Pipeline to the Big Time

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The Alaska Goldpanners are pioneers of amateur baseball.  Noting in 1960 that “collegiate baseball is becoming a viable source for major league talent,” team founder Red Boucher led the first wave of summer teams staffed entirely by collegians.  This was at a time when rosters were routinely filled with ex-pros and other paid players.  By fielding a team solely of amateurs, Red paved the way for collegiate baseball to become the direct route to the major leagues it is today.

There is perhaps no better way to measure the success of the Fairbanks program than by the number of players drafted into the professional ranks of Major League Baseball. Through 2017, there have been a record 1,184 player selections devoted to Goldpanners, dating back to 1965 and Rick Monday — the very first player ever drafted.  Of those picks, 125 were first round selections, and 19 were either the very first or second pick of the entire draft.  Overall, 205 Goldpanners have made it all the way to the pinnacle of the game in the MLB.  This, too, is a record among all non-professional teams, and the 16% average of drafted Goldpanners to reach MLB is well ahead of the average ratio of 1 draftee in every 33 (3%) to reach baseball’s pinnacle .

In 1976, there were multiple phases of the draft.  The Goldpanners represented the overall first pick in the January regular draft (Steve Kemp), the January secondary draft (Pete Redfern) and the June regular draft (Floyd Bannister).  In total, the Panners had five players selected in the first round of all phases of the 1976 MLB draft.  The single-season record for Panners selected in the first round of all draft phases was nine in 1973.

Many explanations can be offered as to why the Fairbanks program outshines all others in this output.  Perhaps the simplest explanation was offered by 1988 infielder Rick Allen in the Los Angeles Times:  “We played so many games without having to go to school, it seemed like pro ball.  If I get a chance to play pro ball next year this has got to help.”  Rick went on to a five-year professional career, peaking at Double-A for both the Cincinnati Reds and the Minnesota Twins.

In addition to the spectacular number of draftees, there have also been many dozens signed to free agent contracts without having to wait for the official draft.  The latest player to be signed to a professional free agent contract is Brian Lees, catcher on the 2015 club, who signed with the Gateway Grizzlies of the Frontier League on June 26th.

The advancement seen by Goldpanners alums into the ranks of MLB personnel and broadcasting is an exciting development.  In recent years, dozens of former players have ascended to the top of the game in the front offices of major league ballclubs.  Securing a high-ranking position in MLB is as much of an accomplishment as claiming an on-field roster spot.  For Dan Pastorini (68), the top of the game was as starting Quarterback for the Houston Oilers NFL franchise.

There are a number of Goldpanners on the verge of their MLB debuts in 2017, with five first-timers seeing playing time with their organization’s big league club during spring training.  They were Mike Tauchman (2010), Colton Plaia (2009-10), Arturo Reyes (2011), Ryan Thompson (2011), and David Fletcher (2013).

Listed below are the Goldpanners who have ascended to the major leagues, appearing on an official field roster during the regular season.  This includes coaches who made it to the major leagues following their Goldpanners career.   Those who have made the major leagues as players and then managers (Jimy Williams, Bob Boone, Ron Roenicke, Terry Francona, Don Wakamatsu) deserve to be listed twice but are not.  In their stead are listed Goldpanners who had a major league career prior to their time in Fairbanks.

Not included in this list are Goldpanners who have ascended to MLB front office positions (which would include, for instance, Zak Basch, the current Oakland Athletics Director of Media Relations).  Also not included are those uniformed members of MLB clubhouses (which would include John Yandle, Barry Bonds’ personal batting practice pitcher, and Derrick Chung, Hyun Soo Kim’s dugout translator).  Also not included are those who signed or practiced with the club, while not having an official game appearance (which would include Roger Clemens, Darryl Strawberry, Joe Carter, and a host of others).  Also not included are those who were on a MLB 40-man roster, or played for a MLB club in Spring Training, while not having an official game appearance during the regular season.  Adding all of these would bring the list closer to 300.

