A decade after tragic car crash, Ponderosa’s “Behn Family Field” is a lesson in legacy, healing and community

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.

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“The impact and the healing of that field has been remarkable,” Ponderosa 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.

Whoever gets the honor of wearing No. 12 is a player who best represents the program on and off the field, as Jordan did.

Andy Cross, The Denver PostMemorial bricks placed at the Behn Family Field, adjacent to Ponderosa High School’s baseball field, are pictured on May 21, 2020.

“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.