Dennis Machado will be roaming the Alaska Baseball League fields again this summer.
It just won't be in the familiar Peninsula Oilers uniform.
The 1994 Kenai Central graduate and Oilers pitching coach the past two seasons has accepted his first head coaching job with the ABL's Anchorage Glacier Pilots, where he will try and lead the squad to back-to-back league titles.
"Any time you can keep moving up the ladder in whatever profession you're in ... any time you can keep taking steps forward, it's going to be good for your career in the long run," Machado said via cell phone. "That's the opportunity the Pilots presented me and thats why I had to take it."
A four-year player for the Oilers and member of the 1994 squad, the last Peninsula team to win the National Baseball Congress World Series title, Machado recently began a new venture as a volunteer assistant with the California State University Bakersfield baseball team, a first-year Division I program competing against some of the top teams California has to offer.
However, he was recently promoted to assistant coach, one of two on the team, and is excited with the direction the program is headed.
"It's nice to see you can bring in 25 strangers and kind of mold them into a team throughout the fall," said Machado, who compiled a 3.06 ERA in 79 1/3 innings of work in his playing career with the Oilers.
Before he left Kenai last summer, though, he expressed his desire to one day be the skipper of the Oilers.
At the time, Peninsula general manager Shawn Maltby hoped that would become a reality, although he believed it was still a year or two away.
And after University of California Santa Barbana pitching coach and recruiting coordinator Tom Myers came in last summer and led the Oilers to a 30-17 season and a deep run into the NBC tournament, all with a team selected by Maltby and then-manager Brian Hickman, who resigned shortly after accepting the post, Maltby felt Myers deserved another shot in 2009.
"Tom came in and did a great job for me inheriting a team that he didn't even recruit," Maltby explained. "I owed it to Tom to give him that position and he earned it."
With Myers slated to return for the upcoming summer, Machado, despite his desire to manage his hometown team, had to make a decision.
"It was an opportunity that presented itself for me to be a head coach and I had to jump on it," he said. "The position wasn't going to be available with the Peninsula Oilers and the Anchorage Glacier Pilots had an opening and I got the job.
"They were going to bring back Tom Myers. There wasn't really any talk and so that's why I had to jump on the offer the Pilots made," Machado added. "It was strictly a business decision and I am very excited for it."
In the months since, though, Myers has stepped down to become the head coach of the Cape Cod League's Brewster White Caps, a decision that disappointed Maltby.
"I look at it as a lateral move for Tom," he said. "College summer coaching in my mind is a lateral move. Our league is just as competitive as other leagues out there.
"We discussed all the pros and cons of it. For where he wants to be at his time, he feels that having Alaska on his resume and having Cape Cod on his resume, he feels its going to bolster his resume and I'm not going to hold a guy back for that."
Maltby also said Machado would have been considered had the vacancy been there earlier.
"There is some disappointment there because what if? You look at yourself and say, 'What if we had given the job to Dennis?,'" he said. "He would definitely had been considered. There's no doubt about that."
Machado said there's no hard feelings.
"I would rather be another organization's first choice than somebody else's second," he said. "I don't hold any ill will toward the Oilers. At the time, they didn't have an opening and the Pilots did.
"The Peninsula Oilers have been a tremendous organization to me. I am grateful to have been involved in that organization with people such as (former Oilers baseball operations manager) Mike Baxter and Shawn Maltby. They gave me an opportunity to come up and coach and grow and learn," Machado added. "I will always be thankful to that organization. Anyone who asks me about the Oilers, I always say they are one of the best summer programs in the country.
"The way that they run their organization, the way that they treat their players and treat their coaches, they're one of the best."
After setting the Alaska single-season rushing record in 1993 as a running back on the Kardinals, a mark that has since been surpassed, Machado was drafted in the 42nd round of the 1994 amateur draft by the Montreal Expos, yet still pursued an education and a college baseball career, something he knew he wanted to accomplish from the get-go.
From 2001-05 he served as assistant head coach and pitching coach at East High School in Anchorage and then spent a year as the pitching and catching coach at Porterville College.
Fresh off a two-year stint as pitching coach at Allen Hancock Community College in California, he took the job at UC Bakersfield to work with pitchers, a skill he honed with the Oilers.
In his two summers with the ABL squad, he coached his staff to the best ERA in the league.
"Look at our staff the past two years, we've had phenomenal pitchers with great ERAs," Maltby said. "It's a tribute to him, his management style, as far as the pitching staff goes."
Whether he'll succeed as a head coach remains to be seen.
"I think Dennis is very capable. The question that's out in the balance is game management. Does he have that experience and we'll find out his summer," Maltby said. "But I think he does. Any baseball guy ... has got the knowledge of the offense. I think Dennis is going to do a fine job."
Meanwhile, the Oilers search for a head coach is in full swing, with Maltby mentioning Jeff Walker, the ABL's Anchorage Bucs assistant coach, and Long Beach State assistant coach TJ Bruce, as possible candidates.
He also said he's been in contact with former Peninsula hurler and Major League Baseball Cy Young Award winner Frank Viola.
"Going into our 35th anniversary, it would so be nice if Viola can come back for that," he said. "I've had many conversations with him the last couple weeks. He seems like a real good guy."
The door isn't necessarily closed on Machado's future with the Oilers, either, as Maltby is excited to see his former coach lead another squad.
"I get to see him work now and I'm going to enjoy that," he said. "He did great things for us and he's going to continue to do great things.
"Kenai loves Dennis and Dennis will be back to the Oilers eventually, I hope."
Peninsula's games against the Pilots just became all the more intriguing. Although Machado doesn't think so.
"It's not necessarily about who you play, it's how you play," he said. "It doesn't matter if you're playing the Mat-Su miners, the Peninsula Oilers or the New York Yankees, we're going to play the game the right way and try and come away with the victory."
Matthew Carroll can be reached at email@example.com.
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