Tim Barto: Alaska baseball exceeds expectations for this talented Air Force cadet

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Bowen Brantingham pitching.

By TIM BARTO

Bowen Brantingham is a righthanded pitcher for the Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks this summer, but his season is being cut short, as he has to complete his summer active duty stint as an Air Force cadet. And that’s OK, because it’s been a valuable experience for Bo, and perhaps the start of a beautiful relationship between the Chinooks and the Air Force Academy.

Bo Brantingham

Brantingham, a six foot, three inch righthander, is the first military academy student to play for the Chinooks. He led his high school team – John Burroughs School in St. Louis, Missouri – to a state championship in 2023, striking out 13 batters in 6 and one-third innings of work in the deciding game. Before that game even started, the Air Force recruited him to play for the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. 

As one of his Academy coaches was placing players on summer ball teams, he approached Bo about the possibility of playing up in Alaska for the Athletes-In-Action team out in Chugiak.

Brantingham liked the idea, but knew his time would be short due to that summer training requirement. Speaking to Chinooks’ general manager field manager, Tim Cole, Bo got the go-ahead to play a shortened season, as Coach Cole has a deep respect for the military and knows it is important to the Chugiak-Eagle River community.

The Chinooks have close ties to the military. Assistant Coach Ted McGovern is a West Point graduate who retired from the Alaska Army National Guard as a full bird Colonel, and Chinooks Booster Club board member Austin Skelley is an Air Force Academy graduate and fellow Colonel who is currently serving at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

Additionally, eight of the nine Booster Club Board members are either veterans or currently serving, or married to current or retired military members. The team’s annual Military Appreciation Night (one of the best attended games of each season) highlights the contribution of the military members who make up the Chinook fan base. 

Brantingham was one of about a dozen freshman cadets on the Falcon baseball team, and he brought his winning ways with him to Colorado Springs as the Falcon baseball team won their conference. 

Asked if Alaska met his expectations, Bo said they pretty much exceeded them. The baseball quality has been awesome, the state is beautiful, and the daily discipleship has been a blessing. The Chinooks are the only faith-based baseball team in Alaska, and the players are required to attend daily discipleship classes between gym time and heading to the ballpark.

Bo said he came to the Athletes-In-Action team as a Christian, but the discipleship classes provided him with spiritual growth as the young men take deep dives into the Bible. 

When Colonel Skelley, an Academy graduate himself, heard about Bo coming to Chugiak, he asked Coach Cole if the Skelleys could serve as Bo’s host family. That was an easy call for everyone, so Bo has been able to live with, and receive further leadership and religious mentoring from, the Colonel and his family.  It’s been a win-win situation for Bo, the Skelleys, and the Chinooks.

The experience has given Skelley a vision for what he hopes to be an ongoing relationship between the Academy and the Chinooks. If he can help arrange future Falcon baseball players to conduct their required summer duty in at JBER, then they should be able to stay the entire summer. Again – a win-win situation. 

Bo has pitched well for the Chinooks this season, and it appeared the big league scouts were paying attention when he took the mound this past weekend against Goldpanners in the Scout Weekend series. He pitched five solid innings, giving up only two runs while scattering a handful of base hits.  

Coach Cole will again hand the ball to Cadet Brantingham on Thursday night as Bo is scheduled to start the 6 p.m. game against the Anchorage Bucs at Mulcahy Stadium.

After the game, he will change out of his Chinooks’ uniform, fly to his summer training site, and put on his Air Force cadet uniform. Hopefully, he will be back next summer, and will bring some fellow Falcons with him.

Tim Barto is past president and coach of the Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks.  He is also vice president at Alaska Family Council.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Great story. Thank you. So good to see young men in uniform(s), and acting normal……as opposed to others who wear their hair purple/green, in dresses/heels holding up LGBTQ signs.

  2. A Miners fan, I still wish the Chinooks better. They remain at the bottom of the league with the Buc#ps smoking everybody.
    Interesting title photo to the article. All those windows just beyond the bleachers are great targets for batters:)

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