Six McLennan Community College baseball players vandalized a section of sandstone cliff face at Colorado National Monument two days before the team’s first game in the Junior College World Series, head baseball coach Mitch Thompson said.

On the May 26 visit to the monument, players wrote “MCC,” “Highlanders,” and “2017 JUCO WS,” according to an image provided to the Daily Sentinel newspaper in Grand Junction, Colorado. One player received a $230 citation, according to U.S. Park Ranger Frank Hayde, and all six face disciplinary action by the school, according to officials.

MCC officials would not name the involved players, citing federal privacy laws, but the Daily Sentinel identified three whose names were written on the rock: freshman first baseman Chase Sortor, freshman pitcher Brady Childress and sophomore pitcher Michael Cugini.

Thompson said the players believed the behavior was acceptable because they had seen another act of graffiti nearby. The writing by the players is not expected to cause lasting damage, Hayde said.

“I’m disappointed that this has happened,” Thompson said. “It’s regrettable. But at this point in time, we’ve got to move forward and we got to help other guys at some point in time that you don’t ever do that. Even the littlest thing you might think is a little thing; it’s not a little thing.

“There’s learning that’s going to take place here. It’s regrettable. Eighteen-year-old kids are going to make poor decisions sometimes, and we’ve got to help them learn. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

Hayde said Thompson called him back immediately after receiving the information, and Thompson then brought the six players into a meeting with Hayde. Thompson said the six players admitted to the incident when he asked who was involved.

“The coach was mortified that it happened,” Hayde said. “But his response was just very professional, and the kids took responsibility for the violation. We had a chance to talk about public lands and resource protection and why we take this type of thing seriously.”

> VIDEO: MCC players hike at Colorado National Monument

MCC Athletic Director Shawn Trochim said Thompson handled the situation consistent with athletics department policy.

MCC President Johnette McKown said the players will be treated as any other students within the college’s conduct office, and the athletics department will also determine punishment.

“We're making sure we’re fair to them and give fair consequences, because there are always consequences when you make wrong decisions,” McKown said.

McKown also wrote a letter to the editor of the Daily Sentinel, apologizing for the incident.

“Personally, I am heartbroken by this situation as I have long enjoyed and benefited from seeing the parks and monuments in Colorado and appreciate and value the state’s commitment to the environment,” McKown wrote, in part. “I express our deepest regret for the actions of a few members of our baseball team who made inappropriate choices. This behavior is simply unacceptable, and additional training will be implemented to ensure this does not happen again.”

MCC was eliminated from the JUCO World Series Wednesday.

Phillip has covered higher education for the Tribune-Herald since November 2015.

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