Midnight Sun Baseball in Fairbanks, Alaska

Where can you watch a baseball game played at midnight without lights?  In Fairbanks, Alaska on the Summer Solstice.  On June 21, with 22 hours of daylight, we watched the Alaska Goldpanners play the 107th annual Midnight Sun Baseball Game against the Washington Everett Merchants.  Bright enough to play baseball at midnight in Fairbanks, Alaska

 

On the solstice, Fairbanks receives about 22 hours of sunlight, with sunrise at 2:58 a.m. and sunset at 12:46 a.m.  The longest day of the year is cause for celebration in cities all across Alaska and to the north because in the winter, Alaskans endure the opposite phenomena: 22 hours of darkness on the Winter Solstice in December.  As if constant darkness isn’t bad enough.  It’s also bitterly cold.  Fairbanks is only 175 miles south of the Arctic Circle, with a January average minimum temperature of minus 18 degrees.

The Midnight Sun Game started at 10:30 p.m.  The Fairbanks visitor center told us we would have no problem getting tickets at the game itself because it rarely sold out.  However, Fairbanks was experiencing perfect 75 degree weather, which brought out the crowds.  Despite arriving well before the first pitch, the line for tickets was about 200 feet long and the stands were already packed.  From outside the stadium walls, we heard the announcer say “Welcome Panner fans to the sold-out 107th Midnight Sun Game!”  We were disappointed, having looked forward for weeks to being a part of our first and probably last ever, baseball game played in the sun at midnight.  But, being the not-very-easily deterred pair that we are, Timm and I decided to circle the outside of the stadium, in case we could get a peek at the field or at least hear the game from the outside.

The pitcher warming up in the bull pen.  See the ball in mid air?

As we ended our trip around the circumference of the field, we found a very nice (and free!) spot along the outside of the fence.  We sat comfortably in the grass at the corner of the first base line and right field, with a pretty good view of home plate.  We also got to watch the pitcher warm up his arm throwing fast balls in the bull pen right in front of us.  Timm was able to catch the ball in mid-air in the above photo.

As the game started, we stood to sing the national anthem, holding our hands over our hearts, grateful to be at such a unique event.  Grateful to be American.  Grateful to be back in the good ol’ U.S.A.  As I always do, I belted out the song in my loud but truly terrible singing voice.  Half way through the song, the microphone of the woman singing the national anthem stopped working.  The crowd barely seemed to notice and continued to sing without her.  As the song ended… “And the home of the brave…….” the collective voice of the crowd swelled with patriotic enthusiasm and pride.

 

"Hey batter, eh batter, SWING!"

We took our seats on the grass to watch the game.  We chatted with the woman sitting next to us.  Her name was Karen and she lives in Fairbanks.  She is a biologist who flies single engine planes over Canadian and Alaskan lakes with other scientists studying and counting wildlife.  Maybe a little older than us, Karen is slender with long dark hair streaked with gray.  We took an instant liking to her as she was sincere, thoughtful, quiet in nature and kind.  It was one of those pleasant encounters with a stranger.  We only spoke with Karen for an hour, yet despite the short duration, it served as a reminder of the many wonderful people who make our lives better by their presence, no matter how fleeting our time is together.

Timm proudly holds the foul ball from the 107th annual Midnight Sun Game in Fairbanks, Alaska

We watched the game and marveled at the beautiful sunset that lasted for hours because the sun just sits on the horizon.  Just after midnight, we realized we were tired so decided to leave.  As we started to walk along the ball park fence towards our car, we heard the fans inside the stadium yelling down at us “Foul ball, get the ball!”  Timm looked up and saw a foul ball flying over his head, then bouncing in the grass.  He looked around to see if any children were chasing after the ball but no one had even seen it.  He ran a few feet and grabbed it.  We left the Midnight Sun baseball game with a souvenir that even money can’t buy.  Our very own scuffed up foul baseball marked with the official stamp of the “Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks.”

Who won the game?  The Panners, beating the Merchants 7 to 5.

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