Blair's Vets Field and Walter Johnson Field in Coffeyville, Kan., couldn't compare.
The more than 6,000 fans at Founders Park in Columbia, S.C., opened Damon Jorgensen's eyes. The baseball player was living out a dream.
“This is the nicest field I've ever played on,” the former Blair Bear remembers thinking March 9-10, 2019.
In his first season at Valparaiso University, Jorgensen and the Crusaders visited the two-time College World Series champion South Carolina Gamecocks. The home team swept the weekend's three-game series, but the moment in front of the crowd wasn't lost on the Nebraska native. He'd just played on a Southeastern Conference field and swung a baseball bat against a national power.
“It's a 150-percent different ballgame at this level,” Jorgensen said. “This is the best of the best.”
And the 2016 BHS grad works every day to make sure he gets to compete at that top tier.
When Jorgensen arrived in Valparaiso, Ind., from Coffeyville Community College, he moved into Beacon Hall — a dormitory on the north side of campus off of Laporte Avenue.
“That was kind of frustrating,” he said.
The mandatory living situation was an adjustment after the junior had lived in a house back in Kansas.
Now, though, Jorgensen lives in a house near campus right next to a 7-Eleven convenience store — which isn't a bad arrangement, considering his house is “definitely a college house.” Each day, the self-described morning person wakes up in that home and eats breakfast before taking the next step of his routine.
“You're supposed to go to class,” he said.
School work at Valpo
Baseball players at Valparaiso must be done with school by 2 p.m. to make sure a practice schedule can be adhered to.
Jorgensen gets done before then.
He takes all morning classes, studying communications. The public relations lessons are learned across campus. Some buildings are brand new, some show their age.
“Some of the buildings smell and feel like they've been here 200 years,” Jorgensen notes.
But when school is done, the former Bear gets to the ballpark 4 hours before games. He uses that time to get locked in mentally.
Division I baseball
Some freshman are shocked when they arrive into the Division I baseball world.
Jorgensen, meanwhile, spent his first year away from Blair baseball in Coffeyville. He earned his stripes at the junior college level under the direction of coach Jake Martin.
“There's a ton of pride (among JUCO players),” the infielder said.
The former Bear earned all-state honorable mention at Vets Field, but he attained the proper baseball mindset on Walter Johnson Field. There were loose practice limits and some days Jorgensen didn't know if he'd make it through, but then the offers to the top division of collegiate baseball started showing up.
So, the Red Raven traded in red and arrived in Indiana for Crusader brown, gold and white. He was ready and started 43 games in 2019. This shortened season, the infielder finished with 14 starts and his team's second-best batting average (.264).
While Jorgensen arrives at the ballpark 4 hours before game time, he starts stretching and getting ready about 90 minutes before. He'll squeeze in some time with music and his thoughts, too.
“I, personally, like some alone time,” he said.
Valparaiso's Emory G. Bauer Field was built in 1970 and has an official capacity of 500 fans. Jorgensen admits the playing surface is subpar.
“We definitely see the palaces on the road,” he said, making sure to note how “blessed” his team is to have its indoor facility, however.
But, all the same, Jorgensen keeps his focus. He keeps a level head during games, and through the season.
“I'm a big believer that you can't ride the roller coaster,” the Crusader said.
Jorgensen is also a bit superstitious, however. He'll always put his left batting glove on first, while all the Valpo infielders keep their baseball gloves together when they're up at the plate.
But just like he doesn't take an at-bat for granted, Jorgensen isn't taking his D1 experience for granted. The former Bear takes regular trips around the warning track to take all in. He and a couple teammates get together to pray, sharing personal thoughts, as well.
As of the end of April, Jorgensen has another year of eligibility remaining and — as of now — he sees that going into use at Valparaiso. But, as this shortened season as showed him, nothing is guaranteed.
Regardless, he's made sure to soak in what's around him — 6,000 at Founders Park in South Carolina included.