The Peninsula Oilers, the defending champions of the Alaska Baseball League, begin their quest for another league title at 7 p.m. Monday, June 11, with a two-game, two-night set against the All Stars, kicking off nine consecutive nights of baseball at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai.
The Oilers are one of six baseball clubs in the summer collegiate Alaska Baseball League, one of the premier summer collegiate baseball leagues in the country. There are more than 40 summer collegiate leagues in the U.S. that play under National Collegiate Athletic Association rules, with all players being current NCAA (all divisions), National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and junior college players. Occasionally a high-school player dots the ranks of these amateur collegiate teams.
The Alaska Baseball League traces its roots back to the 1970s. It is a traditional wooden bat league, much like the professional leagues and unlike several summer collegiate leagues that play with aluminum bats to the sound of a metallic ding, rather than the more historic wooden thwack, when a hitter connects with a ball.
Alaska baseball itself has roots going back to the early 1900s, when gold prospectors made their way up from Seattle and San Francisco to Skagway via steamship and over the Chilkoot Pass and onto the goldfields and streams of Alaska and the Yukon.
Some of these prospectors were ballplayers from organized baseball of their day who began gold camp and town baseball teams throughout Alaska. The Alaska Baseball League grew from these early prospectors and baseball players. The Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks honor these former players in their name.
The Peninsula Oilers previously have won Alaska Baseball League titles in 1998, 2000, 2006 and last season’s 2011 league championship title.
The Oilers also are the 2011 runner-ups in the National Baseball Congress World Series held in Wichita, Kan., each August.
The Oilers are three-time NBC champions with titles coming in 1977, 1993 and 1994, and are only one of 10 NBC championship teams since 1935 to win back-to-back NBC titles. The Oilers are frequent visitors to the NBC World Series, the premier amateur baseball national championship tournament in the U.S.
The Oilers begin their 2012 season with changes at the top of the organization. General Manager James Clark takes over the reigns of running the organization from Shawn Maltby, who moved on to become the general manager for the rival Anchorage Bucs.
Head Coach John Stevens of Nipoma, Calif., who was assistant coach last year, takes over the coaching helm from Dennis Machado. Kyle Richardson returns as assistant coach, along with local favorite John Kennedy, of Kenai Central High School, who
moves into the assistant role after being a volunteer assistant last season.
Seven Oilers from last season’s roster are returning with a new cast of players from the likes of NCAA powerhouses Florida State, Fresno State, Long Beach State, University of Michigan and the University of Southern California, along with other great collegiate baseball programs.
Returning players to an ever-changing roster are Manny Acosta, Brandon Kizer, Jon Maciel, Jordan Mills, Nate Ring,
J.D. Salles and Jeff Yamaguchi. Rosters usually change with an influx of players who are currently competing in the collegiate World Series.
The Peninsula Oilers is a volunteer, nonprofit baseball club that relies on sponsors, advertisers, Old Town Bingo participants and staff, fans attending games and the many numerous volunteers, such as its board of directors, host families and many others dedicated to the smooth running of the Oilers.
Host families needed
One of the current primary needs of the Oilers is for local housing for players. These are families who welcome Oilers players into their homes in June and July for housing, meals, laundry and away-from-the-field activities.
Host families are honored by the Oilers at the final home game July 29 on Fan Appreciation Night with on-field
acknowledgements by the Oilers players and staff.
Anyone interested in hosting an Oilers player should contact Kathy Gensel at 262-9262 or 252-7504, through the Oilers office at 283-7133, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oilers, ABL facts
- The Oilers are longtime members of the Alaska Baseball League. Current 2012 members are the Anchorage Bucs, five-time NBC champion Anchorage Glacier Pilots, the new Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks (formerly the Fairbanks AIA Fire), six-time NBC champion Fairbanks Goldpanners, the two-time NBC champion Mat-Su Miners out of Palmer’s Alaska State Fairgrounds, and the Kenai’s three-time NBC champion Peninsula Oilers.
- Oilers games are played at Coral Seymour Memorial Park off the Kenai Spur Highway on Tinker Lane in Kenai. Oilers broadcasts are on ESPN 1140 AM radio with Coach Dan Gensel and Bob Bird.
- General admission to games is $3, or $5 for covered reserved seating (based on 2011 prices). Tickets are available at the ballpark box office or through the Oilers office on 601 S. Main St. in Old Town Kenai.
- Check out the Oilers online through the club’s Facebook page, Peninsula Oilers Baseball Club and through the Oilers’ website at http://www.oilersbaseball.com. More information on the Alaska Baseball League is available at http://www.alaskabaseballleague.org and http://www.49thstatehardball.com.
- Some of MLB’s top players have come from the Alaska Baseball League, such as Tom Seaver, Dave Kingman, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Dave Winfield, Jason Giambi, Bruce Bochte, Luis Gonzalez, Chris Chambliss, Mark Grace, Eric Karros, Jeff Kent, CJ Wilson and Jose Canseco.
- Many former Oilers have gone on to greater aspirations in Major League Baseball’s World Series, such as Rich Aurilla, Dennis Cook, Ron Davis, J.D. Drew, Cal Eldred, Atlee Hammaker, Jimmy Key, Doug Mientkiewicz, John Olerud, Dan Schatzeder, Pat Sheridan, Bobby Thigpen and Frank Viola. This list of former Oilers in MLB’s World Series is not complete and will continue to grow over the years ahead.
- Currently, nearly 60 former Oilers are active in professional baseball, with nearly 20 being in Major League Baseball.
- Several former Oilers have won MLB awards, such as 1988 Cy Young Award winner and 1987 World Series MVP, Frank Viola (1980 Oilers); 2008 All Star Game MVP J.D. Drew (1995 Oilers); Rawlings Gold Glove Award winners J.T. Snow (1987 Oilers), John Olerud (1988 Oilers) and Doug Mientkiewicz (1993 Oilers); 1990 Firemen of the Year Award by Sporting News, Bobby Thigpen (1984 Oilers); American League Pitcher of the Year Award, 1982 Dave Stieb (1977 Oilers) along with 1987 and 1994 winner Jimmy Key (1981 Oilers) and 1988 winner Frank Viola. A slew of other former Oilers have won MLB and U.S.A. Baseball seasonal awards.
2012 Oilers home schedule
- June 11 and 12, 7 p.m., vs. the Adult All Stars
- June 13, 7 p.m.; June 14, 5 p.m. doubleheader; June 15, 7 p.m. vs. Fairbanks Goldpanners
- June 16, 7 p.m.; June 17, 2 p.m., June 18, 7 p.m.; June 19, 6 p.m. vs. Mat-Su Miners
- June 24, 2 p.m.; June 25, 7 p.m.; June 26, 4 p.m. vs. Everett, Wash., Merchants
- July 4, 5, 6 and 7, 7 p.m. vs. Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks
- July 15, 4 p.m. doubleheader; July 16, 7 p.m.; July 17, 5 p.m. vs. Anchorage Glacier Pilots
- July 27, 6 p.m.; July 28, 4 p.m. doubleheader; July 29, 2 p.m. vs. Anchorage Bucs
Ed Kobak is a longtime peninsula resident and Oilers fan who enjoys all that the Alaska outdoors offer. He is a New
England native from Vermont (Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins and Patriots!) who is a freelance sports and adventure travel writer and sports reference book author, publisher and distributor. Kobak may be contacted at email@example.com or through his website at http://www.sportsbooksempire.com.