DATE NAME GP YEARS MLB CLUB
1 06/18/61 Don Leppert* 1997 PIT
2 10/03/64 Dave Dowling 1963 STL
3 09/02/65 Dick Selma* 1978 NYM
4 09/11/65 Charlie Hartenstein 1963 CHC
5 04/26/66 Jimy Williams 1964 STL
6 09/03/66 Rick Monday 1964 KCA
7 04/13/67 Tom Seaver 1964-65 NYM
8 07/01/67 Mike Adamson 1966 BAL
9 07/05/67 Curt Motton 1964 BAL
10 07/27/67 Dan Frisella 1966 NYM
11 09/06/67 Graig Nettles 1964-65 MIN
12 09/07/67 Al Schmelz 1965 NYM
13 09/17/67 Gary Sutherland 1964 PHI
14 05/27/68 Mike Paul 1963 CLE
15 07/04/68 Andy Messersmith 1965 CAL
16 09/09/68 Eddie Leon 1965 CLE
17 06/25/69 Bill Lee 1966-67 BOS
18 04/09/70 Rich Hand 1967-68 CLE
19 04/24/70 Greg Garrett 1966 CAL
20 06/14/70 Steve Dunning 1969 CLE
21 09/09/70 Jim Nettles 1966-67 MIN
22 06/20/71 Pete Broberg 1969-70 WAS
23 06/23/71 Tom House 1966 ATL
24 07/30/71 Dave Kingman 1968-69 SFG
25 07/31/71 Jim Barr 1967-68-69 SFG
26 09/15/71 Don Rose 1966 NYM
27 09/19/71 Dan Pastorini ^ 1968 HOU
28 05/17/72 Bob Gallagher 1966-67-68 BOS
29 06/07/72 Dave Roberts 1970-71 SDP
30 07/31/72 Brent Strom 1967-68-69 NYM
31 09/10/72 Bob Boone 1966-67-68 PHI
32 04/08/73 John Andrews 1969 STL
33 04/09/73 Rich Troedson 1969-70-71 SDP
34 06/18/73 Dave Winfield 1971-72 SDP
35 07/04/73 Eddie Bane* 1982 MIN
36 07/19/73 Craig Caskey 1970-71 MON
37 04/04/74 Jim Sundberg 1971 TEX
38 04/07/74 Mike Reinbach 1969 BAL
39 06/14/74 Steve Swisher 1972 CHC
40 07/27/74 Rusty Gerhardt 1971 SDP
41 04/08/75 Jim Umbarger 1972-73 TEX
42 06/14/75 Kerry Dineen 1972 NYY
43 05/15/76 Pete Redfern 1974-75 MIN
44 09/17/76 Gary Wheelock 1973 CAL
45 04/07/77 Steve Kemp 1974-75 DET
46 04/19/77 Floyd Bannister 1974-75 HOU
47 05/05/77 Jackson Todd 1972 NYM
48 04/07/78 Chuck Baker 1973-74 SDP
49 04/07/78 Don Reynolds 1973-74 SDP
50 06/29/78 Dwight Bernard* 1997 NYM
51 07/09/78 Dennis Littlejohn 1975 SFG
52 08/06/78 Scott Sanderson 1976-77 MON
53 08/19/78 Bruce Robinson 1972-73-74-75 OAK
54 09/02/78 Billy Sample* 2015-16 TEX
55 04/11/79 Eric Wilkins 1976 CLE
56 06/08/79 Dan Graham 1974 MIN
57 09/07/79 Sandy Whitol 1974 CLE
58 09/17/79 Dave Schuler 1974-75 CAL
59 04/11/80 Dave Smith 1975-76 HOU
60 06/01/80 Vance Law 1977 PIT
61 06/12/80 Mike Kinnunen 1976-77 MIN
62 06/28/80 Tim Lollar 1977 NYY
63 09/01/80 Bobby Mitchell 1976 LAD
64 09/04/80 Dave Edler 1977 SEA
