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Cherry Creek's Lukes Dereki attempts a tag on a stealing 4-Corners' runner in the Tony Andenucio Memorial Tournament Thursday July 15, 2021 at the Runyon Sports Complex.Cherry Creek's Lukes Dereki attempts a tag on a stealing 4-Corners' runner in the Tony Andenucio Memorial Tournament Thursday July 15, 2021 at the Runyon Sports Complex.


Cherry Creek, Marc Johnson make trip down I-25 again to add to Andenucio Memorial baseball legacy

BY LUKE ZAHLMAN | The Pueblo Chieftain | JULY 15, 2021

Every single tournament.

The only entity as synonymous with the annual Tony Andenucio Memorial Tournament as the 'Nuch himself is Cherry Creek baseball.

Under the direction of Marc Johnson — Colorado's newly crowned leader in high school baseball wins as a coach — the Bruins have been part of all 41 of the annual events, including this year's, which proceeded after a year off due to COVID-19.

In that time, they've been in the most finals (17) and captured the most tournament wins on the confines of the Runyon Sports Complex (9).

"We developed a great relationship with Pueblo way back in the early 80s," Johnson said. "The city has been good to us and we love the baseball. I love being part of it. It's been something we've made plans to do as long as I'm (still) standing."

Not much has changed for the Bruins throughout the years. The players have, sure, but the philosophy around both the tournament and Cherry Creek summer ball, in general, has stayed mostly the same.

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The lone caveat has been the roster's construction.

When the tournament was created, the Bruins would bring the best their school grounds had to offer — including the seniors who'd recently graduated.

Cherry Creek Manager Marc Johnson and assistant coach Dave Veres sit alongside the dugout at the Tony Andenucio Memorial Tournament Thursday, July 15, 2021 at the Runyon Sports Complex. [Chieftain Photo/Luke Zahlman]Cherry Creek Manager Marc Johnson and assistant coach Dave Veres sit alongside the dugout at the Tony Andenucio Memorial Tournament Thursday, July 15, 2021 at the Runyon Sports Complex. [Chieftain Photo/Luke Zahlman]

Now, Johnson focuses on a slightly younger crowd. At the end of the year, he sends the 18-plus year old's who've already graduated to whatever team they choose. He keeps the players who will be returning to the program the following year.

In a way, his mindset has become about making every player on the team the best versions of themselves. It's bound to pay off in the near future, to him.

"I don't keep the seniors, I let them go because they're getting ready to go to college," Johnson said. "I think the competition level and the intensity (here) makes it so you have to learn. I refer to it as 'how-to-win awareness.' We know other teams have 18-year-olds, but it doesn't matter."

Every fall, the fruits of the labor in Pueblo's downtown mecca of baseball pay off.

Only Eaton (11) and Revere High School (10) have won more CHSAA state titles than Johnson's program (8). Those titles are part of a school legacy which includes a whooping 220 total state championships — a far cry from second-place Cheyenne Mountain's 101.

The title at the 'Nuch isn't a focus for Johnson. While winning is at the heart of every lesson he teaches, the tournament and summer season are more about growth.

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Bringing younger players ensures that every lesson learned on a baseball diamond can directly impact the program's winning, as well as the future of a given player past high school. Thursday's split, a 12-4 win against 2019 defending champions 4-Corners and a 6-4 loss to Parker, was about more than just starting the tournament on a good note.

"Our whole goal in summer and fall ball is to get better," Johnson said. "The hardest part is that everybody wants to win. But, I got (17) out of my 19 (guys) in the lineup (Thursday). I have to teach guys how to be a back-up player (too) and how to handle it if you are."

Look to the dugouts, and outside on a bench, chair or even standing, you'll see Johnson. Often times, he won't be joined by a flurry of other clubs from the Denver area, making his presence at such a tournament even more unique.

Heck, it just means more fun for the Bruins.

Chieftain reporter Luke Zahlmann can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or on Twitter: @lukezahlmann.

 

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