Being in on a secret is a nice place to be.
When you know about the hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant that serves the best tacos this side of Puerto Vallarta, your stomach thanks you. When you locate the perfect spot at the lake to sit and watch the sun set, it’s a sublime feeling. Maybe you share that information with others, or maybe you keep the secret to yourself. Keeps the crowds down.
Well, it’s high time to let out the best-kept secret in Waco, and if the crowds increase that’ll be a positive development. Hope that, like Jack Nicholson, you can handle the truth, because here it comes.
McLennan Community College offers some of the best bang for your sports buck in Central Texas.
It’s easy to understand why MCC might sometimes get lost in the shuffle. There is a highly successful Division I athletic program across town at Baylor that attracts a bevy of attention, and rightfully so. Central Texas is also teeming with championship-hungry high school teams. Obviously they’ve carved out a place of significance on the sports landscape, too.
But MCC plays sports too, and at a pretty high level to boot. Too often people avoid those potentially great games at MCC, either out of ignorance or forgetfulness.
It’s time to learn. It’s time to remember.
Hey, we in the media are as guilty as anyone. We devote massive amounts of newspaper inches (and TV and radio air time) to Baylor and high school sports, and a much smaller sliver to MCC. Sure, we’re busy and stretched thin and we try to get to as many events and produce as many stories as humanly possible, but we could still do more. And speaking from a Trib perspective, we will.
Because it’s worth it. Like I said, if you’re looking for an entertaining sporting event at a reasonable price, you’re going to get your money’s worth — at then some — over at McLennan.
Did you know you can buy a ticket for a men’s or women’s basketball game — a season which tips off Friday — for three bucks? That’s the adult price. Students pay just $2, while kids ages 12 and under are free.
Sometimes it’s not just the kids who get a free pass.
“We don’t want anybody to pay anything for any of our games,” MCC athletic director Shawn Trochim said. “I spend a lot of money on season passes so that I can give them out to people. We want people to understand that this is a family event over here. ... We want people to walk away saying, ‘Wow, I had a great time at McLennan, watching a basketball game.’”
It’s not just hoops. I mentioned those basketball teams first since their season is imminent, but the golf programs represent themselves well, too. The MCC men’s golf team is ranked fourth in the country in the latest NJCAA poll, while the Highlassies took fourth at last year’s NJCAA Championships in Arizona.
And of course it’s been impossible to ignore the way MCC’s baseball program has ascended under Mitch Thompson’s direction. The Highlanders stunned many by charging all the way to the title game of the Juco World Series last season, and the goal for 2016 is to “win one more game,” said MCC assistant Chris Berry.
A long relay throw away from the MCC baseball field sits the softball diamond. Manny Ordones oversees another perennial playoff-contending program, one that fashioned a 42-16 record last season. MCC also has a dance team that it includes under its athletic umbrella that routinely competes for national championships, and performs regularly at the basketball games.
Yeah, but it’s just JUCO ball, the naysayers might sneer. (That’s what naysayers do. They say nay). Oh, really? When you attend an MCC sporting event, there is a high probability that you’re watching a number of future Division I athletes compete. MCC sent 43 athletes onto four-year athletic programs last year, with every one of its programs producing at least two signees. Baseball topped the list with 15 players who moved on to four-year schools.
Even better is the percentage of MCC athletes that leave with an associate’s degree in hand.
“The one thing we know is that there may not be a whole lot of pro athletes over here, but we want people to be employed,” Trochim said. “So the biggest thing is making sure the kids stay on top of their academics, and we put pride in it.”
To entice both recruits and fans in today’s sporting culture, you must win the facilities game. MCC is constantly looking to make improvements to its courts and fields, Trochim said. At The Highlands gym, they’ve upgraded both the floor and the home-side seating within the past two years, and are looking to make some changes to the lobby and the sound system in the near future.
Bosque River Ballpark is a legitimate gem already, but it still needs lights to really sparkle. Trochim said that MCC officials understand that fans can’t always leave work for afternoon baseball or softball games, and that the college is examining the feasibility of adding lights in the coming seasons.
“They could be a priority for us in the next few years,” she said.
Trochim grew up in Waco, and has spent more than 20 years at MCC now, first as an assistant basketball coach and since 2004 as athletic director. She bleeds blue and orange. But she always remains amazed at the reactions when longtime Wacoans visit the MCC campus for the first time.
“First thing they say is, ‘Oh my gosh, I didn’t know MCC was this nice,’” Trochim said. “I’m like, ‘Yeah, you guys have to come across Waco Drive, come across the bridge to see our campus.’ I do think it is the best-kept secret in town sometimes.”
The secret is out now. Let’s all pass the word along.