What is Midnight Sun Baseball Game?
Every year on June 21 at midnight, there is a baseball game at Growden Memorial Park in Fairbanks, Alaska, without artificial lighting. The Goldpanners, the city team, have always played this activity. It’s incredible how the midnight sunlight illuminates the field.
This activity is very entertaining. It takes place like a big party and does not end until late in the morning. And there is still great sunlight.
Why is the event held in Alaska?
Norway is not the only land of the midnight sun; Alaska also gets the nickname and celebrates the solstice statewide. In Anchorage, some participate in the Midtown Solstice Festival, and others run the Midnight Sun Half Marathon or hike for views and festivities on scenic Flattop Mountain in Anchorage Park.
Midnight Sun Run and the Midnight Sun Festival are held with pony rides, gold panning, and break dancing. Here, the sun dips below the horizon around 12:48 a.m., rising soon after at 2:48 a.m., with a pink glow of dusk in between. And for 114 years, Fairbanks has marked the occasion with the Midnight Sun baseball event, one of the most famous games in the world.
Alaska is ready to host Midnight Sun
The Alaska Goldpanners assumed hosting duties in 1960. The northernmost baseball team in the world, they cultivated hard-hitting collegiate talent, sending more than 200 players to the majors, including Dave Winfield and Barry Bonds. Rivals for the Midnight Sun game came from as far away as Taiwan in 1984 and Japan in 1967, where crowds reached 5,200.
(The Taiwanese coach apparently couldn’t understand why the game had to be played without the aid of electric lights, even on a cloudy night when it was difficult for the players to see. There is no answer, the lights don’t even work.)
On game day, doors open at 8 p.m., with the first pitch thrown at 10 p.m., with the sun still shining. It ends around 1:30 a.m., but games have been known to go over 2. There’s a break just before midnight when, instead of Taking Me Out to The Ballgame, they sing the Alaska Flag Song («The flag of Alaska to dear Alaskans / The simple flag of a final frontier»).
A large blue flag of Alaska serves as the backdrop, its eight gold stars in the constellations of Ursa Major and Polaris the only stars seen that night.
This June 21, if you go to Fairbanks, you will see the Goldpanners take on the Everett Merchants, of Everett, Washington. Tickets cost between $25 and $75, purchased in advance or at the door. The website asks attendees to bring kazoos, so maybe take one. And if you feel like following the action, night vision goggles for the twilight hours. Or prepare to squint.
Is baseball really popular?
It is in the US, however, that this sport is organized and structured. The first championships were born there from 1857-1858, professionalism was authorized in 1869 and the National League was created seven years later.
Thirty franchises, one of them based in Canada, in Toronto, play at the highest level, in Major League Baseball. Since the early 1900s, the World Series oppose in October the winners of the two leagues forming the MLB.
MLB, which operates in the US with a franchise in Canada, brings together the professional elite. The annual final is called the World Series and is played in the best of seven matches between the champion of the American and National Leagues.
With 27 World Series titles, the New York Yankees dominate the charts ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals (11). The title holders awarded at the end of the 2021 World Series are the Atlanta Braves.
The roster of an MLB franchise currently has 25 players. However, a much larger number of players are under contract with MLB franchises. These young players or reserve players evolve in the minor leagues organized according to levels of play: rookie, A, AA, and AAA. The Triple-A tier is the highest tier under the MLB.
Apart from the framework of the MLB structure, there are also independent leagues in the United States, eight in number in 2010, and NCAA university competitions including the College World Series. MLB also created, in 2006, the World Baseball Classic, a kind of professional world cup.
Baseball demand outside the US
Apart from the United States and Canada, several countries also have professional championships: Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Mexico in particular. The Cuban championship has been amateur since 1961 following the Cuban revolution. The Dutch and Italian championships are semi-professional.
The best European clubs compete every year in a European Cup since 1963 where the Italians and the Dutch logically dominate. During the last edition, the Italians of Nettuno Baseball won after a four-way final on June 21, 2009, involving two Italian clubs and two Dutch clubs.
Baseball is also on the program of some multi-sport events: Olympic Games, Pan American, and Asian Games, in particular. Admitted to the Olympic program in 1992, baseball left the Olympic family after the Beijing Games in 2008. This decision was taken on July 11, 2005, in Singapore during the 117th session of the International Olympic Committee.