Thousands watch annual event

Juneau's Fuller scores one run as Goldpanners win 100th Midnight Sun Game

Posted: Thursday, June 23, 2005

FAIRBANKS - Thousands of baseball fans stayed up late Tuesday to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Midnight Sun Baseball Game.

Perhaps no fan made more of a sacrifice to be at the game than Crieghton Beshears of Fairbanks.

"We made him take an extra long nap today," said Rick Beshears, the 3-year-old's father.

The excitement of being at his first baseball game left Crieghton speechless as he held onto his father's legs for support as the pair waited in line to get into Growden Memorial Park.

Some fans made quite the effort to watch the Alaska Goldpanners take on the Strike Zone of Omaha, Neb., in the "high noon at midnight" baseball classic. The game starts at 10:30 p.m. and is played without lights, stopping only for an interruption in play at midnight so fans can sing the "Alaska Flag Song."

"This is a total cultural experience," said Val Havas, who is on a three-week vacation from Australia with her husband, Andy.

The couple said they are more used to watching lively cricket matches, although they have seen a few baseball games here and there.

"Certainly nothing like this," Andy Havas said. "And certainly not at midnight without lights."

"I think more places should celebrate the solstice like this," said Carole Leonardis, of West Chester, Pa.

Inside the ball park, the excited crowd jostled for seats. Less than an hour after the doors opened, and a full two hours before the first pitch, the more than 3,500 seats in the metal bleachers were just about full.

Fans basked in the glow of Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr, getting his autograph on their commemorative ball. In the seats along the third base line, people in a sea of fluorescent yellow sweat shirts chanted "Gold ... Panners" to the delight of the crowd around them.

The 80 or so chanters, visitors from Michigan, came to Fairbanks as part of the Alaska Great Lakes Project. Dale Rosene, project director, has brought Michigan junior high students up to Alaska every year since the Valdez oil spill. They've been a yearly presence at the midnight game and see themselves as a good luck charm for the Goldpanners.

Web link

For more on the midnight sun baseball game, check out goldpanners.com

"We've been here since 1993 and we've never lost a game," Rosene said.

The Goldpanners defeated the Strike Zone, 3-1, with pitcher Sean Timmons, a Fairbanks local, winning his third Midnight Sun game. The Goldpanners improved to 6-3 this season with the victory. The Goldpanners compete in the Alaska League, which is one of the top amateur leagues for college all-stars in the country.

Shortstop Justin Fuller of Juneau, who just finished his senior year at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho, walked twice and scored one of the Goldpanners' three runs. Infielder Joe Ayers of Juneau, who just finished his sophomore year at Stanford and started in the Goldpanners' first five games of the season, did not see action in the Midnight Sun Game.

Elliot Byrd, 19, from Vermont sat uncomfortably in the aisle with several of his friends who were in Fairbanks to help build homes for Habitat for Humanity. A self-proclaimed baseball fanatic, Byrd said he didn't mind not getting a seat. His only regret was forgetting to bring his sunglasses.

"Normally it would be pitch black where I come from, so I didn't even think about it," he said, as he squinted into the sun hovering low over the baseball diamond.



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