Chinooks to start second season in Chugiak
Home opener slated for Monday
Griffin Gum lays down a bunt for the Chinooks during a game against the Anchorage Bucs last season at Mulcahy Stadium. Gum is one of four returners for the Chinooks.
STAR FILE PHOTOS/MIKE NESPER
The Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks’ second Alaska Baseball League season is just three days away.
The Chinooks play at Mat-Su on Sunday, June 9 at 4 p.m. before hosting the Miners for their home opener the following day at Loretta French Park at 7 p.m.
Prior to the start, Mayor Dan Sullivan will throw out the first pitch and a brief welcoming ceremony will be held.
The Chinooks, formerly the Athletes in Action Fire, made the move to Chugiak last season after playing without a home during the 2011 campaign.
“We’re excited to be back for sure,” Chinooks’ general manager Chris Beck said.
Five familiar faces are returning this year, including pitchers Mike Jeffreys and Caleb Dirks, infielder Drew Turbin, outfielder Griffin Gum and manager Jon Groth.
Jeffreys, a junior at Geneva (Penn.) College, led the league with 49 strikeouts in 47 innings last season and was an ABL All-Star Team selection. A sophomore at California Baptist University, Dirks, who also made the All Star Team, struck out 35 batters in 42 2/3 innings pitched.
Turbin, a sophomore at Yavapai (Ariz.) College, compiled a .341 average with 14 RBI’s and a .960 fielding percentage for the Chinooks last year.
A red-shirt freshman at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Gum had a .973 fielding percentage and a .231 batting average in the 2012 ABL season.
Booster club president Lee Jordan said he’s excited about the talent the Chinooks recruited this season.
“We’ve got some good boys on the roster,” he said.
Three of those players, Collin Radack, Matt Kimmel and James Scott could be drafted on the first day of the MLB draft, Beck said. The draft begins today (June 6) and runs through June 8.
Scott, a starting pitcher, is a junior at The Master’s (Calif.) College; Kimmel, an outfielder, is a junior at Azusa Pacific (Calif.) University; and Radack, an outfielder, is a junior at Hendrix (Ark.) College.
Groth, a former AIA player, is back for his second season as the Chinooks skipper. He guided the team to a fifth-best 17-22 record last season.
A broadcaster for the University of Texas at Tyler and Tyler Junior College, Groth said he was glad to be back in Chugiak.
“The support we got last year was outstanding,” he said.
Upgrades at Loretta French are currently underway. Larger dugouts should be waiting for the Chinooks on opening day, Jordan said.
A building that will house two locker rooms, an umpire room and concession stand is also being constructed. Jordan said he expects the concession stand to be open by June 30.
To help cover the cost of equipping the concession stand, the booster club is selling 600 raffle tickets for the chance to win an ounce of gold valued at $2,160. Tickets are $25 for one or five for $100 and can be purchased by contacting Jordan at 688-9068 or board member Bill Waddell at 688-2610 or 244-9158 or email email@example.com.
Tickets will be sold until June 15, when the winner will be announced during a game that will feature the Chinooks against Chugiak and Eagle River American Legion all-stars.
The Chinooks home opener will likely be the first game played at Loretta French this season. Eagle River’s Legion team has been practicing on the field, but its debut Wednesday, June 5 was moved to Oberg Field as crews were still working on the upgrades.
Once the construction is complete, the field should be in top form, Eagle River manager Gregg Frost said.
“The grass is coming in green,” he said. “It’s gonna look really nice this summer.”
After their home opener, the Chinooks host the Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks on Tuesday, June 11 at 7 p.m. before traveling to Mat-Su the following day for a 7 p.m. start.
Most of the team is slated to arrive Wednesday, and the first team meeting is today (June 6), Groth said, giving the Chinooks just three days of practice before the season starts. Thankfully, he said, three of their first four games are nonleague contests, which will give the Chinooks a chance to get to know one another before the bulk of their league play begins.
For a complete schedule, visit www.cerchinooks.com.
Contact Mike Nesper at 694-2727 or firstname.lastname@example.org.