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Alaska Sports Hall of Fame welcomes Chad Bentz and Corey Cogdell-Unrein

  • Author: Beth Bragg
    | Sports
  • Updated: March 27
  • Published December 13, 2018

Corey Cogdell-Unrein is a three-time Olympian and two-time Olympic medal winner. (Katie Yergensen / USA Shooting via Associated Press)

A Major League pitcher with one hand and an Olympic trapshooter with two medals are the newest members of the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame.

Chad Bentz, who made 40 Major League Baseball appearances despite being born with only one fully developed hand, and Corey Cogdell-Unrein, the winner of Olympic bronze medals in 2008 and 2016, headline the Class of 2019 announced Thursday.

Also earning induction were one event and one moment:

The Alaska Run for Women, an event born in protest that has become one of the biggest and most beloved footraces in the state while at the same raising money and awareness for the fight against breast cancer;

— Kodiak’s 55-52 upset victory over the powerhouse East T-birds in the 2001 Class 4A boys basketball championship game, a David-versus-Goliath moment that rocked the Sullivan Arena — and featured a woman in the role of David.

The four selections will be honored at an induction ceremony next spring, Hall of Fame executive director Harlow Robinson said.

Chad Bentz spent a season pitching for the Montreal Expos despite being born with a deformed hand. (Associated Press)

Bentz, a Juneau-Douglas High graduate, has made more Major League Baseball appearances than any other Alaskan — and he’s the only Alaskan with a base hit in the big leagues.

Born with a deformed right hand, Bentz is one of two one-handed pitchers to make it to the Major Leagues. The first, Jim Abbott, had a 10-year career that included a no-hitter in 1993.

Bentz, who tucked a left-handed glove under his non-pitching arm and slipped his pitching hand into it after delivering a pitch, made 36 relief appearances for the Montreal Expos in 2004 and four for the Florida Marlins in 2005. In 2004, he was 0-3 with a 5.86 earned-run average.

He was also a .500 hitter — he had one single in two at-bats for the Expos.

After his baseball career ended, Bentz played one season of Division III college football at Castleton College in Vermont. He has since returned to Juneau, where he is the activities director at his alma mater.

Cogdell-Unrein, who was home-schooled in Eagle River, learned to shoot a shotgun as a toddler in Chickaloon. She pursued trapshooting at the Birchwood Recreation and Shooting Park after her family moved to Eagle River.

She is a three-time Olympian who captured bronze medals in Beijing (2008) and Rio de Janiero (2016). She has won eight World Cup medals, including a gold this summer in mixed team trap, a new event that will make its Olympic debut in 2020. The event pairs a man and a woman on a two-person team.

She makes regular TV appearances on outdoors shows and has been featured in advertising campaigns for outdoors-related businesses like Cabela’s.

Bentz and Cogdell-Unrein bring the number of individuals inducted into the Hall of Fame to 39. Bentz is the first baseball player honored, although Red Boucher was inducted for his role in creating the Alaska Baseball League and the Midnight Sun Game was honored in the events category. Cogdell-Unrein is the first representative of a shooting sport.

The Alaska Run for Women always draws a big crowd. (Bob Hallinen / ADN archives)

The Alaska Run for Women becomes the 13th event and the third footrace to be honored, joining Mount Marathon and the Equinox Marathon.

The women’s-only race began in 1993 as a protest to the established Alaska Women’s Run, a popular event that angered runners when it raised entry fees and reduced amenities for the 1993 race, all while paying its race director a handsome salary.

A grassroots movement resulted in the Run for Women. The inaugural event was pulled together quickly, drew more than 700 runners and put the old Women’s Run out of business. Established as a fundraiser for breast cancer charities, the Run for Women has raised more than $4 million in cash and donated mammograms.

The charitable aspect of the race draws thousands of women dressed in pink, many running in memory of loved ones who died from breast cancer and many who are survivors of the disease. The race also showcases many of Alaska’s best runners.

The 2001 Kodiak-East championship game is the 18th moment to be honored, and the third involving basketball. UAA’s 1988 upset of second-ranked Wake Forest on a neutral court and UAF’s 2002 Top of the World championship have also earned spots in the Hall of Fame.

Kodiak was the underdog and East was the perennial powerhouse that already owned 16 state titles. Kodiak’s lineup included only two players 6-foot or taller, although one of them was 7-foot senior center Nick Billings, who swatted away East’s attempt to tie the game with a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

On the bench directing the Bears was Amy Rakers, the first woman to lead a boys team to an Alaska state basketball championship. Her team trailed by 10 points in the third quarter, and Kodiak’s comeback triggered bedlam at the Sullivan Arena.

Hall of Fame selections are based on the votes of a nine-member selection committee, a public vote and an inductee vote, for a total of 11 ballots. Nearly 2,000 votes were cast by the public this year.

Correction: An early version of this story said Amy Rakers was the only woman to coach a boys teams to an Alaska state championship. Last season, Brianna Kirk was the head coach of the Noatak boys team that won the Class 2A tournament.

Beth Bragg is the Daily News sports editor and a member of the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame selection committee.

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