For the baseball fan, the world offers special reminders of why we love the game as much as we do. Some of them are historic monuments such as Cooperstown, Wrigley Field, Yankee Stadium, or Fenway Park. Some are far more personal, like seeing the driveway of your childhood home where you and others played countless hours of catch and maybe even learned how to throw a curveball. Others are more ephemeral like watching kids in Latin American countries turn a ball of tape and broom handle into an afternoon competition.
Speaking personally, I have a mental checklist of baseball-related things I’d like to do before die in some glorious fashion and have my ashes shot into the sky out of a cannon (ala Hunter S. Thompson – except instead of having the ceremony conducted to the tune of Bob Dylan’s Mr. Tambourine Man, I’d prefer REO Speedwagon’s Keep on Loving You. It will be glorious). I’d like to step foot onto a Major League ballpark. I need to go see a game in the Cape Cod League (Coley, I am jealous), I must go down to Durham to catch a Bulls game, and so on. I believe that these moments, if/when they happen, would trigger these reminders within me of why I spend so much of my life obsessing over a game.
I also would love to catch this annual tradition in person.
Every year during the summer solstice, the good people of Fairbanks, Alaska host a baseball game that is played in the middle of the night. Called the Midnight Sun Game, the Alaska Goldpanners of the Alaska Baseball League have participated in the event every year since 1960, although the tradition dates back to 1906.
Due to its geographic location, the summer solstice offers Fairbanks this opportunity since the town is covered in sunlight for nearly twenty-four hours. They’re playing baseball outside at 1AM with no artificial lighting. It’s an event that in my (possibly strange) mind elevates the sport of baseball by aligning it with nature. Nature allows them to play ball. It’s incredibly romantic, no? Certain recognizable names would agree, as a list of current Major Leaguers including Michael Young, Jason Giambi, Jacque Jones and Bobby Crosby have participated in years past. Even Hall-of-Famers like Tom Seaver and Dave Winfield have experienced the natural phenomenon.
So plan your next June vacation around this and head out to Fairbanks in June 20, 2008. Who knows? Maybe I can be there too to check this off my list of things to do before I get shot out of a canon.