ABL’s Chinooks ready to make history

Players, manager excited to start team’s next chapter


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From left, Tommy Kister, Scott Kalamar and Caleb Dirks place a cover around the top of the fence at Loretta French Park on Sunday, June 10. The Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks players worked all weekend to have the field ready for their home opener tonight. Opening ceremonies at the park begin at 6:30 p.m.

MIKE NESPER

As a new team playing in a new town under a new manager, the Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks won’t quite know what to expect when they take the field tonight at Loretta French Park.

Well … most of them, anyway.

Four returners are back for the Chinooks, formerly the Athletes in Action Fire. Those include AJ Work, Scott Kalamar, J.J. Turbin and Tyler Shyock.

Though most of the team has never played together, the Chinooks are already a tight-knit group, Work said. He attributed the quick camaraderie to the players’ faith.

The Ohio-based team asks its players to adhere to Christian beliefs. And the spiritual aspect is why Turbin said he’s back for another season.

That, and he’ll have the chance to play with his younger brother, Drew.

J.J. Turbin, who attends Westmount College, was an All-ABL performer last year. He and Kalamar, from Seton Hall University, are both outfielders.

Work, who is entering his senior year at the Master’s College, is one of 11 pitchers in the rotation. Shyock is a shortstop from Cal State Bakersfield.

The team’s skipper is Jon Groth. He has 25 years of collegiate coaching experience, 17 of them spent at Tyler Junior College in Tyler, Texas.

Groth stepped down as head coach from Tyler in 2009 and had been serving as the team’s play-by-play broadcaster.

Groth said he was excited to be managing again after a three-year hiatus.

“I’m enjoying being out here with these guys,” he said.

Groth played for AIA in 1982 and 1983 and spent a couple weeks in Alaska when the team played against ABL opponents.

“It’s kind of full circle for me,” he said.

Groth said the ABL is full of all-star players.

“Every year there are guys that are gonna come out of here and get drafted next year,” he said.

And his roster is no different.

“These are good players from all over the United States,” he said.

Two days prior to their season opener, Work said the ABL’s newest team was excited for the first pitch of the 2012 campaign.

“We’re just chomping at the bit to get going,” he said.

After playing last season without a home field, the Chinooks are happy to be in Chugiak-Eagle River, J.J. Turbin said. And the community support couldn’t be better, he said.

“We actually have host families on a waiting list, which never happens,” he said. “The people have been really receptive and opened up their homes, which is great.”

And Work is confident the support will be the same on opening night.

“I’m pretty sure there won’t be an empty space in the park,” he said.

 

Contact Mike Nesper at 694-2727 or mike.nesper@alaskastar.com

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