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Ketchikan, Alaska, Baseball Team Relishes Florida Trip

The Ketchikan Kings baseball team, at USSSA Space Coast Stadium in Melbourne, Florida. *Photo by Andy Berntson.

It is truly amazing what opportunities the game of baseball can create.

On April 15th, the Viera Hawks served host to a unique opponent that had traveled a bit farther than most others for the chance to play at USSSA Space Coast Stadium, as the Ketchikan Kings came from Ketchikan, Alaska. This element changed the entire dynamic of the competition, with the intrigue of two teams from so far apart enjoying seeing how each plays the game, and the Kings soaking in the environment just as much as the action.

Viera finished with an 8-0 victory, and afterwards the hosts fed both teams, who dined together in the stands. Save for the uniforms, you could not tell the kids apart so much any more. All kids love pizza, no matter where they come from.

“We were lucky enough for Viera High School to accommodate us, and even more fortunate to be able to play that game in such a beautiful complex. The complex treated us well, the host team was extremely hospitable and even fed us after the game,” Ketchikan manager Andy Berntson said. “This is my third time taking my team to Florida, each time attending the Jackie Robinson Training Complex in Vero Beach. The cost of the trip is high, and can be prohibitive. This year the affordable rates coincided with the end of the spring program, causing us to reach out and seek an extra game.”

Ketchikan, Alaska is a smaller island community in the southernmost part of Southeast Alaska. The city has approximately 15,000 people and the high school generally sits at about 475 students. The baseball team flies to all of its regional contests, which include going to the communities of Juneau, Sitka, and Petersburg, Alaska. The state tournament is generally in Anchorage, and takes the Kings approximately seven to eight hours to reach it via plane. Their season begins March 1st, but they generally don’t get outside to practice until around the first of April. Their games usually start mid-April and run through the first week of June, when the state tournament is played.

The Ketchikan Kings enjoy a meal after the game, compliments of the Viera Hawks. *Photo from @VieraHawksBaseball.

“Our kids play the bulk of their games on a coarse surface closer to gravel than traditional baseball dirt, as our climate does not allow for the growing of field grass due to excessive rain and a lack of soil,” Coach Berntson said. “You would laugh if you saw pictures of our field, especially the historical ones. The quality of the facility was something our kids have rarely been in, let alone played in.”

Baseball is a difficult sport in Alaska. The experience is handcuffed by the calendar and the climate. The Kings have been practicing inside the high school gym and in the batting cage, and their first on-field practice of the season actually came in Vero Beach on April 11th. They at least were able to get in some scrimmages the weekend before they left, playing in Sitka, Alaska.

The Viera Hawks, after serving as excellent hosts to the Ketchikan Kings. *Photo from @VieraHawksBaseball.

Ketchikan played those games in 38 degree weather, with snow. So the climate shock traveling to Florida was real.

“I make these trips for multiple reasons,” Coach Berntson said. “Often, such as this year, it is our first chance to get outside and practice on a field. Secondly, there are few opportunities in Alaska to add games in Alaska outside of conference play due to the cost and the calendar. But also, honestly, I truly believe that anyone that loves baseball deserves a chance to play on real and awesome baseball fields in real baseball weather. Even if it is just for a few days. While the talent and facility can be overwhelming, and left us wishing that we had performed closer to our abilities, we accomplished what we needed to on the trip, which was to simply play baseball.”

The Kings played a total of four baseball games while on their trip, which also included a game at Vero Beach on April 11th. The Indians earned a 16-0 win in that action, while the Kayhi played their first game of the season.

*Photo by Andy Berntson.

“Our kids truly love the experience of traveling to Florida to play in the sun,” Coach Berntson said. “They always play hard, with predictable and mixed results due to the challenges that we face each season. But the experience is always worth it. As the adult in charge, it is honestly completely exhausting, but so worth it to see the kids get to experience it.”

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