Photo by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion  Peninsula Oilers' Adam Sonabend waits for a catch as Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks' Chance Gusbeth heads to first during their game Friday July 5, 2013 in Kenai, Alaska.

Photo by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion Peninsula Oilers' Adam Sonabend waits for a catch as Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks' Chance Gusbeth heads to first during their game Friday July 5, 2013 in Kenai, Alaska.

Oilers to play ball in 2015

The Peninsula Oilers are going for it.

Facing a severe financial shortfall, the Oilers board of directors had considered taking the 2015 season off.

But at the board meeting in early November, the members decided to shoot for a 42nd-straight season of baseball.

“We all sat around at talked about it, and we officially decided at the last meeting we were just going to go for it,” said Michael Tice, board president. “There wasn’t a vote. It was more like, ‘This is what we do. We don’t need a vote.’”

Tice said there are numerous challenges ahead for the three-time national champions to put on a season, but he considers those challenges a better alternative than taking a year off and trying to raise funds without a sure season in the future.

“It’s better for us to try and fail than to just fail to try,” Tice said. “I hope we don’t fail. I think if people know we are doing it, it will make it a lot easier for us to say, ‘Hey, we need your help. Can you sponsor us in some way?’”

In August, Tice had said the Oilers would have to raise $170,000 to have a season next year. Since then, Tice said the Oilers have made significant changes to lower that number to $80,000 to $90,000.

Tice said a field and building maintenance employee will be completely off the books this year. James Clark, the general manager, was let go in August. Operations also have been streamlined between the baseball club, booster club and Old Town Bingo.

“We basically only have one employee now, and one part-time employee,” Tice said. “We’ve combined some jobs between the three separate organizations.”

The streamlining still leaves two major problems — a lot of money still must be raised, and now there are a lot more tasks that must be done without the aid of full-time help.

Tice said the major push to raise funds will start in the new year. The major fundraiser scheduled thus far is the Oilers “Lucky 7” Gusher Gala, which will be Feb. 7 at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex. Tickets are $100 for the event, which includes a prime rib dinner, beer and seven chances to win a total of $10,000 in prizes.

“I’m hoping the Gusher will be a platform for people to step forward and give more than maybe they’ve given in the past,” Tice said. “I’m hoping to make more at the Gusher than we have in past years.”

Tice said the organization also is drawing up a plan as to how it will go out into the community and generate sales.

As for the tasks it takes to put on a season, Tice said the organization is looking at hiring a college intern or possibly someone from the community on a three-month basis. He also said ballpark maintenance will fall to the baseball operations committee, which will take care of the duties itself, or find volunteers to do it.

Tice did not deny that the Oilers are flying by the seat of their pants.

“Flying by the seat of our pants is just about how it’s going to be this year,” Tice said. “But if we pull it off and prove to ourselves we can do it, rinse and repeat, and do it again next year.”

In doing so, the organization will be getting back to its roots.

“We looked back at our minutes from old meetings years and years ago,” Tice said. “This is exactly how it was. They would freak out at the end of every season about how they were going to do it next year.”

Tice said things changed in the 1990s with the immense success of gaming. Although Tice said gaming has been doing slightly better, he said the organization has to assume the days of gaming saving the day are over.

He said the process of letting employees go was extremely tough, making for a lot of tension this summer on the board. But Tice said he is hopeful that period is behind the board, and it can come together to put on a season.

“We got complacent,” Tice said of the effect of the very profitable years of gaming. “I think we are getting back to what we are called, the Peninsula Oilers Baseball Club.

“We’re going to treat it like a club where everyone is involved, volunteering to make it happen.”

And while a booming bottom line is nice, it is not necessary.

“As a nonprofit, our goal is simply to make it through the year,” Tice said. “We just have to put on a baseball season. We don’t have to make money.”

Now, about that season. The Oilers are scheduled to christen Coral Seymour Memorial Park with a 7 p.m. game on June 12 against the Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks.

The problem is the Oilers have no coach or players at this point.

“Most coaches are pretty much recruited by September,” Tice said. “We are hitting the game late.”

But with 118 former Oilers listed on the grandstand that went on to Major League Baseball, Tice said he is hopeful the Oilers can overcome the late start. Tice said the Oilers are looking to reach into their illustrious past to get a head coach.

“If we can get the right coach, they’re going to put together a good team,” he said.

While that opening pitch on June 12 is an alluring goal, Tice said he is not allowing himself to think that far ahead.

“We’re sort of in this mode where we’re concentrated on the Gusher,” he said. “When the Gusher is over, everyone takes a breath and we can concentrate on the season now.”

 

Reach Jeff Helminiak at jeff.helminiak@peninsulaclarion.com.

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