Juneau residents will get their only chances of the year to see the American Legion Post 25 Midnight Suns this weekend when the team plays two exhibition games against an alumni squad comprised of former Juneau-Douglas High School and Legion players at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.
The alumni team will be coached by Bill McCauley. Games begin at 6 p.m. on Saturday and 3 p.m. on Sunday in what turns out to be a mid-season warm-up for the Midnight Suns.
"I love these alumni guys," Midnight Suns coach Jim Ayers said. "Some of them have played for us before and I hope they bring their best game. Bill (McCauley) has been around a long time and knows baseball."
"It's hard to say what to expect," McCauley said. "I'm not sure with our pitching, but we may have to fill in with senior league players. We'll give it best our shot. We've had very little practice time and it takes a long time for pitchers' and catchers' arms to get in shape."
The first half of Juneau's Legion season ended June 23 with a fourth-place finish out of eight teams at the St. Martin's Tournament in Lacey, Wash. The tournament was the finale of over two weeks of road baseball against some very talented and experienced club and Legion teams from the Puget Sound area.
Although the youthful Juneau squad may have overmatched at times, they played well, losing several one-run games while compiling a 7-7 overall record and 5-2 against Legion teams.
"It was a dynamic experience for kids who want to play good baseball," Ayers said. "We easily could have been 11-3, but most importantly, we demonstrated down south that we can stay with those tough teams with our smart fast aggressive defense."
Recent JDHS graduate Will Nicholas benefited from the southern exposure by committing himself to play baseball next year for Green River Community College in Auburn, Wash.
"I was going to go to St. Martin's next year," Nicholas said. "But I didn't want to get stuck in a Division II school for four years."
"Nicholas is our ace," Ayers said. "We build around his conditioning. I'm looking for him to get 90 to 100 pitches every four to five days when we head north."
Beyond Nicholas, the Midnight Suns have a host of young arms to round out the rotation. Evan Scandling, Kalen Meek and Bruno Del Olmo all pitched well in starting roles in Washington while Bud Baun and LaPaka Pavitt produced in relief.
"LaPaka has done a great job closing for us," Ayers said. "He's got a couple wins in tough situations for us and Bud Baun throws hard and has a nasty curve when it's working."
Even with a lack of power, the Midnight Suns have still been productive offensively. Baun has hit the lone Juneau home run this season, but speed and timely hitting has kept the Midnight Suns in most games.
"We got a couple of guys who can go long," Ayers said. "But were not going to let them destroy us. In our short game, we get some guys on base and hit them around to score."
The Midnight Suns will depart Tuesday for three weeks of Legion play in the Anchorage area, culminating with the State Tournament beginning Aug. 4.
"What we want this weekend is to play on a dry field and show people that we've become a good ball club," Ayers said. "We're trying to breed a tradition that Juneau is a baseball town. Toby Staveland, Chad Bentz and Rob Conway are out there breaking trail for the rest of Juneau. They're building a tradition and the Legion kids are out there breaking trail for future legion players."
"We hope to have a good show," McCauley said. "This is a community event. It will be Juneau baseball players on both sides and the idea is to have a good time a play some baseball."
Jeff Kasper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.