By TIM BARTO
The Alaska Baseball League is looking to save itself. For the past several seasons, save one, the league has been filling the responsibilities of league commissioner through rotating assignments of the general managers of each team.
Seeing challenges from other summer wood-bat leagues, as well as concerns by college coaches about pitch counts and playing time, the five-team league thought it best to hire a commissioner, and that man is Chip Dill.
Besides having a great name, Chip has a strong baseball and business background. A native of southern California, where baseball is a year round sport, Chip played Little League, travel ball, and high school baseball, then went on to the college level at Cerritos College and the University of Arizona.
He was good enough to attract the attention of big league scouts, and was drafted three different times by Major League teams during his college career. In the summer of 1983, he was headed to Fairbanks to play for the Goldpanners, but ended up in New England’s Cape Cod League for the season. In an ironic twist, Dill is coming to Alaska 40 years later, in part, to help prevent such defections.
A life in professional baseball didn’t work out as hoped, so Dill turned to coaching, spending time at Orange Coast College, California Baptist University, the University of Tennessee, and the Brewster Whitecaps of the Cape Cod League. But his full-time career was as a firefighter with the Costa Mesa Fire Department, from which he retired as Captain.
In 2018, Chip went on to found FastChart Sports, a successful company that combined state of the art technology and the increasingly important field of analytics, to create digital coaching tools.
Chip wasn’t looking to be the Alaska Baseball League Commissioner when friend and successful college baseball coach Dave Serrano called to let him know that the league’s general managers were looking for one. Although unexpected, the call piqued Dill’s interest, as he was also familiar with Peninsula Oilers’ Coach Larry McCann. Talks convinced Chip he could help make a difference in bringing Alaska baseball back to the forefront of the summer college leagues.
Dill shares the general managers’ collective vision in elevating the Alaska Baseball League to wood bat league prominence. His goals are to raise awareness of the league; promote it through social media; find new revenue streams such as online merchandising; and adapt to the inning and pitch limits that college coaches place on their players for the summer seasons. He wants to see the league attract new fans and become financially prosperous.
It turns out that Dill’s Alaska connection was not only that (near) summer of 1983 with the Goldpanners. His wife was a flight attendant for Alaska Airlines, so he took advantage of her travel benefits and came up here with his family, visiting the state. He specifically recalled seeing the sights in North Pole, Girdwood, and Anchorage.
Dill will be living in Anchorage during the season, which runs all of June and July and ends with the playoffs during the first week of August, but he expects to be at one ballpark or the other each night of the week, getting a feel for the community, the fan base, the talent level, and what it will take for the business end of the league to be successful.
Alaska Baseball League was the first summer college league, and it has a rich history. The list of alumni is impressive: Two-time World Series championship manager Terry Francona; All-Star and Gold Glove second baseman, and long-time baseball analyst Harold Reynolds; Most Valuable Players Josh Donaldson, Jason Giambi, and Jeff Kent; American League single-season home run leader Aaron Judge; Hall of Fame outfielder Dave Winfield, and Hall-of-Fame pitchers Tom Seaver and Randy Johnson. (Yes, home run record setters Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire also played in Alaska, but their professional accomplishments have been tainted by steroid use which has prevented them from being elected to the Hall-of-Fame.)
Alaska was once the place for highly talented college baseball players with an eye on the big leagues to come for the summer, but other programs such as the Cape Cod and Northwoods leagues, as well as Major League Baseball’s own sanctioned summer leagues, have supplanted it. Commissioner Dill and the Alaska Baseball League general managers (baseball devotees all), have a goal of bringing Alaska back to the primary destination for top tier of college baseball talent.
The five team Alaska Baseball League consists of the Mat-Su Miners, Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks, Anchorage Glacier Pilots, Anchorage Bucs, and Peninsula Oilers. Pick a team to root for and get out to the ballparks this summer. Games begin the first week of June.
Tim Barto is obsessed with baseball, so Suzanne Downing lets him write about it so he maintains some semblance of sanity. He is the former president of the Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks Booster Club, a current coach at Grace Christian High School, and will be joining the coaching staff with the Chinooks this season. His full-time gig is as vice president of Alaska Family Council.
The bio blurb at the end is pretty funny!
Baseball is what summer is all about. Wish the Chugiak Chinooks a great season and look forward to the games.
Didn’t know Bonds played here. Goldpanners.
Learn something new every day.
I’d suggest a free shuttle from 4th Ave to bring tourists to the games.
The Ulu Facory does that.
Most of the tourists don’t even know the Pilots/Bucs exist.
At $7, the tickets are a bargain ….
couple of beers & some sunshine = good story to tell when you get back home.
And you never know when you will see the next Aaron Judge come to the plate.
(we have his signature on a ABL ball)
Hmm. Letting a bunch of non Americans come up to Alaska so they can tell their families they can earn $20k working on a fish processing boat and claim benefits in the off-season?
No thanks. Turn Alaska baseball into an in state farm league.
Nice comment, its interesting that your “theory” about foreigners and fish processing being related to the ABL isn’t rooted in facts at all. The ABL has had a long and great history, what it needed was leadership and creativity to survive which I hope it now has. Even if you don’t like the ABL, losing it would be bad for the State of Alaska. Consider we have lost both professional hockey teams (Aces and Gold Kings), the attempt at Indoor Football, lost the Sullivan Arena, and our junior hockey programs are always hanging on by a thread it seems.
It’s time to support Alaska based sports, if we don’t they will disappear and be replaced with nothing. But I’m really curious what your alternative is ? Turning the ABL into as you called it a “State Farm League?” for who and what would be the purpose ?
Memories of Red Boucher.
Baseball is the best.
Alaska has a baseball league?
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