Wednesday, January 23, 2013

In Alaska, 20 Years Earlier

I was reminded last night of my first two years coaching college summer baseball in Alaska when I ran into one of our former players on the Anchorage Bucs, Will Schock, now a professional scout for the Oakland A's. He said, "Hey CB, send me those pictures from 1984, will ya?" Those were days filled with great baseball, lasting friendships, and more tomfoolery and nuttiness than seems possible. Some of the players in these photographs went on to play professional baseball, including the Major Leagues, and are now settled into lives mostly outside of baseball. In the top photograph, I am reminded of the beautiful light that often bathed the ballpark near the end of the usual three-hour game. The guy looking into the camera is Loring Davies, fresh out of Stanford and an assistant coach with us. He's now a school superintendent in southern California and one of the funniest guys I've ever known. A highlight , for the players and fans, was the annual appearance of the Famous Chicken, seen in the second and fourth photos in Anchorage and then again in Fairbanks. Sandwiched between the Chicken is our field manager, Jerry McClain, looking at the lineup on the dugout wall. Peering over the dugout in the stands is my son, Jason, who often accompanied me on my trips to Alaska. My God, he's over 40 now! Below that is a shot of Matsu Miners manager Jim Frye burning the baselines, trying to dry the field so we can play the game after a heavy rain.The infielders got sick from the smell of gasoline on the field once we got started. Only in Alaska. In those days, airfare was cheap so we always flew to Fairbanks and Kenai. In later years, we drove in a yellow school bus, often all night. The guy on the right walking to the Kenai airport is Mike Campbell, who pitched at the U of Hawaii as well as a few years in the Big Leagues. Next up is Loring Davies again, trying to throw batting practice over the ten foot screen in front of the mound in Fairbanks. After the game in Fairbanks, we made the 45 minute drive to Eilson Air Force Base where we were housed for the series that year. This was taken close to midnight and we stopped for some silliness in front of the sign. There's Will Schock with his arm draped suggestively around Loring, and at the far right, Jose Alou, the son of the great Felipe Alou, saluting something. Absolutely great times. Thanks for reminding me, Will!

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