto

It's likely that most Fort Collins residents have never heard of professional baseball in their town.

Chances are, however, you'll be hearing of the MCBL here within the next few years. That's Mountain Collegiate Baseball League-a new, exciting baseball league in its first year, featuring talented college players from around the country.

Kurt Colicchio founded MCBL this year but concedes he spawned the idea back in 2003 when he was a partial owner of the Yakama Bears minor league baseball team in Washington.

"I wanted to start something where I had full ownership, where I could do things like get more involved within a community," said Collichio.

The Fort Collins Foxes, owned by Collichio, are one of the four teams that make up the current league that hopes to expand to 12 teams eventually. Collichio has fulfilled his goal of being in touch with the community through events such as reorganizing young student/athletes on the field at home games, and team dinners at local restaurants where everyone is invited to go and mingle with the team after a game.

An example of how the community has responded are the many 'host families' that take in a college student for the full summer, giving them a free place to stay as they pursue their athletic interests.

There are perhaps no hosts more dedicated than the Wil-Cip family who hosted four players this year, all from Azusa Pacific Christian University in Los Angeles.

Julie Wil-Cip, 44, says that they got involved through her husband, Tom, who coaches the Thunder, a Fort Collins youth baseball team that their thirteen year-old-son, Riley, plays on. Julie says that she's grateful for having the ball players around who serve as a role model to her young player.

"Riley and his teammates have seen how hard these guys work on their own, without a coach to get on them. They've helped out at our baseball practices numerous times. They're an incredible example and I'm glad these kids are seeing that."

Julie attends as many games as possible, all of which are played in one of the four areas with a team including Fort Collins, Greeley, Laramie, and Cheyenne.

"We're so impressed with the league," she said recently while attending a game Monday evening. "They look like pros out there. This is a great atmosphere around these games. Sometimes I hate going to Rockies games because they can be so expensive and crowded. Here you're getting all the quality without the fluff."

Foxes coach Paul Svagdis, 35, brought his wife and two children out to Fort Collins from Los Angeles where he had just served in his third year as head coach. He says that he loves the area and is hoping to return next year if the management offers it.

"Kurt made this a family environment," said Svagdis. "My family can be involved, which is great. The idea behind the league is to develop collegiate players and bring collegiate baseball to the Colorado area where it is lacking."

Centerfielder Jacob "Coba" Canales believes that he made the right decision coming to Colorado from California to be involved in the league this year.

"On my part it's been awesome," Canales says of his host family and the MCBL experience. "It's nothing but love all over the place. I'm havin the time of my life and it's a continuation from the regular college season. It's an opportunity to keep playing baseball and see where it goes for me."

Current CSU players on the roster include pitcher Andrew Abell and first basemen Ryan Skradski. Recent graduate Travis Huntington serves as the "voice of the Foxes" as the play-by-play announcer on KSXT 1570 AM.

The Foxes play all their games at the Colorado State club baseball field and currently are at the top of the league. Tickets to see the team play are $5.

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