BY NICK ROBINSON
JOHNSTOWN — Five years ago, J.L. Buchanan took the helm of a Colorado Cyclones team that was in the cellar of the Mile High Collegiate Baseball League.
“Before I came in, we had been the worst team in the league,” Buchanan said. “In my first year, we got to .500 and I decided I didn’t want to waste my summer like that again. So, when the season got over, I got on the phone and started planning for the next season.
That worked very well and has since. A lot of other coaches will wait, but I get on it in September. If you want to last, you have to be on it when the season is over.”
Buchanan and the Cyclones have claimed four-straight MHCBL trophies since – and a league best fifth place at the NBC World Series in Wichita, Kansas, a season ago.
“Last year was my favorite trip out of the four we’ve been to,” Buchanan said. “It’s a chance for a bunch of guys who might not get the chance to play pro ball, to get to live the pro ball lifestyle for two weeks.
It was fun to watch us compete against teams with better funding. We always found a way to win. Everyone in Wichita knows who we are, and we have a good following when we get there.”
Their lasting success has helped give the Cyclones a name on the national stage.
“Last year’s run really put us on the map,” Buchanan said. “We got offered to play in the Jayhawk League this summer – but we turned it down. We love the league that we are in. It fits with everyone’s schedule, and it’s one of the reasons we get to have the caliber of players we do.
We only play three-or-four games a week, versus six games a week. When you coach in the spring and fall like I do, it makes you not want to grind like that.”
Buchanan feels his program wouldn’t be where it is today, without the bonds and sustained relationships he has built over the years.
“Once you build a relationship, they want to come back to us, because we treat them like gold,” he said. “It just takes that connection –and you get a guy to commit, it spreads. They go back and tell their teammates and friends.”
The Cyclones will bring 10 players on their roster that have played in the orange and black previously.
“These guys want to go to the World Series every year,” Buchanan said. “We coach to develop players and the hitters end up hitting better in the fall. All the pitchers Shane (Dyer) works with, end up throwing a lot better, as well. That’s why we get the guys of this caliber.”
Buchanan feels the right mixture of power on the mound and at bat is key for continuous success.
“If you can hit home runs and have velocity on the mound in Colorado, you’ll be alright,” he said. “Our hitting is going to come from our outfield. That’s going to be a strong point of our team. However, this is the best pitching staff I’ve ever had. We have five-or-six legitimate 90-mile per hour arms.”
The Cyclones open play against the Greeley Grays on Wednesday, May 29 at Nelson Farm in Johnstown for a doubleheader. First pitch is slated for 5 pm.
“I just want to let them play and guide them,” Buchanan said. “It’s not about me, and I will be there if we have a hiccup or two. A lot of guys need a confidence booster. If we get some guys going, it’s going to be scary. We just want kids to love baseball, and it’s okay to smile and show emotion.”
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