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Alaska Goldpanners shine through the late hours of The Midnight Sun Game in victory

Published: Jun. 22, 2021 at 9:05 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Baseball and the midnight sun; a tradition in Fairbanks, Alaska that 116 years strong.

First played in 1906 as a bet between two local bars, the game that is played overnight without the use of artificial lighting has grown into a bucket list event for any baseball fan, as tabbed by Major League Baseball and ESPN. This year’s edition featured the Alaska Goldpanners and the Everett Merchants (WA) after the historic game was preserved by the Fairbanks Adult Amateur Baseball League in 2020 when the Panners were without a season.

It attracts fans from all over the world, but for the players, who come from colleges all over the country, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience they would not get anywhere else.

“Thinking back on this night in the future, it is one of a kind. I am never going to play at midnight again with no lights, just sky and sun.” said Goldpanners catcher David Martin, of Chino Hills, California.

“I have heard that is just an honor to play this game,” said Merchants outfielder Jaxsen Sweum, who is from Snohomish, Washington. “It is extremely awesome just to be able to play this late with the sun out and everything, then you get all the fans out here too, it is just probably one of the coolest experiences I have ever been a part of.”

“Not a lot of people get to say that they have played in this game, so it is going to be one good memory for me,” added Goldpanners third baseman Marco Pirruccello, who hails from Rockland, CA.

“It is a surreal experience,” mentioned Everett infielder Max Nealon, of Redmon, WA “It is just a cool thing that the entire city of Fairbanks comes out to this game and it is really cool for everyone.”

“I never thought I could play at game at midnight,” said Alaska pitcher RJ Aranda. ”Never, even if it went extra innings, I never would have thought that.”

“It was a great experience, I am never going to forget this.” added Goldpanners starting pitcher German Fajardo.

Over 3,000 baseball fans packed Growden Memorial Park, an attendance much larger than these players had experienced throughout their playing career, but under the bright lights of the midnight sun, the Goldpanners stepped to the plate.

From opening pitch - which was at 10:00 p.m. local time - Fajardo was dialed in, pitching seven scoreless inning, allowing just two hits while sitting down nine batters.

As the nerves began to settle in the fourth inning, Martin blooped an RBI single to bring the first run home, while simultaneously bringing the stadium to their feet in applause. The Panners struck once more off the bat of a Pirrucello base hit as Alaska led 2-0 heading into the 7th inning stretch. But hold the ‘Take Me Out To The Ball Game’ que - as in true Goldpanners and Midnight Sun Game fashion - ‘Happy Boy’ by The Beat Farmers blared through the stadium speakers as the Happy Boy mascot himself and thousands of fans kazooed through the 7th inning stretch. As the clock stuck midnight, the ‘Sweet Adelines’ sang a rendition of the ‘Alaska Flag Song’, continuing the tradition.

But the Goldpanners had their own traditions to continue, winners of nearly 77% of all Midnight Sun Games heading into Monday night (46-14).

The summer collegiate baseball program sent fans from all over the world home happy, as Buddy Pindel closed the deal on the mound for the save, while Pirrucello punched in another RBI single in the 3-0 shutout victory with the final out recorded at around 12:45 a.m.

A no doubt bucket list, one-of-a-kind event for not only the players and fans, but the coaches as, who have seen it all throughout their baseball careers...except maybe this.

“I mean it was an unbelievable environment, it was awesome,” said Goldpanners head coach Anthony Ferro, of Butte College. “I would put it at the very top [of my list], winning championships for me as a college coach and being able to experience this. Being able to get a win is the cherry on top. It is all about making the community proud and hopefully we did that today.”

“I was so happy to be a part of that tonight,” said assistant coach Shane Dudoit, who is from Hawaii. “Being from Maui I have never seen so many people in the stands. It has been a great time, I am enjoying myself.”

For the 116th consecutive year, baseball was played under the midnight sun in Fairbanks, Alaska; a tradition you won’t find anywhere else.

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