About 49th State Hardball and the ABL
49th State Hardball, this website, is a fan-written blog about the Alaska Baseball League (ABL). The Alaska League is the original collegiate summer baseball league and still, decades after its founding, one of the most talented. Hundreds of ABL players have gone on to Major League Baseball, and there are hundreds of additional Alaska Leaguers in the professional minor leagues today, hoping to follow in the footsteps of those who have come before them. Chances are good that some of your favorite professional players have played in Alaska.
The purpose of 49th State Hardball is to promote the Alaska League to baseball fans in Alaska and around the world, provide a resource for fans of the ABL and baseball in general to learn about and discuss their favorite ABL teams and players (past, present and future), and to promote the great game of baseball. We offer resources such as photos, news, scouting reports, and rankings, and use our contacts within the teams that make up the league to bring you accurate and interesting stories year-round.
Statement of Baseball Philosophy
What this site is and what it’s about
Since starting this website I’ve been drawn mostly to the “human aspect” of the game. It’s the most rewarding for me to write about, mostly because I think it’s what people come here to read. If you’re looking for raw stats, you can get those off the league website. If you want a recap of all the games, the local papers and news channels do an excellent job of covering them. I’m not here to compete with them or try to reinvent the wheel. I would prefer to compliment their work by giving you, the reader, a deeper look at the people that make up the game. I do take a step back to see the bigger picture now and again, but my primary focus is on the people, especially the players.
A big aspect of that, for me, is scouting the players. I use the term “scouting” loosely because I am by no means a professional or otherwise experienced scout. But I have watched a lot of baseball, I continually read about what to look for in a player, and I am always trying to improve my eye for the game by going to the park and looking at the players in detail. One reason I do this is that people, often those from outside who follow baseball prospects, will realize that a guy played in Alaska an ask me for my opinion. They’re not looking for their stats — again, these are readily available — but what I think of their tools. Or another way to think of it, no one is really interested in what they did as much as where they’re going. Sure, stats can be an indicator of that, and I try to include them in my analysis, but more important at this level, I think, are the raw tools and other traits — can a guy make contact, hit for power, throw a fastball, run, does he beat himself up when he fails, etc. — so that’s what I try to uncover.
Of course, I am a fan of the game, and I really want to like these guys. Usually I do. I figure if a guy didn’t have at least one “plus” tool he wouldn’t have any business playing in a fairly exclusive league like the ABL. I want to figure out what that is and share it with the world. Of course, if I get a good enough look at a player, I will eventually notice something that’s not so much a plus, but I’m not here to give anyone a bad evaluation. I am honest about my opinions, good or bad, but I don’t write about players just to tear them down. If I don’t have anything good to say I just keep my mouth shut (although I can’t possibly write about everyone so if I don’t have any notes about them it does not necessarily mean that I think they stink!). If I invest my time and energy into writing more than a sentence about a player it’s because I like him, I want him to succeed, and I want to promote his abilities to a world that likely hasn’t discovered him yet. When a player gets “discovered” in the minors, drafted first round, breaking into the big leagues, or whatever, I get satisfaction in saying that I saw him and recognized his talents before the mainstream baseball press.
That being said, everything I write is open for debate. This is all very much a guessing game. I stick by my opinions, but I recognize that everyone has them and I’m interested in hearing them. I am also aware of the fact that I am very much an amateur at evaluating players and may simply get the facts wrong. With this in mind, one thing I would like to do more of is stimulate discussion from readers. Every post I write has a comments box and everyone is welcome to post their thoughts. Whether you agree with me, disagree, or just want to present something I didn’t notice, I appreciate every constructive comment because it adds to the body of knowledge that this site contributes to the world. So please, if you find anything I’ve written to be thought-provoking at all, please contribute to the discourse by leaving a comment on the article.
At the end of the day, the most rewarding thing for me is knowing that I provided information that someone found useful or otherwise derived some satisfaction from. A parent e-mails me to say thanks for the article or photos on their kid. Fans from a player’s college back home share my article on the team fan forum. A pro team drafts a player and their fans check out my scouting notes to find out a little bit about who their new farmhand is. It consumes a lot of time and a fair amount of money to keep this thing running, but the reward I get from that stuff makes it worth it.
About jjack…your “editor in chief”
I’m jjack, otherwise known as Jesse. I am the main writer and operator of this blog. I’ve loved baseball my whole life. I grew up in a small island town in southeast Alaska, watching the Braves on TBS and playing ball all the way from tee-ball to high school. I have also had the privilege to coach youth baseball in Palmer Little League.
After spending a few years “in exile” in Montana, my family and I returned to Alaska where I studied Civil Engineering at University of Alaska Anchorage. I graduated from UAA in 2013 and am currently employed as an environmental engineer. I am very proud to be an Alaskan and I love to share the unique and wonderful aspects of the state with those I meet, and that includes our top-notch baseball league. I also enjoy writing and have always been handy with computers. One day I decided to combine several of my passions and, naturally, this blog was the outcome. I hope that you enjoy reading it and that my writing reflects well on the ABL and baseball as a whole.