Brian Green just couldn't wait to return to Alaska and resume his duties as head coach of the Peninsula Oilers baseball team.
Now that he's back in Kenai, he's ready for the Alaska Baseball League season to get under way.
"This league, it gets in your blood," Green said while taking a break from raking the infield at Coral Seymour Memorial Park Thursday.
In fact, almost immediately after the University of San Diego, where Green is an assistant coach, was eliminated from the NCAA regional tournament, players on his team broke out their Anchorage Glacier Pilots and Alaska Goldpanners gear in anticipation of this summer's competition.
"Someone would make a crack about playing in Alaska every day," Green said. "It was like, 'OK, it's on.'"
Competition begins Saturday when the Oilers host the defending National Baseball Congress World Series champion Glacier Pilots, the Mat-Su Miners and the Oceanside, Calif., Waves for the second annual Oilers Hardball Tournament.
The preseason tournament features three seven-inning games on Saturday and Sunday. The teams will be seeded based on results of the round-robin play, and the top two teams will face off for the tournament title Monday. The No. 3 and No. 4 teams will play in the consolation final.
"It's going to be a great way to get our feet wet in the Alaska League," Green said.
Green will be forced to do some creative managing over the weekend as he will have 12 or 13 players to call on, six of them pitchers. Between the Major League Baseball draft and other unforeseen circumstances, the Oilers lost four players off their roster.
"Everybody's going to play, and pitchers won't be looking into the dugout (for relief) too much," Green said.
Until more help arrives -- Green expects the team to be at full strength by the time the Oilers wrap up their nonleague schedule on June 16 -- pitchers will have to play in the field, and players may find themselves trying out a new position. Green said that assistant coach Damian Stambersky may have to fill a spot in the lineup as well.
First baseman Andy Schutzenhofer, a teammate of former Oiler Luke Simmons at Illinois, said he's just looking forward to getting a feel for the new field at Coral Seymour Memorial Park.
"We don't have too much of a team yet, but we'll get to play with some new guys," Schutzenhofer said. "We'll get a feel for the field and get a feel for the competition here, see what that's like."
Schutzenhofer's feel for the field may be a little more intimate than most ballplayers as he spent his first day in Kenai helping with the renovations at the park.
"That's the way with every summer team. You're going to have to work on the field," Schutzenhofer said.
Green said the Oilers should be able to get their yard work done before the first pitch is thrown out Saturday, but it would be close.
"We're pushing it right down to the wire," Green said. "So much is happening with this stadium -- it's exciting."
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