Christmas in July: Kurt Schlangen's Goldpanner Blog

Go Gophers! Kurt Schlangen visits the North Pole in recent blog entry
Go Gophers!
Kurt Schlangen visits the North Pole in recent blog entry
Go Gophers!

Kurt Schlangen is the second Golden Gopher baseball player in two years to play summer ball with the Alaska Goldpanners. The Goldpanners have had a number of players compete in Alaska, including former Gopher and MLB great Dave Winfield. Follow Kurt's trek through his summer ball experience as he shares it in this gophersports.com blog.

Photo Gallery-New Photos from June 29th Entry

June 29th, 2012

On June 21st we hosted the Everett Merchants in the 107th Annual Midnight Sun game. We started at 10:30 p.m. and held a small ceremony at midnight. There is a lot of history with this game, and last year's game finished at 3 the following morning due to rain delays. The game is played with no artificial lighting. In fact, the lights to the stadium are rumored to never have been turned on. Normal attendance for our games ranges from few to 150 or so. For the Midnight Sun game we had around 4,000!! It was a great atmosphere with fans filling the stands, and standing behind the outfield fence in the overflow area. Many of the fans were there for the experience and could care less about the game. Many others were very knowledgeable and weren't shy about letting the umpire know  that the strike zone is only as wide as the plate. Alcohol was served and may have played a part in this. We
won the game 7-5.

Our overall record is 9-5 (3-4 in the league), which is pretty good considering we started 0-3. Our pitching has allowed 17 runs in our nine wins, compared to 28 allowed in our losses. Our offense has come together and we have scored at least 7 runs in seven or our last nine outings. The biggest thing is that our team gets along really well which makes the experience that much more enjoyable and worth the time and effort.

We visited the Santa Claus house, located on St. Nicholas Drive, last week. The reindeer were resting, but Santa was working hard. They had all kinds of souvenirs, Christmas ornaments and post cards all with the North Pole stamp so that it is addressed from the North Pole, Alaska. The only thing missing was snow! We've watched the movie "Elf" twice since our visit.

Yesterday (6/28) we had our first scheduled off day. We practiced in the morning and then headed up to the Chena Hot Springs. (http://www.chenahotsprings.com/). After 14 games in 15 days many of us needed some time to relax. These natural hot springs were perfect for a 60 degree, rainy Thursday afternoon. I think a lot of the aches and pains eased away in the hot waters. The trip up there was exciting. We finally saw some moose; 5 on the way up and 8 on the way back. The bulls have only started growing their antlers back for the fall harvest, so we didn't see any big racks. We traveled along the White Mountains Mountain Range, with the Chena River running parallel the road for a majority of the way. The clouds hung low over the mountains, and the rain was a steady drizzle. The exhaustion from baseball and the hot springs wore us out and our van slept much of the way home.

We continue to play a hectic schedule. Starting today (6/29) we'll play 12 games in 9 days, including a double header on the 4th of July.

Travel Safe & God Bless America!

June 22, 2012

The timing of my flight out of Minnesota could not have been better, it was 90 degrees and humid. Flying into Anchorage airport at midnight it was 60 degrees and I knew I liked Alaska already. The first night we spent the night in dorm rooms at University of Alaska, Anchorage. The next morning we went to the mall while the bus picked up a few more guys. Turns out the stores didn't open until 11, so we roamed the city and found a Sports Authority. With time to kill we bought a wiffle bat and ball. Nine of us played wiffle ball for the remaining two hours til the bus showed up. (Position players won, pitchers cheated) We then headed to the Kenai Peninsula where we practiced for two days then took on the Peninsula Oilers. We went 1-3. Off the field, we stayed in the back end of a bingo hall. They don't have Casino's up here. In fact, the only gambling is pull tabs and bingo halls. About 3/4 of the guys on the team still don't know what 'pull tabs' are. The building we stayed in had seven separate 'rooms'. Each room contained two bunk beds. If there is a better way to get to know your teammates than spending a week together in the back of a bingo hall, with one tv, two decks of cards, and nothing to do all day, you should let me know. The team gets along very well when you consider that we come from all over the country.

I was pretty disappointed with the lack of wildlife on the trip from Kenai to Fairbanks. We saw two moose, and a few bald eagles. Other than that, the scenery was pretty awesome. Plenty of lakes, rivers, forests, and mountains to go around. We were lucky enough to have a clear day out, and were able to see Mount McKinley tower over the rest of the state.

Our first steps in Fairbanks were telling ones. Stepping off of the bus is when we met our host families for the first time. I have to admit that I was really nervous, as the host family can often make or break the experience for many ball players. Well I lucked out. Tim and Patty have been hosting Goldpanners for a number of years, and they have a great setup for us to enjoy. From a full fridge to a game room complete with ping-pong and PS3 there are plenty of things to do to pass time. They actually live in the North Pole, a town about 12 miles East of Fairbanks. It's pretty cool, the town's light posts are candy canes, and Santa's house is just down the street from a Wendy's. We haven't had time to visit his house just yet.

We are seven games into a 50-game schedule. This means we have 43 games in 39 days. Our next off day is June 28th, but I'm sure we will still have practice on that day.

Linked here is our remaining schedule. Games highlighted in the Cream color are the local Amateur Goldpanners
team, not the Collegiate team.