Two dozen Soldotna business leaders got a firsthand look at "Scoop," the new Peninsula Oilers' mascot who made a surprise appearance during the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce luncheon meeting Tuesday.
The brightly colored red and white creature with a yellow snout, at once a large rooster and some sort of dog-faced prehistoric mammal, bounded into the dining room of the Riverside House as Oilers corporate board President Dennis Smith was finishing up his formal presentation about the collegiate summer baseball program and giving the audience a bit of the team's history and a look at the program's impact on the community.
Oilers baseball starts June 10 with action against the California Dons at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai. Game time is 7 p.m.
Scoop greeted Smith with a high five, indicated that he himself was speechless and gestured a welcome to all to this summer's Kenai Peninsula baseball action before his oversized high-top athletic shoes carried him back out of the restaurant.
Smith described the Oilers team as including mostly first- and second-year college athletes who take advantage of the opportunity to play ball during the summer in the Alaska Baseball League.
"Generally speaking, the players compare to AA baseball," Smith said, referring to a level of minor-league baseball that hopefully leads players to the majors.
"Essentially, we have all-star players from many college teams," he said.
In addition to the top players from the numerous college organizations, Smith said the Oilers also have four or five local players each year.
"They get the opportunity to showcase their talent, and we allow the future stars to be seen right here in our own community," he said.
Smith told the group that last year's champion Florida Marlins had two starting pitchers who were once Oilers Mark Redmond and Braden Looper.
"Other great players we've seen right in our own town are Danny Garcia, Ken Harvey, John Olerud, Rich Aurilla, J.T. Snow, Doug Mientkiewicz and J.D. Drew," Smith said, listing major league baseball stars currently playing.
He also said the Oilers provide family-oriented entertainment to the community, with affordable ticket prices.
The Oilers play throughout June and July against teams in the Alaska league, including the Fairbanks Goldpanners, the Anchorage Glacier Pilots, the Anchorage Bucs and the Mat-Su Miners. Visiting teams also come from the Lower 48 to take on the Kenai squad.
The teams vie for a chance to play in the National Baseball Conference Tournament in Wichita, Kan., in August.
Smith said that in the last 33 years, Alaska teams have won the tournament 15 times.
In 1993 and 1994, the Oilers were first in the tournament.
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