The Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks seized victory once again in their marquee event of the season, the W.G. & Eddie Stroecker Midnight Sun Game. By a final score of 7-5 the home team vanquished the visiting Everett Merchants in the 107th annual event.
Drew Mitrisin got the call for the start in this historic event. He surrendered two runs in the first but cruised through the fifth without giving up another. But it looked like it might unravel in the sixth when the Merchants put a three-spot on the board against him and gained the lead. He was effective enough to keep the Goldpanners in the game and within striking distance, however, and the relief corps — Cody Priest and Patrick McGrath — kept the Merchants from bringing another run home.
Meanwhile, the Panners had enough left in their bats to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, coming back from a 4-5 deficit to amass a final run tally of 7 to the Merchant’s 5. Leading the power surge was Casey Munoz, who went three-for-three with 2 runs and 2 batted in. Joey Epperson continued his hot hitting by contributing a pair of hits to the effort.
Ryan Sells, for Everett, gave up just one earned over 3.2 innings. Teammate Nate Mullins continued to swing well on their Alaska trip, going 2-for-4.
The Midnight Sun Game has been a tradition for over a century in Fairbanks, and the Goldpanners have taken up the tradition by hosting the game for the past several decades. Their victory tonight brings their all-time record to 43-11. The game has become a thing of baseball lore, famous among die-hard baseball fans around the world. Naturally, therefore, it is a big hit with the Fairbanks locals and the stadium is traditionally jam-packed to standing-room-only levels.
Of course, it wasn’t all fun and games. Both the Goldpanners and the Merchants have taken the opportunity of their meeting to jointly honor the memory of Cam Christian, a former player of both teams. Christian passed away after a car accident in Idaho in October. The Goldpanners have posted a blog entry on the Midnight Sun Game website where teammates from both teams have shared their memories. Christian played for the 2009 “Barnstorming” Midnight Sun Goldpanners on their tour from Alaska to Kansas and was remembered by his teammates as the life of the road trip.
The sheer gravity of playing in such a historic game was definitely not lost on the players. Drew Mitrisin, who is writing a blog of his experiences with the Goldpanners this season, posted an update on his preparations for the game. Here’s what he had to say:
Today I am simply killing time and trying not to dwell on the magnitude of the game too much. As Caple states in the article, a few years from now I will reflect on this game as possibly the pinnacle of my baseball career, so I hope everything goes well. In terms of relevance to the league standings and our overall record this game is almost meaningless, but in terms of entertaining Fairbanks, making money for our organization, and my own peace of mind, this game is huge.
But all seriousness aside, the game was a celebration for baseball fans, who came from near and far, to take in the overnight bout under the midnight sun. My Twitter feed was abuzz with comments from fans taking in a good game (and some good brews).
It wasn’t just the players who were pumped up to make history. Steve Long, home plate umpire, was fired up for the game as well:
Phil Ackley chose an appropriate beverage for the occasion (Midnight Sun Sockeye Red IPA):
J. Jason Lazarus provided his fan’s eye view:
This was the year that I was finally going to make it up to live blog, but it unfortunately didn’t happen. My commitment to the Little League T-Ball team co-conspired with $4.30-a-gallon gas prices to nip that plan in the bud (anyone want to carpool next year?). Thankfully, enough folks in attendance were kind enough to share their remarks on the festivities with me which I am now passing along to you.
With this one in the books, summer is officially here. The ABL season is in full swing. Let’s play ball!