Stalking batters at the park, stalking bears away from the park.
Logan McAnallen is known for both.
The 6-foot-3 left-handed pitcher from DeWitt, Mich., is a senior at the University of Michigan, and as a second-year player for the Peninsula Oilers has put up some good numbers this summer.
McAnallen currently leads the Alaska Baseball League with an ERA of 0.56. In 32 1-3 innings pitched this summer, he’s allowed 18 hits and only six runs, two of them earned.
But the biggest number he’s after is that of a black bear in Nikiski.
“I know I wanted a bear, and so I brought my bow and my gear up with me,” said McAnallen, who is up in Anchorage with the Oilers for the ABL showcase games. He threw a scoreless inning Saturday, and was named to the All-Star team for today’s game.
The 22-year-old has set up a bait station in Nikiski, where he is living this summer with his host family, along with Oilers teammate Noah Holmes, a first baseman from Rockwell, N.C.
Bob Bird and his wife, Rosemary, have accommodated McAnallen and Holmes for the summer, and all the folks that know Bob Bird know that he is a baseball enthusiast when calling the Oilers games on the radio with Dan Gensel.
“He’s a great guy, a great host,” McAnallen said. “Him and his wife really take care of us. I always like to pick his brain and have political talks. It’s been entertaining and interesting.”
One can only imagine the sort of discussions bouncing around in that house.
“I’ve stayed with other host families, and him and his wife really blow the other host families out of the water,” McAnallen said.
Out in the woods, Holmes and McAnallen had the station in an approved area with a camera trained on the bait, which, according to McAnallen, is a 55-gallon barrel containing a trash bag full of popcorn and molasses.
“I went out there one day and saw a picture of a huge brown bear on the trail camera, so we were dodging a brown bear there for a while,” McAnallen said. “It was pretty scary, because we’re not used to dealing with anything like that.
“One night the black bear came in, we could hear it coming, and we thought it was the brown bear and we were thinking, ‘Oh my god, what if it’s the brown bear?’”
McAnallen said another night, he and Holmes managed to get a shot off on the black bear, which apparently just nicked it, not enough to capture their prey using arrows instead of bullets.
“He got a shot at it and just missed a little high,” Holmes said. “He got another shot and it got away, and we followed a thin blood trail for hours. We were out there for a while.
“Now we’re just calling it, not baiting it.”
Of course, the duo has had their share of experiences with other wildlife in the area.
“We had a moose come close to us and almost charge us, we came back fishing once and thought we were getting attacked by a bear, but it was a porcupine,” Holmes said. “But this is one he really wants. He’s been working at it.”
McAnallen said he has been an avid outdoorsman since age 12, and hunting and fishing in Michigan has been a favorite of his. It’s a passion that has only grown fonder in the Great White North. In Michigan, whitetail deer and coyote are some of his favorites.
McAnallen said the idea of bagging a bear in Alaska came to him when he first traveled up here as a player with the Lake Erie Monarchs, a team in the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League.
“I always wanted to play in Alaska because I knew that there was a lot to do with fishing and hunting, and the tour gave me an opportunity to see that Kenai was the best place to do that,” he said. “My parents were worried that I would be too focused on hunting, and not enough on pitching.”
During that tour in 2011, McAnallen also pitched a no-hitter against the Mat-Su Miners.
This year, McAnallen said his pitching has only gotten better (although he has yet to throw a perfect game).
This summer, on July 7, the Oilers took a trip to Anchorage to play the Bucs, where they were beaten 3-0. McAnallen took the loss on the mound, pitching the first five innings and allowing four hits and two runs.
When the Bucs came down to Kenai on July 12, McAnallen started again, this time going seven innings with only two hits and no runs.
“I owed them one after they tacked on two runs against me at their place, so it was nice to have sort of a revenge start against them,” he said.
As far as catching that elusive black bear, McAnallen said he was discussing tactics with Holmes, trying to find the best place to legally nab a bear, and when they do get it, the fruits of their labor will go both ways.
“Noah’s been a great help, and he wasn’t really expecting to shoot a bear, so I told him I owe him half a bear, so if I do get one I’m giving him half the meat,” McAnallen said.