115th Midnight Sun Game saved by Fairbanks baseball league
First, it was the COVID-19 pandemic that put the 115th annual Midnight Sun Baseball Game in jeopardy. Then, it was Mother Nature dropping a large amount of rain on Saturday, June 20, the day of the historic event.
Hours before the game, Legion baseball, who was slated to play the Fairbanks Adult Amateur Baseball League (FAABL) at 10 p.m., pulled out because of player safety, as they felt the field was not in good enough condition to play.
The FAABL did not want to see the 114 years of tradition fall to the wayside, so they split up their team to keep it alive.
"It's a pretty cool feeling," said FAABL's Christoph Falke, after getting a crew together to save the Midnight Sun Game. "That kind of capped it and say, 'Hey this is the Midnight Sun Game. We've kept one, the game going, so we kept that tradition going and two, the Alaska Song at midnight."
With less than two hours before the opening pitch, Falke, along with some other players invovled, tended to the field, brushing water off and putting chalk lines down. After 7 innings, the Eielson-Brewers defeated the BlackSpruce-Pirates 15-13. However, the score didn't really matter in the end to the players, as they saved a Fairbanks treasure that was close to being cancelled.
"It means a lot, being a huge baseball fan and being a part of the community and being from here, knowing what the game means to the community." said FAABL's Michael Cofey Jr. Playing baseball at midnight, I mean, how many places can you do that in the world? So I am thankful and honored man."
What started as a friendly bet between local bars in 1906, the annual Midnight Sun Baseball Game has flourished into a bucket-list event for any baseball fan. The Alaska Goldpanners took over the tradition in 1960, but for the first time in the organization's existence, they had to cancel their season amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
Some of the players on the rosters had never played under the Midnight Sun, and they got to experience this unique opportunity.
"It is a change. I have never played a game at midnight, but Alaska is something else," said FAABL's Daro Vioagomez . "I like to play all the time, so it feels great to play day or night."
"It was really cool. I watched it last year when the Goldpanners were up here but it was a really experience to actually play in it," said Jake Lucas. "It was a little rainy today but turned out to be a pretty nice day for a game."
The tradition lived on thanks to these players despite so many obstacles along the way.