Alaska Baseball

Kansas State rekindles connection with Glacier Pilots

This season's Anchorage Glacier Pilots roster features two of the most offensively gifted and versatile college freshmen in the country.

Both hail from Kansas State – a school with renewed connections to the Pilots thanks to some help from the Mat-Su Miners.

Will Brennan and Cam Thompson join the Pilots after being named to the Big 12 All-Freshman Team and meriting Freshman All-America honors by the Collegiate Baseball newspaper.

All Brennan did in his first season with Kansas State was break the program's 44-year freshman batting average record. He led the team with a .350 average and reached base in 46 of his 49 games as an outfielder.

Oh – and he happened to start the season as a pitcher.

"I came in with the mentality that I was going to pitch because we didn't have very many left-handed pitchers," Brennan said. "I kind of struggled early and they gave me a shot hitting-wise and it just kind of took off from there."

Brennan and Thompson became K-State's one-three punch, if you will. Brennan led things off, while his teammate provided speed and more power two batters later.

Thompson ended with a .318 average, two homers and a team-leading 70 hits and four triples.

"We're tickled to death to have both of them here," Pilots general manager Mike Hinshaw said.

Hinshaw credits Mat-Su Miners manager Pete Christopher for helping the Pilots secure the duo.

"…Pete Christopher is the person that directed me to Kansas State, so I (have) to give him some kudos," Hinshaw said. "… (B)ecause he had players coming from Kansas State."

Jordan Floyd, Josh Rolette and Jake Scudder suited up for the Miners in 2016. They returned to Manhattan, Kansas, with high praise for the Alaska Baseball League.

"(T)hey came back and said it was a cool experience," Thompson said. "I was pretty excited. My dad (Craig) and grandpa (Butch) used to live up here … in Palmer."

Pilots manager Kevin Smallcomb, who returned to the club this summer after two earlier stints, also has some K-State connections. He encountered future major-leaguer Craig Wilson while Wilson was playing for Kansas State and lured him to Alaska for the 1990 season.

"I was a graduate assistant for Arkansas and we were playing Kansas State," Smallcomb said. "I went over and asked who their shortshop was. I wanted to know where he was going to play during the summer."

Asked if Brennan and Thompson could be compared to Wilson, Smallcomb replied, "The sky's the limit for them, no doubt."

"… They enjoy playing, are involved and engaged. Involvement is what you want to see as a summer player."

Brennan and Thompson, both of whom competed as position players and pitchers in high school, will find time in the field and on the mound for the Pilots. Right now, Smallcomb is slowly working them into the pitching rotation.

"(Brennan) is going to be in the outfield until he pitches," Hinshaw said. "But he's not quite ready to get on the mound in a game situation."

In Thursday's game against the Bucs at Mulcahy Stadium, Brennan played left field and Thompson played center field — just like at Kansas State. They batted in the No. 1 and No. 3 spots — just like at Kansas State — and both scored in the first inning to help the Pilots grab an early 9-0 lead.

The Manhattan project that worked so well during the college season for Kansas State appears to be working for the Pilots too.