PARKER – When the Ponderosa community lost two college athletes and their parents in a tragic car accident ten years ago, the school saw potential for a memorial – and hope for a cure – in a weed switchgrass-laden drain ditch.
On that stretch of rugged land, adjacent to the varsity baseball field, Ponderosa would honor the Behn family. Jordan, the team’s first baseman, who had just graduated, died on August 1, 2010, in a fiery head-on collision, near the Texas-Oklahoma border, along with his 15-year-old sister Morgan (a varsity softball player) as both parents Robert and Lisa.
Behn Family Field was built in 2011 from the tragedy caused by a ghost driver. The auxiliary turf, used by all levels of the high school program and by local youth teams, has stitched Jordan and Morgan’s numbers into the grass. And an arch at the entrance to the field reminds the family that Parker lost that fateful August.
“The impact and healing of that field has been remarkable,” said Tim Ottmann, Ponderosa athletic director. “While you are driving down Highway 83 and looking over it, you can see it, so aesthetically it is a great improvement to our facility. And the design and structure itself are a longstanding tribute to the Behn family and their contributions to our baseball program, our softball program and our school in general.
“Since the whole family died, they have been remembered every hour during the baseball season regarding the impact they have made. There is always a lot of reflection and a lot of prayer in that field that we extend to the Behn family.”
Jordan, a two-year-old varsity starter who was about to play at Lamar University in Texas, retired posthumously in 2011. A No. 12 banner still hangs on the outfield fence every spring. And in recent seasons, Ponderosa baseball coach Bob Mahoney has allowed one player at each level of the program to donate it.
The one who gets the honor of wearing number 12 is a player who best represents the program on and off the field, as Jordan did.
“The kids are really buying it, even though it’s been about 10 years ago and not everyone who participates in the program knows the Behn family,” said Mahoney. “Every year we try to teach them what this field means and what it means for the community. We want those children to understand why we have his sweater hanging there and why certain children are allowed to wear his sweater. ‘
The field cost approximately $ 75,000 to build and was funded primarily by a donation from Arrow Electronics, for whom Robert worked. After opening in 2011, Ponderosa completed phase two of the project the following year with landscaping around the field and a walkway connecting the varsity diamond to the auxiliary diamond.
Ponderosa also considered an indoor hitting facility as another option to commemorate the family, but the relief field proved to be the better option from both a cost and tradition point of view.
“I wanted something that would be there in 20 years with kids playing on it, and 50 years from now, and this field will do that,” said Jarod Nicholson, Ponderosa baseball coach and an assistant principal at the school at the time. “It’s such a cultural part of this program, so I’m confident that future generations will have the same respect for it as the teams who first played on it.”
Senior first baseman / pitcher Ty Martens repeated Nicholson, commenting, “It is up to the upperclassmen to educate the underclasses who may not know the story.” Martens routinely practiced at the Behn Family Field while playing youth baseball as a member of the Parker Colts.
“We want to honor the legacy of Jordan and Morgan, so when someone enters the Behn Family Field, we require players, coaches and parents to enter the gate to pay respect to Jordan and his family and what he means to us,” said Martens , which wore number 12 during the short season of spring. “I yell at people every time they try to take a shortcut.”
Ponderosa plans to bring back a memorial tournament for the Behns that was held every year from 2011 to 2017. It originally took place over Father’s Day weekend, but Mahoney wants to revive it as a fall event in 2021. Meanwhile, the memory Jordan, one of the best players on his team and a popular classmate, remains big in the program.
“The main legacy that Jordan left us at Ponderosa is that winning is important, but choosing how you win is more important,” said Martens. “Winning with class and integrity, as he did and would like to do now, means much more. That belief, and the field it represents, is something that is extremely important to us at Ponderosa.”