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Jeff's Call: Summer sporting scene reaches crescendo

Posted: Friday, July 23, 2010

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

This, from Ferris Bueller. A Cubs fan. There are 162 games in a Cubs season. (I'd say regular season, but the Cubs don't have much of a history of adding to that game total with deep postseason runs.)

Bueller's quote would be a more appropriate lament from fans of the Alaska Baseball League fan, a short circuit which plays for less than two months and gives each team 45 league games.

Those who don't look around once in a while might be surprised to learn that today, Saturday and Sunday will conclude the Oilers' home slate for the season.

Not only will the weekend result in the shuttering of Coral Seymour Memorial Park for 2010, but it also serves as a stark reminder of the flickering of summer.

There is good news. This weekend should be a good opportunity to get out and enjoy summer to the fullest. (I'd add weather-permitting, but variability of the weather in Alaska is as assumed as postseason futility on the North Side of Chicago.)

Start with the Oilers. Today at 6 p.m., Saturday at 6 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. the Oilers play the Anchorage Glacier Pilots in games that will be crucial as the Oilers battle the Mat-Su Miners and Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks for ABL supremacy.

Thursday, today at 6 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. the sixth annual Walker Cup is being contested at Kenai Golf Course. The contest pits Birch Ridge Golf Course against Kenai Golf Course. Birch Ridge has a 3-1-1 lead over Kenai, not that anybody's counting.

The event is fun, in the perverted way that golf is fun, due to the unusual situations in which the golfers are put. Normally, golf is an individual game, and in stroke play tournaments, it's the rounds that matter.

The Walker Cup is a team event, putting a different type of performance pressure on the golfers. It's also match play, amplifying the effect of each hole, and thus each shot. The resulting drama makes for compelling viewing.

Over at Tsalteshi Trails, the 10th annual Everything But the Red Run will be contested at at 6 p.m. Friday. This no-frills event has always stood out because the entry fee is $5 and it's held on the pleasing (to the eyes, not legs) and rolling trail system.

Just across Kalifornsky Beach Road, there will be a rodeo at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday at the Soldotna rodeo grounds. Rodeos have a much-deserved reputation for action. Ask photographers the best place to get sports action shots, and rodeo will be high on their list.

Of course, the events above detail what's going on just in the sports world. There's also parades and various outdoor pursuits, like salmon galore, to be had this weekend.

But beware. This stuff moves pretty fast. If you don't get out and look around this weekend, you will miss it.

Mike's call: Mulcahy makes for level playing field

With a larger student population and higher quality facilities, Anchorage teams dominate in nearly every sport. But during the 2010 American Legion state baseball tournament, which starts today, all 11 teams will literally participate on a level playing field. Every game of the 20-game tournament (21 if necessary) will be played at Mulcahy Stadium.

"It is nice having all the games played on one field," American Legion Twins head coach John Butler said at Wednesday's practice.

The entire infield, expect for the pitchers mound, is turf at Mulcahy. The only natural grass exists in the outfield.

The artificial playing surface slows the ball down, Butler said.

"The infield takes a little getting used to," he said. "But (the ball) does take true bounces."

While at some ballparks an infielder may hesitate to charge a ground ball for fear of it quickly changing direction, at Mulcahy, aggressive play is essential.

"You have to be aggressive," Butler said. "You can't sit back and wait on it."

At Fairbanks' Growden Memorial Park, the older, harder turf causes the ball to take funny skips, Butler said. But Mulcahy bounces true, making defense easier.

"There won't be as many errors," he said.

The Twins also have the advantage of playing home games at Coral Seymour Memorial Park, which also causes true bounces, Butler said.

The Twins, who finished with a conference record of 11-9, take on Eagle River (1-19) today at 2 p.m. Though Butler was happy his team claimed the No. 6 seed, win or lose, he said he's proud of the improvement the Twins have made this season.

"A lot of coaches go for the No. 1 seed," he said. "I just go for improvement each game."

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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