The Peninsula Oilers, after taking the summer of 2020 off due to the coronavirus pandemic, have hired a new general manager and are preparing for a full Alaska Baseball League schedule this summer.
AJ LaMonda was hired as the new general manager about a month ago. He takes over for Kyle Brown, who is still in contact with the Oilers and helping the program.
Larry McCann will be the head coach. McCann joined the Oilers in 2019 as an assistant under Brown and coached infielders and hitting.
LaMonda has spent the past six years as teacher and assistant baseball coach at Orange Lutheran High School in California.
Orange Lutheran is one of the top high school programs in the country, with National High School Invitational titles in 2017, 2018 and 2019. The tournament was not held in 2020 or this year due to the pandemic.
LaMonda, who teaches science at the school, works with hitters on head coach Eric Borba’s staff. Many graduates of the program have gone on to professional baseball or NCAA Division I baseball. New York Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole graduated from Orange Lutheran, though he went through the program before Borba and LaMonda were coaching.
“Coach Borba has put Orange Lutheran in position to not only produce really good baseball talent, but produce really good baseball people,” LaMonda said.
The new Oilers general manager said he’d like to use his new position with the Oilers to continue growing as a baseball person.
LaMonda went to the same high school with Brown and former Oilers coach Ryan Doran. A few years ago, LaMonda said he asked Brown about getting on the Oilers coaching staff.
“So he called me and said he was moving on from the GM role,” LaMonda said. “He said, ‘What do you think about this?’”
LaMonda loves the outdoors, fishing in particular, so Kenai had always held allure.
From 2004 to 2008, LaMonda played for Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, ending with a .289 average with eight home runs, 106 RBIs and 116 runs scored. He also gained an appreciation for summer collegiate baseball.
“I really enjoy the whole college summer atmosphere,” LaMonda said. “I was fortunate to play in a lot of different leagues, meet different people and see different areas.
“It’s what makes college baseball a unique sport.”
LaMonda said taking the GM job with the Oilers gives him a chance to make a difference with one of the most respected summer collegiate teams in one of the most respected summer collegiate leagues.
“Obviously, the pandemic created a lot of financial stress not only on just baseball in general, but on all these towns that really help out with the collegiate leagues,” LaMonda said. “I’m looking forward to getting people out to the ballpark, and being excited about having sports again and having the league again.”
LaMonda, who played with the Phillies organization briefly before getting into coaching, also is looking forward to getting some experience with college age players.
He said the Oilers are making sure their coronavirus safety measures are in order. The organization also is making sure players who have committed to the team are still coming.
LaMonda said there are many variables each player is facing, from whether the college changed its academic calendar due to the pandemic, to how much distance learning a particular student-athlete is doing.
“We’re going to keep it as close to normal as we can,” LaMonda said. “We want to get guys here on the typical day ready to play a full season.”
The Oilers open their season with a 5 p.m. game June 5 at Coral Seymour Memorial Park against the Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks, who are not a part of the ABL.
A survivor of stomach cancer, LaMonda said he also would like to help cancer causes in his position as GM.
“I love baseball,” LaMonda said. “It’s been ingrained in everything I do. It’s what got me into being a teacher, and coaching at a great program like Orange Lutheran High School.”