With the start of the Alaska Baseball League season just one day away, Anchorage's two teams find themselves in an all-too-familiar place.
Expectations are high, but the body count is low.
Some players are still in class, a handful are headed to Omaha for the College World Series and others are waiting out Tuesday's Major League draft. All of which leaves the Anchorage Bucs and the Anchorage Glacier Pilots with gaping holes in their rosters, if not their outfields, going into their Monday night exhibition game at Mulcahy Stadium.
New Pilots field manager Dennis Machado, a 1994 Kenai High graduate, said it'll be another week before he has a full roster. Meanwhile, general manager Jon Dyson is busy scheduling airport runs to pick up the steady arrival of college players who will call Alaska home for the next several weeks.
"We picked up two today and have another one coming in tonight, there's two on Sunday and two on Monday," Dyson said Saturday, ticking off the latest batch of arrivals. "I've been to the airport at noon, at 2 o'clock, at midnight ..."
Dennis Mattingly, general manager of the Bucs, only wishes he has made as many trips to the airport. He only expects to have 11 or 12 players for the first week of the season.
"I told one of my coaches yesterday, 'Do you realize we've got four pitchers for 15 days?' My coaches are gonna have to (pitch) some non-league games," he said.
The bad news for the Bucs is three of their first seven games are league games. Monday's meeting with the Pilots is an exhibition game and so is Tuesday's game against an adult league team from Elmendorf Air Force Base. But Wednesday's game in Palmer against the Mat-Su Miners counts in the ABL standings, as do June 14-15 home games against the Miners and Fairbanks Goldpanners.
The good news is all six of the state's ABL teams, which fill their rosters with college players, face the same player shortage. Some colleges are still in session, the NCAA tournament is still in progress and the draft almost always results in the loss of a couple of prospects.
"We'll be limping along at first," Mattingly said. "That's just the way it is."
Recent Glacier Pilot practices have been interesting, Machado said.
"The last few, we've had three position players and three pitchers," he said. "We'll have five, no six, position players in town for Monday's game.
"You scramble at the beginning."
Machado and Mattingly both have high hopes for their teams -- once they're fully assembled.
Among the top prospects for the Pilots:
-- Dusty Robinson, Fresno State outfielder. He batted .319 with 15 home runs and 45 RBIs in 60 games and was named to the Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American team and to the All-Western Athletic Conference first team.
-- Jace Brinkerhoff, Utah Valley third baseman. His .433 batting average (94 of 217) was the seventh best among all Division I players this season and earned him a spot on the Division I All-Independent first team.
-- Jason Coats, Texas Christian outfielder. His ninth-inning RBI single lifted the Horned Frogs past Oregon State 5-4 in the title game of the NCAA's Fort Worth regional tournament, putting his team into the Super Regional tournament and garnering him Most Outstanding Player honors. He batted .328 for the season.
-- Ryan Carpenter, Gonzaga lefthanded pitcher. Part of the starting rotation, he was 6-4 with 69 strikeouts against 29 walks in 66 innings.
And for the Bucs:
-- Paul Goldschmidt, Texas State first baseman. Goldschmidt is a third-team All-American who batted .252 with 88 RBIs and 17 home runs in 57 games.
-- Tyler Sibley, Texas State infielder. A freshman All-American and second-team All-Southland Conference pick, Sibley scored 77 runs and batted .367 in 54 games.
-- Paul Bargas, UC-Riverside righthanded pitcher. Bargas had an impressive strikeouts-to-walks ratio of 46-9 in 75 innings, posting a 5-3 record and a 4.44 ERA.
-- Zach Vincej, Saugus High School (California) shortstop. One of the nation's most sought-after high school players, he will play at Pepperdine next school year. As a senior, he batted .369 with 21 RBIs in 23 games.
Find Beth Bragg online at adn.com/contact/bbragg or call 257-4309.
Mattingly back in action
Dennis Mattingly, who started the Bucs back in 1980, is back to his summer routine at Mulcahy Stadium, less than four months after returning home from a stem-cell transplant that saved his life.
Mattingly, 60, needed the transplant to ward off the effects of multiple myeloma, an incurable cancer that he has battled since 2000. He received his first stem-cell transplant in 2005, a procedure doctors said should extend his life by about three years. Once those three years were up, a second -- and what Mattingly said will be a final -- transplant was needed.
Except by then the Mattingly family's insurance had been tapped out. When word of the Bucs' GM plight became public, about $150,000 was raised, enough to get Mattingly another transplant -- and a shot at a few more baseball seasons. "They have no idea how long it'll last," he said.
Mattingly and his wife Sandy returned in February from an extended hospital stay in Seattle. By last month, he was back at Mulcahy tending grass in the outfield, making repairs where needed and recruiting players for this year's team. He looks healthy and says he feels good. Mattingly back in action