Saying goodbye to Oilers country

Posted: Friday, July 26, 2002

It is hard to believe that this is the last installment of my "From the Dugout" column, because it seems like just yesterday I was part of a team assigned to transform Coral Seymour Memorial Park into a playable field for the 2002 season.

But now it is time to reflect on my summer in Kenai, an experience that I will never forget.

The reason I came to Alaska was to take advantage of an opportunity to play in the best summer league in the country for college players, while also playing in a completely new and different part of the country.

I learned valuable lessons from the coaching staff that I will be able to take back to Villanova with me. As a team we experienced some success this summer, although obviously not as much as we or the fans would have liked.

But more than the baseball aspect of the summer, Alaska was an interesting place to live for two months, especially coming from New Jersey.

In my last summer vacation before the dreaded "real world," I saw things I would not otherwise have had the chance to see, and I met people that I am glad to have had the chance to know.

I guess the best way to sum up my experience would be to list some things that I witnessed here that cannot be seen anywhere else:

The umpires are actually that bad.

The weather during "summer" ball sometimes dipped below 50 degrees.

The sky looks the same at noon and at midnight.

While driving along the highway, I had to stop to let three moose walk across the street.

All three cars at my host family's house have cracked windshields, and that is considered common.

The "Late Show with David Letterman" comes on at 7:30 p.m.

Bars are routinely open until 4 or 5 a.m.

Some meals at Burger King are priced over eight dollars.

It costs $20 to fish for a king salmon, which I was unable to catch.

Everywhere you look, there are snow-capped mountains in the distance.

Bald eagles can soar overhead at any time.

The mosquitoes in Fairbanks are the size of bald eagles.

Some of the items on the list are a tribute to this great frontier, and some might seem like petty complaints. But they all represent things that are unique to Alaska that I will always remember.

If I had to do it all over again, knowing this is how my summer would be, I would most definitely come back to Kenai. I appreciate everything that was done for me over the course of the last two months, as do all of my teammates.

I am proud to be an Oiler, but now it's time to hit the beach and get ready to be a Wildcat again.

This column is the opinion of Chris Graziano, who is working part time for the Clarion this summer. Comments can be directed to

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