Second in a series about Alaska Baseball League ballparks
KENAI — There’s a faded Coca-Cola sign beneath the grandstands at what locals still call “Oilers Park” that has clearly seen a lot of baseball. It’s hard to tell where the red and white paint starts and the plywood ends on the ragged, waterlogged sign.
Rough around the edges is an understatement for Coral Seymour Memorial Park, a once-glorious boomtown baseball temple whose best days are now spotted mainly in the nooks and crannies and whiffed on the wisps of now-banned cigarette smoke that still occasionally drift across the bleachers.
Built at the height of the Kenai Peninsula’s rollicking 1970s oil boom and remodeled again in the late 1990s, the spruce-ringed stadium used to have heated box seats beneath a covered grandstand — a necessity at a park where the cold ocean breeze always blows in from center field and seagulls are regular visitors to the outfield grass.
Over the years the field has seen hundreds of Major Leaguers, including more than 120 Oilers alumni who made it to the bigs, including Cy Young Award winner Frank Viola and six-time Gold Glove winner JT Snow. The Oilers won three National Baseball Congress World Series championships, the last in 1994.
The team and stadium have fallen on tough times in recent years — the roof of the grandstand ripped off during a 2014 windstorm and team officials say they’re not sure if they’ll be able to fund a squad in 2020.
“After years of trimming budgets and doing with less the Oilers are faced with a serious financial deficit and can only think to reach out to those that love baseball for help,” the team wrote in a plea for help earlier this season.
Visiting the stadium is like taking a time machine back to a grittier era of baseball, complete with kids chasing foul balls, old men smoking cigarettes on the fringes and plenty of salty language from the left-field beer garden — where longtime fans still listen to radio broadcasts while watching the action on the field.
There are plenty of perks at the park. There’s no longer specialty admission to the grandstand (in fact, many games are free), the play on the field remains stellar and the beer is local — and always cold.
(Next: Hermon Brothers Field in Palmer)
CORAL SEYMOUR MEMORIAL PARK
103 Tinker Lane, Kenai
Distance to center field: 387 feet
Named for: Coral Seymour, an early general manager and booster of the team and one of its most instrumental figures. Seymour died in 1998, the same year the ballpark underwent a renovation. “He easily could be called the Peninsula Oilers’ most valuable player,” wrote the Peninsula Clarion in an editorial following his death.
Wednesday, July 24 — Oilers vs. Bucs, 6 p.m.
Thursday, July 25 — Oilers vs. Bucs, 6 p.m.
Friday, July 26 — Oilers vs. Bucs, 6 p.m.
Saturday, July 27 — Oilers vs. Bucs, 6 p.m.
Sunday, July 28 — Oilers vs. Bucs, 2 p.m.