Jeff's call: Fans should check out ABL blog

Posted: Friday, June 04, 2010

With Peninsula Oilers players and coaches due into town this weekend and Alaska Baseball League games set to start next week, fans may be getting a little anxious to get their ABL fix.

My suggestion? www.49thstatehardball.com. Well, since I'm employed at the Peninsula Clarion, scratch that. First check the Clarion for its upcoming bevy of Oilers coverage, then go to www.49thstatehardball.com.

The site is devoted to the Alaska Baseball League and was started last fall by amateur blogger Jesse Jack.

Jack grew up playing baseball in the Southeast rain-forest city of Wrangell (where there is always rain and thus never a rain delay) and nurtured his love of the game by watching the Atlanta Braves on TBS.

He relocated to the Anchorage area in 2003 and is currently in Butte, Mont., where he studies engineering at Montana Tech. He will be coming back to Alaska soon where he will be looking for a summer job.

Jack, a 25-year-old who has three kids, already has a second job in his website.

"I try and get something posted at least once every other day so there aren't long stretches of inactivity," Jack said. "It's kind of consuming. It's like a second job but it doesn't pay anything."

The website is consuming because the posts are so heavily researched. He has taken the time to research the MLB draft rules, then match past rosters to those rules and come up a complete list of draft-eligible players for each team.

He has gone beyond just making those lists, spidering his way around the Internet to find which players have the best chance of getting drafted in early rounds.

"I didn't realize how much work it would be," he said of the website. "I think I kind of hit on something a lot of people are waiting for. People have been saying this should have been done a long time ago."

Jack said everybody he has contacted around the league, including Shawn Maltby, the general manager of the Oilers, has been extremely helpful in getting him information.

With the season set to start, Jack faces another challenge for his blog. He said he got into a rhythm covering the offseason, but the season will be another thing entirely.

"I've been kind of wondering about that myself," he said. "The season's only two months. I'm not sure what I'll write about or what I'll do once the season starts. I'm going to take in as many games as I can and see all the ballparks. I'll do some photo posts and do some amateur scouting on which players I like and why.

"It's a labor of love. I'm not bringing home a paycheck from it so I've just go to roll with it."

Mike's call: Please sir, can I have some more -- time?

Soldotna's softball team can't afford to get off to a slow start at the state tournament today and Saturday in Anchorage. No one can.

Games are limited to just 90 minutes, which significantly lessens the likelihood of getting in all seven innings.

Bad news for SoHi. The Stars' bats are typically quiet to begin games, said senior Savannah Hegge. If that's the case, SoHi's run at the small-schools title could be over in just 180 short minutes.

I understand time is always a concern, especially during state tournaments. But the girls should be allowed to play at least five full innings.

Take SoHi's final game of the season for example. They rallied to beat Homer 13-9 in 6 1-2 innings. The Stars trailed 9-2 after four innings. The Mariners racked up seven runs in the fourth. I wasn't timing the game, but a big inning at state will certainly bleed the 90-minute clock pretty fast.

After another long, run-filled inning, SoHi led 11-9 after the fifth. It was definitely past 90 minutes because when the go-ahead run crossed the plate, I looked at the time, told the Homer News reporter the hour and a half was up, and we both made our way to the dugout. However, the game went on.

Homer had a chance to tie or regain the lead in the sixth inning. They had the bases loaded but Hegge was able to strike out two and get out of the jam.

Had the game been cut short, Homer wouldn't have had a chance to win. The game could have just as easily been a blowout in favor of the Mariners.

With the top teams at state, innings usually go quickly, Stars head coach Dave Cleveland said. But he still prefers untimed, seven-inning games.

It's difficult to place time restrictions on a game like softball. It may take a few innings to figure a pitcher out. But when a team does, it can explode for several runs. But teams won't have that luxury at state.

I understand ASAA wants to run a timely tournament, but teams should be allowed to play a full five innings, regardless of time. Though it may not be reasonable to lift time restrictions altogether, a two-hour limit would be more fair.

Mike Nesper and Jeff Helminiak work in the sports department at the Peninsula Clarion. They can be reached at sports@peninsulaclarion.com.



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