Caleb and Fred Stayton expected to enjoy their time in Alaska, and the experience did not disappoint.
Caleb Stayton, an Elkhart Christian Academy graduate who just finished his freshman baseball season at Ball State University, was invited to play with the Flat Rock, Mich.-based Lake Erie Monarchs of the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League.
The Monarchs were asked to play games against
Alaska Baseball League squads, including the famed Midnight Sun Game hosted by the Alaska Goldpanners in Anchorage.
Several player parents made the trek, including Caleb's father Fred.
The Staytons of Bristol were able to enjoy baseball by night and the wonders of Alaska during the day.
They arose early each day and headed out to hike on glaciers, fish for halibut or take a plane or car ride to places like
Mt. McKinley aka Denali.
"It's beautiful country," says Caleb. "Seeing how big things were was pretty awesome to me."
Fred said the pace was both tiring and inspiring.
"It was daylight all the time," says Fred. "I didn't see darkness for two weeks. Each day included beautiful scenery, special 'God' moments and time with Caleb hiking or driving."
Caleb, a left-handed-hitting first baseman, rapped three hits, including two doubles (one can be seen in the GIF above this story), and drove in one run and scored one in the Midnight Sun Game.
The Goldpanners rallied from a 6-3 deficit to win 13-6.
Caleb calls the Midnight Sun Game "one of the coolest baseball games I've ever played in."
"It was overcast that day and, toward the end of the game, it got pretty hard to see," says Caleb.
Tradition calls for the Midnight Sun Game to start around 10:30 p.m. and play ends well after midnight without the use of lights.
Fred says he will long recall the kazoos humming along with
"Happy Boy" by the Beat Farmers and the somber tone in during the Seventh Inning Stretch when the Alaska state song was played.
When the Monarchs played the
Peninsula Oilers on Flag Day (June 14), all fans got in for free.
"It's a very patriotic place," says Fred. "There are so many military bases up there."
While he didn't get to play against him, he did get a chance to visit with Ball State teammate and
Anchorage Glacier Pilots player Alex Maloney.
"The level of play up there was incredible," says Fred. "There were some very, very talented players."
With a short summer and no professional baseball in Alaska, the ABL is a very big deal and players are treated like royalty.
Even though the Monarchs did not win any of their games in Alaska, the Staytons loved the experience.
Caleb was grateful to have his father along to share it.
"It was 10 times better than it would have been without him," says Caleb. "It's great to do something like that and share it with somebody."
Fred recalls that they met a man from Indiana on Mt. McKinley. He was wearing a Cubs hat in tribute to a someone special.
The Staytons were also there when
Spain's Kilian Jornet Bourgada set a world record by going from base camp to the summit of Mt. McKinley and back in 11 hours, 40 minutes.
"Baseball was important," says Fred. "But it wasn't the most important thing that particular trip."