land of the midnight sun

The sun finally skirts the horizon around 12:30 a.m. at the Midnight Sun Baseball Game

The Goldpanners in action against the Military All-Stars

This past summer solstice, the Goldpanners played the Military All-Stars during the Midnight Sun Baseball Game. With names on the backs of our opponents’ jerseys like Hiroshima, Okinawa, Hero, Free at Last, Colonies, and Four Score & 7, it was hard to root against them. I’m sure that’s not any part of their strategical plan, though.  The All-Stars are made up of active-duty members of our armed services, and they say they play in the league to bring awareness to Americans in support of the military’s sacrifices. The Panners, on the other hand, are just a bunch of college kids, from all over the country, playing over the summer in hopes of staying fit and gaining experience in the minor leagues. Despite their amateur status, though, they’re a blast to watch. And some of it end up making it big.

Barry Bonds, for instance, who exceeded Babe Ruth in home-runs on the all-time list, and left-handed Boston Red Sox pitcher Bill “Spaceman” Lee, known for his eccentricity on and off the field, both made their debuts with the Panners. When asked what accounted for his bizarre pitching style and personality, Lee said, “I used to play for the Alaska Goldpanners, and when you play on permafrost, and it warms and your centerfield disappears, that leads to eccentricity.” In 2008, “Spaceman” came back to Fairbanks at the ripe old age of 60 and pitched six continuous innings during that year’s Midnight Sun Game. Fans couldn’t have been happier.

Baseball is one of summer’s greatest past times as is. But in the land of the midnight sun, when the first pitch isn’t thrown ’til 10:30 p.m., and the last play may not end until four in the morning, baseball becomes a whole new ballgame. No matter if you have to work the next morning, these guys are worth watching.

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