Story last updated at 12/16/2009 - 11:52 am
Baseball in Alaska didn't just become what it is today overnight. "Touching the Game: Alaska" tells the story of how the game came to our fair state and how the Alaska Baseball League became a premier summer collegiate league with players from all over the world.
The documentary describes the first baseball players in Alaska as gold miners and other pioneers who travelled north to see what the Land of the Midnight Sun had to offer. One of their discoveries was, well, sunlight at midnight. The first Midnight Sun baseball game was held in 1906 and has taken place on Summer Solstice every year since. The innings begin long after dinner time and don't end until well after midnight, without the use of any artificial lighting.
"Touching the Game: Alaska" includes historic photographs of these games shown side-by-side with contemporary footage of today's Midnight Sun games. With such an intense energy level captured on film, you'd have no idea that the players and crowd are carrying on way past their bedtimes. For someone not used to Alaskan summers, the concept of a Midnight Sun game is phenomenal. Many players interviewed for the film describe their time in the ABL as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Keith Foulke, a past member of the Anchorage Bucs team who now plays for the Newark Bears, described Alaskan baseball as follows:
"It's just a different thing that you can't read about, can't watch about on TV, you have to experience it for yourself."
I grew up in Southcentral Alaska amongst these baseball games. I occasionally went to the stadiums, ate the peanuts and cheered the teams. I more often found myself at smaller ball fields, rooting for friends who played on high school teams, but the roar of the crowd from Mulcahy Stadium in Anchorage surpassed any cheer that I was ever able to produce. Alaska fans love their baseball, and "Touching the Game: Alaska" captures every angle of it.
Baseball enthusiasts will get a kick out of this film, but those less interested in the sport will also find it enjoyable. In addition to describing aspects of the league and the game, the film also contains personal profiles of many players and coaches, offering a window into their worlds. The baseball talk is also broken up with wildlife stories, anecdotes and beautiful scenic shots.
In addition to strong editing and the successful portrayal of Alaska's baseball history, the film excelled in its camera work. Nearly every shot was well composed and seemed thought out, whether it was a scene from the game or of the life surrounding it.
Juneau gets one brief mention in the film. The capital city was briefly considered to be included in the league many years ago, but due to its high amount of annual rainfall it was quickly dismissed as an option. Instead, Kenai was chosen.
Sarah Palin makes an appearance in the film, shaking players' hands and throwing the first pitch of a game while wearing what appear to be platform heels. Might her choice of footwear jeopardize her pitch? See the film and judge for yourself.
"Touching the Game: Alaska" can be purchased online at http://www.touchingthegame.com/.