Alaska Goldpanners have gears in motion for 2021 season
FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - In April, the Alaska Goldpanners had to pull the plug on their 2020 season due to logistical challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, the amateur collegiate summer baseball organization has been working to ensure they will be able to field a 2021 team, if given the opportunity. On a similar pace to years past, the Goldpanners have used the winter months to compile a roster, hire coaches and create an outline of the schedule.
“We have to proceed as if all systems are a go,” said Goldpanners General Manager John Lohrke. “We just want to get back to playing baseball.”
Last week, the Goldpanners announced the hiring of Anthony Ferro as the field manager and Shane Dudoit as an assistant coach, with a pitching coach yet to be announced. In addition, the Panners announced the skeleton of their 2021 season, with the home opener at Growden Memorial Park scheduled for June 10 against the Orange County Riptide. The famed Midnight Sun Game, which is begins at 10 p.m. and is played without the use of artificial lights, is set for June 20 versus the Everett Merchants. If held, Alaska plans to compete in the Grand Forks International Tournament in British Columbia, Canada, where they claimed the title in 2019. Other homestands for the Goldpanners include July games against the Boulder Collegians and the Utah Marshalls.
For what Lohrke described as a “summer missed” in 2020, the Goldpanners hope to play a part in bringing back what makes summers in Fairbanks so special.
“I am excited just to take the next chapter, especially after having taken a year off. I think the community is dying for any return to some sense of normalcy,” he said. “I think there is some pent up enthusiasm to get back to things the way they were, with a Midnight Sun Run and a Rubber Ducky Race and a Midnight Sun Game, and all those type of things that come along with a terrific summer in Fairbanks. The Goldpanners are one piece of that, and I can’t wait for us to play baseball again and for the whole community to have a summer that it so richly deserves.”
Manning the 2021 Goldpanners dugout will be Anthony Ferro, who is in his 17th season as the head coach of the Butte College Roadrunners in Chico, California. His resume with the program includes a 373-261 record, featuring 14 20-win seasons. In 2019, the Roadrunners were one win away from a Super Regional appearance. 2017 Goldpanners Field Manager Dave Nakama was involved in the hiring of Ferro, and when he received the call to become the next head coach of the program, Ferro has little to no hesitation.
“Anyone is a fool to not want to be a part of an organization with such rich history, that was a big deal for me,” Ferro said over the phone. “Knowing of the Goldpanners and baseball in Alaska, this opportunity presented itself and for me at this point in my life, to be able to have that kind of experience, to be a part of that rich tradition and to have my family be a part of it as well, it was something I just couldn’t turn down.”
In addition to putting out a good product on the field, Ferro also focuses on developing his players as quality people off the field.
“My number one goal at my job is to impact these kids’ lives in a positive way so in five or 10 years they come back and say, “thank you coach, I learned responsibility, discipline, independence, accountability, through the game of baseball.’” he said. “I am taking that same type of mentality to Alaska. First and foremost, we want to have fun, we want to win games and we want to get better as individuals. I am not just talking about the players, but also myself too, because I am open to learning some things as well.”
A Hawaiian-native, Dudoit is currently an associate scout for Major League Baseball’s Texas Rangers. Previously, he coached at Baldwin High School in Maui, leading the program to a Maui Interscholastic League championship in 2019, eventually placing third at the Hawaii State Baseball Tournament. As a baseball coach for many years, Dudoit couldn’t pass up the opportunity to coach the historic organization.
“I don’t think I would ever get this opportunity again,” Dudoit said. “As a high school baseball coach, that is the top level we get to watch day in and day out. I thought being around a bunch of Division I college players would help me bring back some knowledge to Maui, our little island over here, to help our kids through the process of what it takes to be a Division I collegiate baseball player, I said, ‘let’s do this,’”.
As someone who has never visited Alaska, Dudoit welcomes the experience, but is also looking forward to making new relationships.
“I love meeting new people and finding out where they come from and what they do,” he said. Dudoit is not the only Hawaiian looking forward to his Alaskan experience.
“I have got everybody on this island trying to figure out when they can come and visit me in Alaska now, so I have to watch what I do,” he said with a laugh.
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