FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) What started as a friendly bet between local Fairbanks bars in 1906, the annual Midnight Sun Game has grown into a bucket-list attraction for any baseball fan. The world-renowned game has been featured by ESPN, Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News as a must-see event.
2019 Midnight Sun Baseball Game.
The Alaska Goldpanners inherited the tradition in 1960, where the game has been played at Growden Memorial Park for over half a century.
When the Alaska Goldpanners canceled their 2020 season in late April, the 115th edition of the historic game was in jeopardy.
With careful coordination, the Alaska Legion Baseball League and the Fairbanks Adult Amateur Baseball League (FAABL) were able to conduct their own separate seasons this summer, while follow the state's health mandate guidelines.
With two functional leagues in the hometown of the Midnight Sun Game, the two organizations worked together to preserve the storied contest that begins at 10 p.m. on solstice day and is played without the use of artificial lights.
"Baseball is streaky," said FAABL President Christoph Faulk. "You want to keep the streak going. As soon as we heard the Goldpanners were not going to have a season and were not going to play a Midnight Sun Baseball Game, automatically our brains get together."
Alaska Legion has hosted the Midnight Sun Tournament since 2018, which opens with the Fairbanks 49ers playing the Alaska Wild with the first pitch coming at 12:05 a.m. and is also played with only natural lighting.
Eagle River and South Anchorage's teams are in Fairbanks for the tournament, which gave Legion enough talent to field a team. Legion's team will feature five players from each the Wild, 49ers, Eagle River and South, while the Adult League's squad will be feature the best from their respective league.
This year's Midnight Sun Game is less about who is taking the field, but more about not letting 114 years of tradition go down the drain.
"Either way we were going to get two teams out there no matter who they were and we were going to play," Faulk added.
Unless these players are fortunate enough to play for the Goldpanners one day, this will be a once in a lifetime experience for all involved.
"The Midnight Sun Game is baseball in the interior, period," said Ray Pulsifer, head coach of the Alaska Wild. "They have grown up with the Midnight Sun Game and now they get to be a part of it, so that is exciting and it something they can remember forever."
Faulk says the Adult League features some players stationed at Eielson Air Force Base, who have returned from Syria and have served their two-week quarantine period. For them, they have never experienced the Midnight Sun Game in any capacity and now they get to be a part of history by participating in the 115th edition.
First pitch is scheduled for 10 p.m. Saturday at Growden Memorial Park. The gates will be open to the public and they plan to hold on to some of the traditions, such as signing the Alaska Flag at midnight.