It’s the first day of a new year. The 2010 season and its aftermath has fully sunk in, and the 2011 season is coming into focus. This is the perfect time, I think, to do a little reflection on what’s transpired over the course of the previous 365 days, and imagine what might unfold over the next 365, both as far as the Alaska Baseball League and this blog is concerned. Oh, yeah, and I’ll use this post to sneak in a couple good photos I don’t think I’ve had a chance to publish yet…
The 2010 season was, in my opinion, awesome. There was obviously a lot of excitement in the three-horse race for the league title that came right down to the final days of the season (including, of course, the dramatic Goldpanners-Miners series over the last two days).
Other than that, I think that every team in the league, and their fans, can find something to feel positive about. The Miners made it back-to-back league championships, so it doesn’t take a whole lot of in-depth analysis to figure out what they had to celebrate. The Goldpanners, despite managing to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, were the team to beat all season long and had a winning record against all their opponents. The Oilers were probably the most-improved team in the league and I could tell right from the get-go that they were going to make a run at the crown. The Bucs got off to a slow start but looked like they were bringing it together toward the end, and they put a lot of exciting players on the field. For what it’s worth, the Fire climbed out of the basement for the first time in forever(?) except their miracle 2007 championship season. And the Glacier Pilots, although they struggled all year long, have to take a little bit of consolation in the fact that they managed to seize yet another Mayor’s Cup from the rival Bucs.
The talent in 2010 was good as well. Any future first-rounders? I’m not sure. 2010, to me, could not be characterized by a handful of “superstars” and future studs that carry a pack of scrubs around with them. Rather, it seemed like — at least on the best teams — a very well-rounded league talent and potential wise. I can’t put my finger on anyone that is a lock to go on the first day of the draft, but I can (and have) rattled off a boatload of players who I think we’ll see in pro ball and possibly even go on to the big leagues. This seems to be reflected in the scout enthusiasm. I don’t know how it was back in the “glory days” but I’m sure that I saw at least one scout from every MLB club come through AK this summer, so the teams are still looking around up here.
This is a weird point in the year. I don’t mean this on any sort of a weird stalker nutbar level, but after spending the last year writing about, researching, photographing, analyzing, compiling statistics on, and otherwise making it a daily obsession to keep track of one group of roughly 150 players, it feels a little strange to acknowledge that I’ll never see most of these guys, in person, again, and there will be a whole new crop coming in to take up their lockers, their jerseys, and their seats on the bus. Who are you guys? What have you done with the team I used to know? Of course, as the season draws nearer, the excitement of all the new faces will grow and reality will sink in as we see our old friends move on to bigger and better things. But I guess it just seems contrary to the attachments you develop with sports teams at every other level and type of pro sports for there to be a turnover on the order of 90%. And right now it really starts to sink in.
All I really know for sure about 2011 is what I’ve gleaned from the newly-released schedule, which I wrote about yesterday. I don’t know any of the recruits. I know there have been one or two “leaked” but my opinion is that if the ABL teams themselves haven’t released their rosters then I should respect their wish not to do so. I know for a fact that some of the teams feel that it is to their advantage to keep their cards held closer to their chest until the summer gets a little closer, and that’s cool.
The other thing is that probably half the players will fall through anyway, so this far out it’s a little pointless. That’s something I learned last year and it will affect how I do things this spring before the season rolls up. Unless anyone has any big objections, I’ll probably spend significantly less time tracking every move of the 2011 recruiting class, for two reasons. First, I spend all this time writing and researching these players and then a significant portion of them never show up. So, to me, that’s all kind of wasted work. Second, because not all the teams will release their rosters by the opening of collegiate baseball, it comes off as incredibly biased. Last year I gave so much ink to the Bucs and Goldpanners that I was afraid I was that I was alienating fans of other teams. It wasn’t because I’m biased toward them so much, though, as it was that they were the only ones that gave me rosters in time to cover their recruits. But anyway, with these two factors in mind, the recruit coverage seems like kind of a high-investment low-reward venture. And quite frankly, it was kind of a pain. I over-committed myself and I know I dropped the ball on the coverage on numerous occasions.
