This isn’t a baseball season, it’s an endurance contest.
The Peninsula Oilers begin a whirlwind tour today when they kick off their 43rd season of play in the Alaska Baseball League.
Tonight’s opening game — a 7 p.m. contest against the Mat-Su Miners, who lost to the Anchorage Bucs in the Top of the World Series last season, at Coral Seymour Memorial park — is just the first of a heavy season of action. The Oilers are scheduled to play 60 games in 57 days, including seven doubleheaders. That leaves exactly five days off this summer for the Oilers, barring rain-outs.
“It makes things interesting for sure,” said head coach Brian Daly. “It’s pretty wild.”
Daly replaces 2015 Oilers head coach Kevin Griffin, who left for bigger coaching opportunities. Daly was the team’s pitching coach last summer.
Assisting Daly this year will be Eli Silverman, who returns as the team hitting coach, and defensive specialist Dustin Yount, a former teammate of Daly’s with the Tuscon Toros in Arizona and son of Major League Hall of Famer Robin Yount.
Among the slate of 60 games are 15 nonleague contests, 10 of which are against the Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks, which have left the ABL to become an independent team for the time being. The Fairbanks North Star Borough had sent the Panners an eviction notice in March due to aging bleachers that posed safety concerns, but the two sides were able to agree to a new lease by the end of the month.
The Oilers will also be taking on the San Francisco Seals in a three-game nonleague series in July.
Daly said the object of this season is simple. Win, and win a lot.
“The overall attitude of this group has been phenomenal,” he said. “We have a lot of guys that are extremely competitive, and everybody is on the same page as far as wanting to win.”
Following a 20-26 campaign in 2015 that began hot but faded in July, the Oilers will be looking for more in 2016 with a solid offseason under their belts. The 2015 season was preceded by a frantic winter in which the coaching and playing staff was thrown together late due to budget concerns from 2014.
Daly said the time taken this offseason to pick a staff and roster will hopefully pay dividends.
“That made a huge difference,” Daly said about the additional time to recruit. “Having the whole offseason to recruit and build those relationships, it was a big help for us.”
The Oilers haven’t won the National Baseball Congress World Series title since 1994, and haven’t played in the finals since 2011.
The season separates into 23 games in June, 34 games in July and three in August. The squad will also play the ABL Home Run Derby and All-Star game July 17 at Mulcahy Field in Anchorage. The Oilers will play a pair of nonleague showcase games July 15 and 16 in Anchorage against the Chugiak Chinooks and the Glacier Pilots.
With 60 games to play, the team will certainly be stretched as the days wear on, and any pitching staff can begin to feel the burn.
But Daly said he was lucky to pick up a lot of players that compete at multiple positions.
“During the recruiting process, we got a number of two-way guys,” he said.
The current Peninsula roster consists of 27 players, and Daly said 18 are already in town. The only two returning from the 2015 squad are infielders Alex Seifert and Brian Ruhm.
Other notables joining the Oilers are Austin Piscotty, younger brother of Stephen Piscotty, a former Oilers player (2010) who now is a key outfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals, and Jake Darrow, a 2012 Soldotna High School graduate who played for the Legion Twins.
Daly added that eight players are joining the program from college teams that made NCAA regionals.
Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to reflect that the Anchorage Bucs won the Top of the World Series last season.