Local baseball opens this weekend

Chinooks take on Mat-Su Miners in non-league games


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Chinooks shortstop Stephen Ventimilia fields a ground ball during an early season game last year.

STAR ARCHIVES

The kings are running on the Kenai and the Chinooks are arriving in Chugiak-Eagle River.

The latter, of course, are the two-legged variety whose habitat in the diamond at Loretta French Park in Chugiak. College players from around the country are arriving this week and will quickly get down to business. Opening day for the Alaska Baseball League team is Sunday when the Chinooks open a four-game series of non-league games with the Mat-Su Miners.

The game gets underway at 5 p.m. at the Chugiak field following opening ceremonies. Throwing out the inaugural first pitch will be Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell. The entire Chinook roster will be introduced, giving local fans their first look at the players.

Three of the faces on the 25-man roster will be familiar. Pitcher Lance Phillips, Shortstop Nick Covello and Second-baseman Griffith Roark are returning from the 2013 team.

Phillips is one of 12 pitchers, all right-handers, who will appear on the mound this year. He made several appearances last season, turning in creditable results. He is a junior at the University of Arkansas.

Covello, a sophomore at Cornerstone University, held down the shortstop position for the Chinooks last year, scoring nine runs and driving in 11 others. Griffith, a junior, was at second base and had a .217 batting average, driving in seven runs. They will anchor a strong infield.

Based on their college performances, the other players offer great promise both at the plate and in the field.

Returning, too, are general manager and pitching coach Chris Beck and head coach Jon Groth, both former professional ballplayers with considerable coaching experience. Beck, director of baseball for Athletes in Action, first brought the team to Alaska in 1988. Before moving to Chugiak-Eagle River in 2012, it was based in Fairbanks and was known as the AIA Fire.

Fans will find several improvements at the park this year. A new building houses team locker rooms and a concession stand. The Chinook Shack will offer a wide variety of ballpark fare and will again be operated by volunteers from the Chinooks Booster Club. The team store will have team gear and souvenirs for sale.

There will be 40 games on the Chinooks’ schedule, half of them on the Loretta French Park field, widely acclaimed as one of the most beautiful ballparks anywhere. Its dimensions are 310 feet down each foul line and 400 feet in centerfield. Admission to the games is free.

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