Instead, what I would rather focus on is how some of our alumni are doing, particularly in the run-up to the 2011 MLB draft. Of course I want to keep cranking out the scouting videos, write some more scouting reports, and finish up the team-by-team draft eligible lists. But I want that to dovetail into a bigger “draft analysis” package. I really like that angle because the draft season is very exciting for baseball fans, and I think it’s something that connects Alaskans who want to know where their boys are headed, to the “outside world” who wants to know something about the prospects that we’ve been lucky enough to see that the rest of the world doesn’t know about.
Moving into the season, I think I just want to keep doing what I did last year but bigger and better. More video, more photos, more games, more scouting reports, more of everything! And more road trips. I want to make sure to hit Kenai and Fairbanks at least once each. The big question mark, though, will be how to handle the Goldpanners. I’m afraid that with their status as “adjunct members” they will get “adjunct member quality” coverage. This is not because I intend to discriminate against them, or knock them down to a lower level, on purpose, but it’s just that it will be difficult for me to give them the same coverage — over what amounts to half a season, no less — that I give the other teams. Last year I made it a point to cover every team at a bare minimum. Obviously I saw some (particularly the Miners) more than others, but I felt that once I had seen every team in person at least several times I was OK. Looking at the schedule, I just don’t know how it’s going to be possible for me to see the Goldpanners as much as I would like to. Ideally I’d like to get up to Fairbanks and especially for the Midnight Sun Game. We’ll see if that happens. I’m just kind of a working-class family man who has to live within his means. So the way I think I’ll handle the Goldpanners this year will be to see this as much as I can and don’t beat myself up if I don’t get as good a look at them as I do the other teams. I’ll do my best but I won’t have any regrets however it “pans” out (pun intended).
From a blogging perspective, I think next year will be great. I’ve learned a little bit about what flies and what doesn’t; what people like and what people don’t. And I plan to capitalize on that experience to bring you, the reader, the best experience yet.
The gushy emo part.
Part of this time of year is doing this part where I get all teary-eyed and give e-hugs to everyone. I only do it once a year. But I just gotta say thank you to everyone who deserves it.
Thanks to all the team personnel who’ve shown hospitality to me over the course of the year. I am continually taken
aback at how supportive everyone from all the teams has been. Special thanks go out to the teams who’ve offered me opportunities which, regretfully, I was unable to accept. Please don’t take my failure to take you up on your offers as a sign that I don’t appreciate them. In some cases it was personal/financial reasons that held me back. In others, it’s just my nature. I’m kind of laid back, a little shy, and I like to be a “fly on the wall”. I don’t like to swagger into the ballpark like, “Hey, watch out folks, big important internet blogger comin’ through!” and sometimes I feel weird when I try to push it to an advantage. So a lot of times I’ll wait for someone to approach me. But anyway, I appreciate all the offers, all the support, and all the kindness I’ve been shown by all the teams.
Thanks to all the readers who make this blog a success. Thanks to everyone who has left a comment to let me know what you think. Even if you disagree with me. Especially if you disagree with me. And especially if you’re pointing out a mistake I’ve made. Super-special thanks to all the families of the players who have taken the time to write me. This blog is a lot of work, and not much in terms of financial reward, so what really motivates me are the “atta boys” I get. Especially from the parents. I know you’re all excited about your sons’ Alaskan adventures and I’m just glad I can be a part of them.
Thanks to everyone else. The fans that take the time to talk to me and give me their two cents. The players who play the game and make all this possible. The concessions people for feeding me when I have to run to the ballpark on an empty stomach. My oldest daughter for being my “assistant” (aka designated peanut cracker…she likes to take them out of the shells but not eat them so much). And finally, my dearest wife for only teasing me incessantly about my baseball obsession rather than divorcing me, which she would probably have grounds for.
Well, that’s it. The end of the emo rant. Ready for some real baseball news? I’ll get you some in short order. Hang tight.