Editor's note: This is the first in a series of columns that will be written by Chris Graziano, a member of the Peninsula Oilers and a senior at Villanova University in Philadelphia. Graziano, a communications major, will write a column every Friday as part of his job working for the Clarion this summer.
There is no doubt the loyal fans of the Oilers were growing restless as our team stumbled to a 3-11 start, including an 0-5 mark in Alaska Baseball League action. Even my own host family considered staying home and listening on the radio, willing to try anything that might reverse the fortunes of the 2002 Oilers.
But it is with great pride, and I must admit a substantial amount of relief, that thanks to our first three-game winning streak of the season this week, it looks like we have gotten our act together in all aspects of the game.
The full 2002 roster has finally arrived, and the abundant talent that we possess gives us a chance to add to the great tradition of Oilers baseball in Alaska, a tradition that includes three of the last four league championships. But one thing is for sure, now that the monkey is off our backs, coming to the ballpark every day is a lot more fun.
As if getting adjusted to a completely new lifestyle here in Alaska was not enough of a challenge, the headaches that go along with a losing streak made things even more difficult.
On nights we pitched well, we did not score. On nights we piled up runs, we could not get the opposing hitters out. And on nights we put together a solid all-around effort, the other team put forth a better one. Such is the nature of the beast.
But another thing about baseball is that it gives you a new chance every day, and lately we have taken advantage of our chances.
Just as I am not used to spotting a moose on the highway, anyone associated with Peninsula Oilers baseball is not accustomed to losing. And hopefully the recent success we have experienced will ensure that the 2002 edition is not going to reverse the established trend here on the peninsula.
So what took us so long to start winning? Getting our entire team together was important because not only did the arrival of new Oilers represent an influx of talent, but it also gave us the chance to get to know each other as people and as players.
Our recent road trip also was a positive because we were able to come together as a team. Being the visitor gave us an opportunity to jump on the opposition early, something that we had been victim of at our home field.
As is usually the case, a strong pitching effort led us to our first league win, a 5-2 victory over the Anchorage Bucs. The confidence booster allowed us to fight through adversity and win an extra-inning game the next night, again against the Bucs.
Now that things seem to be going a little more smoothly (not to mention that the bats are starting to wake up), we look forward to our remaining two homestands that provide opportunities to move up in the standings.
The decision to play summer baseball is motivated by a drive universal to all college athletes. That drive is to continue playing the game we love as long as we possibly can.
For the Oilers, we are here to play baseball in the best college summer league in the nation. Its location in Alaska gives us the chance to experience one of the most unique frontiers in all the world.
The purpose of the players is twofold. First, to make ourselves better players for the upcoming school season. The second is to win games for the organization and its fans, in this case an organization that has produced numerous major league ballplayers.
So while the results may not always be ideal, the effort will always be there.
No matter how far the travels for any of us, or the outside situations present in our lives, we are all united by the desire to play baseball, and play it well. The feeling of victory in baseball is so sweet that once the final out is recorded, all of the hard work put forth becomes worthwhile.
We hope that our hard work provides entertainment for the fans at Coral Seymour Memorial Park this summer. And of course, we expect our performance to translate into more wins than losses.
That would certainly make the bus rides more bearable.
This column is the opinion of Chris Graziano, who is working part time for the Clarion this summer. Comments can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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