In years past, the Anchorage Glacier Pilots had a person within the organization designated to wear the team’s mascot costume — a moose dressed as a pilot.
However, after no one assumed the mantle for the 2022 Alaska Baseball League season, they put part of the costume to good use by starting a new tradition that incentivizes players to be more aggressive at-bat.
Whenever a Glacier Pilots player hits a ball over the fence for a home run, they have the moose head portion of the mascot costume placed on their head once they reach home plate and don’t remove it until they get to the dugout.
“When the moose head comes out, that is a good thing for the Pilots obviously,” Pilots coach Dave Serrano said.
The idea didn’t come from one specific player. The team came up with the tradition together as a group after they saw the mascot costume lying in the clubhouse one day.
“This is always about the kids, and I believe if they have fun doing that — as long as it’s not put in our opponent’s face — then I’m going to allow them to do that,” Serrano said. “They have fun with it. They’re honoring their teammate for hitting the ball over the fence.”
Home runs in Alaska Baseball League games are a rare treat for both players and fans, but on Tuesday night at Mulcahy Stadium, outfielder Caden Kendle made the novelty look like a regular occurrence.
Kendle, a center fielder who will be a sophomore at UC Irvine, was responsible for half of the team’s total runs in the 6-1 victory over the visiting Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks after blasting a pair of homers over the outfield wall.
“I wasn’t doing anything different,” Kendle said. “I was just getting my pitch, trying to put a good swing on it, hit the ball hard somewhere and it worked out.”
He hit a two-run homer to left field in the bottom of the first inning to draw first blood and hit a solo homer to a similar spot in the bottom of the eighth for the team’s final score.
“That’s where I’m best hitting,” Kendle said.
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His two home runs Tuesday marked his second and third of the season. His first home run also soared over left field, in Kenai in a road game against the Peninsula Oilers a few weeks ago.
“Caden had a really good day,” Serrano said. “He works extremely hard and he’s a really good baseball player, not just for us but in college baseball too.”
The moose head tradition had already gotten started by the time Kendle joined the team on June 15, but he admits that it adds a little extra motivation to try to hit the ball over the fence.
He gladly accepted the moose head after hitting his first home run but declined the honor following his second.
“I don’t know, I just wasn’t feeling it,” Kendle said. “It was too hot and I didn’t really want to put it on.”
The moose head tradition is a testament to the camaraderie and cohesion that the team has on and off the field in the short summer season.
“We’re all super close, we love hanging out and being around each other,” Kendle said. “We’ll go out at night and play basketball and just compete. We’ll go play frisbee golf, go on hikes, and it’s super fun.”
This is Kendle’s first year playing in the ABL and his first time being in Alaska. He had never seen a moose in person before traveling to the state, and now, seeing them has become commonplace for the resident of Huntington Beach, California.
“I actually saw seven last night,” he said. “We were playing frisbee golf at Kincaid Park.”