Diamond in the Midnight Sun: Daylight Night Games Just Part of Mulcahy Stadium's Allure
Anchorage Glacier Pilots baseball player Brayden Miraki jogs to retrieve a foul ball from inside the fence at Mulcahy Stadium and casually tosses it to a little girl standing just on the other side. Above the snow-capped mountains behind them rise puffy white clouds, the only blemish against the crystal blue sky.
Wide-eyed, the girl grips the stitches against her tiny fingers before slapping the ball into a rainbow-colored mitt, then leaps onto the low fence and leans out over the grass alongside two taller boys, her pink shoes dangling a foot off the ground.
The children watch spellbound as Miraki leads off the next inning with a deft bunt single down the third base line, and their eyes dart back and forth when Miraki bluffs the opposing pitcher with a series of fakes and feints toward second base. Tension rises in a tie baseball game between crosstown rivals.
Mulcahy Stadium is part of the Chester Creek Sports Complex in Midtown. Located on 16th Avenue between A Street and Gambell, the stadium is just a 5-minute drive (or easy walk) from downtown Anchorage.
And then it falls. The Pilots fail to move Miraki along, and the inning comes to an anticlimactic conclusion. Base coaches saunter on and off the field. Fans rush for the beer line, to the hot dog stand and elsewhere. Music fills the air as some of the planet’s brightest sun beats down on a place where on cloudless days most folks tend to sit in right field, where the bleachers face away from Alaska’s relentless evening daylight. Baseball moves on.
As the teams trade sides the little girl stares into a rainbow mitt at the souvenir inside, a forever link between her and one small moment in the long and timeless tale of a nation’s pastime. One free baseball. One fan for life.
Sappy? Maybe a little. But it’s these snapshots of wholesomeness that keep me coming back to the nearly six-decade-old stadium in Midtown Anchorage as much as it is the baseball. It’s the Little Leaguers playing catch under the bleachers and the old-timers hunkered in the box seats waiting for the umpire’s next questionable decision; it’s the bad jokes in the beer garden and getting to sit next to a bullpen so close you can swap fishing stories with yesterday’s starting pitcher. It’s cool sappy.
A pair of young fans peer through a fence at Mulcahy Stadium while pushing aside a banner displaying former Anchorage Glacier Pilots players who went on to become Major League Baseball Players during an ABL game in 2022. Numerous players have gone from Anchorage to the big leagues, including Hall of Famer Randy Johnson.
Mulcahy is a place where a city often divided by politics is separated only by allegiance to one of two baseball squads – Pilots or Anchorage Bucs – and united in a shared love of a sport that’s ideally suited for life under the Midnight Sun. Many games start at 7 p.m. and artificial lights aren’t usually needed until mid-July. When there’s a game in town, it’s fun (and a little heartening) to watch as locals of all political stripes begin filling social media with photos from the stadium – as if all of Alaska declares a temporary truce for nine innings each day during summer.
Because the 3,500-seat stadium is centrally located (498 E. 16th Avenue), it’s a great place to pop in while I’m on my way to or from doing other things. Even when you factor in $5 or so for a ticket, it’s still the cheapest way to grab dinner and a show without having to make reservations ahead of time.
And it’s a pretty damn good show. The Alaska Baseball League (ABL) is famous for producing Major League talent – Aaron Judge was a Glacier Pilot and Paul Goldschmidt was a Buc. And the unique experience of playing in Alaska lends itself to fun: In 2022, Pilots players went viral for their tradition of placing their moose mascot’s head atop the shoulders of any player to hit a home run.
A fan leans over the fence at Mulcahy Stadium during an Alaska Baseball League game between the Anchorage Glacier Pilots and Peninsula Oilers in 2022.
The amateur ABL was founded in 1974 as a collegiate summer league and as of the 2022 season consisted of five teams: the Bucs, Pilots, Peninsula Oilers, Mat-Su Miners and Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks. The Chinooks play their home games at Loretta French Park in Chugiak, a half-hour drive from downtown nestled at the foothills of the Chugach Mountains. That stadium is well worth a visit for baseball fans looking for a small-town feel just minutes from the heart of a big city. There’s also great hiking in the Chugiak-Eagle River area, and when I used to work as a reporter in Eagle River it wasn’t uncommon to hike nearby Mount Baldy before (or after) covering an ABL game at Loretta French.
General admission tickets at Mulcahy are $5 for adults, $2 for kids 6-12 and free for kids under 6. There are also box seats available for $7. Admission to all games at Loretta French is free. For more information about the league visit alaskabaseballleague.org.
Anchorage Glacier Pilots pitcher Jacob King delivers a pitch during a Glacier Pilots Alaska Baseball League victory at Mulcahy Stadium in 2022.
A compelling thing about spending time at an ABL game in Anchorage is you can relax without feeling like you’re wasting an Alaska summer day. In June or July I find myself constantly needing to be doing something “productive” – whether that’s hiking, fishing or just cleaning my apartment – and simple relaxation is often an afterthought. But at the ballpark I can sit and ponder O’Malley Peak looming over the city without having to actually put on a pair of hiking boots. It’s the perfect way to get outside while still kicking back and taking time to breathe in the slow, simple beauty of a baseball game.
The hot dogs and beer aren’t free. But there’s always a chance you’ll catch a foul ball – one of the best ways I know to make the memories of a lazy summer afternoon last into a lifetime.
Matt Tunseth is a freelance writer who grew up rooting for the Peninsula Oilers ABL team in Kenai, Alaska. He now lives in Anchorage.