Published in June 2020
PARKER — When the Ponderosa community lost two student-athletes and their parents to a tragic car crash a decade ago, the school saw potential for a memorial — and hope for healing — in a weedy, switchgrass-laden drainage ditch.
On that plot of rugged land, adjacent to the varsity baseball field, is where Ponderosa would honor the Behn family. Jordan, the team’s first baseman who had just graduated, died in a fiery head-on collision on Aug. 1, 2010, near the Texas-Oklahoma border, along with his 15-year-old sister Morgan (a varsity softball player) as well as parents Robert and Lisa.
Behn Family Field was constructed in 2011 out of the tragedy caused by a wrong-way drunk driver. The auxiliary turf infield, used by all levels of the high school program as well as by local youth teams, has Jordan and Morgan’s numbers stitched into the turf. And an archway at the entrance of the field serves as a reminder of the family that Parker lost that fateful August.
“The impact and the healing of that field has been remarkable,” Ponderosa principal and ex-athletic director Tim Ottmann said. “As you drive down Highway 83 and look over, you can see it, so aesthetically it’s been a major improvement to our facility. And the design and the structure itself is a long-lasting tribute to the Behn family and their contributions to our baseball program, our softball program and our school in general.
“Since the whole family passed away, they’ve been remembered daily and hourly during the baseball season with regards to the impact they made. There’s always a lot of reflection and a lot of prayer at that field that we extend to the Behn family.”
Jordan, a two-year varsity starter who was headed to play at Lamar University in Texas, had his number retired posthumously in 2011. A No. 12 banner still hangs on the outfield fence each spring. And in the past few seasons, Ponderosa baseball coach Bob Mahoney has allowed one player at each level of the program to don it.
“The kids really buy into it, even though it’s been about 10 years and not everyone coming into the program knows of the Behn family,” Mahoney said. “Every year, we try to instill in them what this field means and what it means to the community. We want those kids to understand why we have his jersey hanging out there, and why certain kids get to wear his jersey.”
The field cost about $75,000 to build and was funded mainly by a donation from Arrow Electronics, for whom Robert worked. After it opened in 2011, the next year Ponderosa completed phase two of the project with landscaping around the field and a walkway connecting the varsity diamond with the auxiliary one.
Ponderosa also considered an indoor hitting facility as another option to memorialize the family, but the auxiliary infield turned out to be the better option from both a cost and legacy standpoint.
“I wanted something that would be there 20 years from now with kids playing on it, and 50 years from now, and this field will do that,” said Jarod Nicholson, Ponderosa’s baseball coach at the time and an assistant principal at the school. “It’s such a cultural piece 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 echoed Nicholson, noting “it’s the job of the upperclassmen to teach the underclassmen who might not know the story.” Martens routinely practiced on the Behn Family Field while playing youth baseball as a member of the Parker Colts.
“We want to honor Jordan and Morgan’s legacy, so whenever someone enters the Behn Family Field, we demand that players, coaches and parents enter through the archway to pay respect to Jordan and his family and what he means to us,” said Martens, who wore No. 12 during this spring’s brief varsity season. “I yell at people every time they try to take a shortcut.”
Ponderosa is planning to bring back a memorial tournament for the Behns that was staged 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 of Jordan, one of his team’s best players and a popular classmate, continues to loom large in the program.
“The most important legacy Jordan left to us at Ponderosa is that winning is important, but choosing how you win is more important,” Martens said. “Winning with class and integrity, like he did and would’ve wanted now, means a lot more. That belief, and the field that represents it, is something that’s extremely important to us at Ponderosa.”