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Alcorta remembered at ball field service

Mick McQuilton
Special to the Aspen Times

Nick Alcorta loved baseball. Playing the game was his passion, teaching it his calling. So it was perfect that the “Field of Dreams,” which Alcorta worked hard to bring to fruition at Basalt High School, was where some 2,000 people gathered yesterday to remember a man who touched the lives of so many in the community.

As the sun dipped low and the shadows grew long across the infield, friend after friend approached the podium to speak about the 39-year-old father, husband, coach, former Army National Guardsman and Basalt recreation director who died March 11 after suffering a heart attack while playing baseball in Las Vegas.

With Jimmy Buffett and the Steve Miller Band playing over the P.A. system, they drifted onto the field: athletes from up and down the valley, including an entire uniformed Roaring Fork baseball team; the Basalt players and their families; school faculty and fellow coaches, past and present; community members; Alcorta’s wife, Debbie; his parents, David and Linda; his sister, Ellen; his sons, 8-year-old Dominick and 5-year-old Derek; and countless friends. Hundreds wore Hawaiian shirts and ball caps, Alcorta’s preferred garb.

By the time the music stopped and the Rev. Thomas Cheatham opened the service with a prayer, a semicircle several rows deep was formed behind the crescent of 500 chairs.

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“Nick’s life,” Cheatham began, “was an example, Lord, of doing what you were made to do.”

Speeches by community members and Basalt student athletes were punctuated with performances by local musicians Haden Gregg and young Annie Schwener, KC Johnson of the Earthbeat Choir and, finally, athlete A.J. Hobbs, who led the congregation in a rousing sing-along of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

“We’ve never had this many people at our baseball field before,” chuckled Hobbs. “And one thing Nick said was that if everyone in the world came to Basalt and picked up one rock off the infield, there would still be rocks left on it. So please, take a rock with you today.”

On a more serious note, he added: “Thanks to Nick, we get to be here today on this baseball field, which he has done so much to make possible for us.”

Then, a surprise tribute to the man who brought the “Field of Dreams” to the midvalley: “The Basalt baseball team would like to name this the ‘Nick Alcorta Memorial Field,'” announced Hobbs, and the reaction of the crowd suggested widespread agreement.

Many remembered Alcorta as a generous, loving man who consistently “gave more than he took.”

“He loved the people of this community,” said Jim Lindgren, one of many who spoke at the memorial. “Just look around. Nick loved you all.

“Life ends,” Lindgren added, echoing a sentiment from earlier in the memorial. “Love doesn’t.”

After a closing prayer by Rev. Cheatham, the crowd turned to face east as the sun blazed across Basalt Mountain, illuminating the American flag waving gently at half-mast just off the edge of the ball field. With the crowd looking on, a trio of National Guardsmen, wearing uniform headgear with their Hawaiian shirts, quickly raised the banner to full mast, slowly lowered it, and folded it crisply lengthwise, then diagonally over itself until it was a small triangle.

As they marched in step across center field, baseball caps by the hundreds were removed and held high. Stopping in front of the Alcorta family they turned and came to a salute, forearms lowering slowly in the traditional gesture of appreciation and respect given a soldier’s family, and presented the flag to young Dominick.

Two funds have been established to assist the Alcorta family. The first, to cover temporary living expenses, is the Nick Alcorta Memorial Fund at Alpine Bank of Basalt, Box 3885, Basalt, CO 81621. The second, a long-term assistance fund for the Alcorta children, is the Angel Fund for Dominick and Derek at Christ Community Church, 20351 Hwy. 82, Basalt, CO 81621. Contribution may be made in lieu of flowers.


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