Tucson-area college athletes

Aztecs Win Kino League Baseball Title Behind Young Talent and Sage Coaching

Mike Odum‘s life has gone through some long and winding roads, figuratively overall and literally as a bus driver the last three decades or so.

The former Cholla baseball coach from 1990 to 1994 is in the Pima County Sports Hall of Fame because of his stellar play at Tucson High School followed by a career at Azusa Pacific University and minor-league stops with the Cincinnati Reds and Texas Rangers. Other than coaching Cholla he has been an American Legion coach, pitching coach at Pima and manager of the Nogales Charros of the Arizona-Mexico Independent League.

The champion Aztecs with coach Mike Odum at the far right (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

His involvement with coaching baseball in Tucson has taken place since the parents of some of the players in Thursday’s Kino League championship were on the diamond. He coached Jose “Pepe” Valencia, a Pueblo grad, with his first American Legion team in 1983. Odum and Valencia, his assistant, concluded a 26-game schedule this summer by coaching the Aztecs to a 9-4 win over the BNL Rockets at Kino Stadium.

“I am going to relax, first of all,” Odum said when asked of his plans now that the 10th year of the Kino League in Tucson is complete. “Second of all, I think I will, oh, drive a bus.”

Drive a bus?

“I’m retired and I drive a charter bus,” he said. “I’ll see some of the country. I’m looking forward to it”‘

Bill Leith, the founder and operator of the Kino Baseball League, addresses the Aztecs after their championship (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Somehow, Odum, who was a Pima County Sheriff after his time as coach at Cholla, fit in almost three decades of riding a bus for Greyhound before retiring, and he is now driving for Gray Line.

On Thursday night, with Valencia navigating, Odum coached the Aztecs, comprising primarily of players from Pima College, to the Kino League title. It was his first taste of coaching in the league, which was formed by Bill Leith in 2010. It did not take much coaxing for Odum to return to the diamond to coach.

Pima College administrator Edgar Soto and baseball coach Ken Jacome were among those who asked Odum to coach the team. He liked the idea of being reunited with Valencia, a longtime local coach.

The Aztecs’ Jacob Jacome stops at first after one of his two singles in the game (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

“The game has been good to me,” Odum said. “I got an education out of the game. I’ve met people all around the country, so it’s been a positive. So when people give me the opportunity to give back, I want to give back to the young men.

“Pepe played for me and look at him now. It’s great to see. The guys that I coached, I see these guys with families and it makes me proud to see the direction they took.”

In Thursday night’s game in front of roughly 200 fans and college recruiters at Kino Stadium, the Aztecs pounded out 12 hits and took advantage of four errors by the BNL Rockets for the victory.

Baseball’s Next Level (BNL) Rockets (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Some of the standouts for Pima:

— 2B Jacob Jacome, former Pima player bound for New Mexico Highlands who was a feature subject in our Wings Over Broadway Summer Youth Series, went 2 for 4 with two runs as the leadoff batter.

— 1B Saul Escarrega, formerly of Sahuarita and now a sophomore at Pima, hit a deep three-run home run to left field in the first inning to contribute to the Aztecs’ four-run rally.

— LF Alex Bustamante, the Canyon del Oro standout now a sophomore at the New Military Institute, went 4 for 4 with two runs and two RBIs.

— 3B Richard Ware, formerly of Pima who came with coach Ken Jacome from New Mexico last season, went 3 for 4 with two RBIs.

Top players for the BNL (Baseball’s Next Level) Rockets:

— RF Logan Sanders, of Catalina Foothills headed to Colorado Mesa University, went 2 for 4 with two runs.

— SS Jorge Bojorquez, the former Nogales standout now a sophomore at Sacramento State, had a highlight-reel snag of a line drive leaping high to get it and batted 2 for 4 with a double, two runs and an RBI.

— P Kiko Romero, a CDO product bound for Central Arizona College, went 2 for 4 and also pitched two innings of relief allowing one hit, striking out two and walking one.


ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.

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