65 09/06/80 Tim Wallach 1978 Mon
66 09/08/80 John Butcher 1976 TEX
67 09/20/80 Ken Phelps 1974 KCR
68 04/08/81 Sam Suplizio 1963-64 MIL
69 04/11/81 Dan Boone* 1993-94-95-96 SDP
70 04/12/81 Tim Leary 1977-78 NYM
71 04/26/81 Danny Garcia 1974 KCR
72 05/20/81 Greg Harris 1975-76 NYM
73 08/19/81 Terry Francona 1978 Mon
74 09/02/81 Ron Roenicke 1976 LAD
75 09/09/81 Tim Tolman 1977 HOU
76 09/15/81 Dave Hostetler 1977 MON
77 04/07/82 Ed Vande Berg 1978-79 SEA
78 04/09/82 Gary Rajsich 1975 NYM
79 07/06/82 Don Slaught 1979 KCR
80 09/11/82 Chris Codiroli 1977 OAK
81 09/12/82 Dave Baker 1975-76-77 TOR
82 04/05/83 Mike Couchee 1976 SDP
83 06/02/83 Kevin McReynolds 1980 SDP
84 09/02/83 Mike Fuentes 1979 MON
85 09/02/83 Harold Reynolds 1980 SEA
86 09/13/83 Jeff Doyle 1976 STL
87 09/20/83 Marty Decker 1978 SDP
88 04/08/84 Dave Meier 1979-80 MIN
89 04/05/84 Ron Romanick 1980 CAL
90 04/11/84 Alvin Davis 1979-80 SEA
91 06/02/84 Jeff Cornell 1978 SFG
92 07/28/84 Ed Amelung 1979-80 LAD
93 04/03/85 Ben Hines 1978-79-80-81-82 LAD
94 05/19/85 Oddibe McDowell 1982-83 TEX
95 06/26/85 Bob Sebra 1982 TEX
96 09/05/85 Kevin Romine 1981 BOS
97 04/11/86 Dan Plesac 1981 MIL
98 05/30/86 Barry Bonds 1983 PIT
99 07/19/86 Billy Moore 1983 Mon
100 09/02/86 Dave Cochrane 1981 CWS
101 09/05/86 Pat Dodson 1979 BOS
102 09/06/86 Brad Arnsberg 1983 NYY
103 04/25/87 Billy Bean 1985 DET
104 04/25/87 Joe Magrane 1983 STL
105 05/25/87 Shane Mack 1982-83 SDP
106 07/04/87 Mike Campbell 1984 SEA
107 07/02/87 Alex Madrid 1983 MIL
108 09/14/87 Dave Stapleton 1983 MIL
109 04/07/88 Don Heinkel 1980-81 STL
110 04/26/88 Craig Worthington 1984 BAL
111 06/02/88 Don August 1982 MIL
112 07/14/88 John Fishel 1984 HOU
113 07/20/88 Roger Samuels 1982 SFG
114 09/02/88 Luis Medina 1983-84 CLE
115 09/05/88 Mike Harkey 1986 CHC
116 09/12/88 Dennis Cook 1983 SFG
117 09/14/88 Chad Kreuter 1984 TEX
118 09/16/88 Steve Wilson 1983 TEX
119 04/05/89 Phil Stephenson 1980-81 CHC
120 06/07/89 Jeff Wetherby 1984 ATL
121 07/07/89 Mike Benjamin 1985 SFG
122 07/15/89 Kevin Ritz 1985 DET
123 08/19/89 Rob Richie 1985 DET
124 04/09/90 Tim Layana 1985 CIN
125 09/06/90 Paul Faries 1986 SDP
126 09/18/90 Brent Mayne 1986 KCR
127 09/02/90 Al Osuna 1986 HOU
128 05/07/91 Chris Donnels 1986 NYM
129 05/22/91 Don Wakamatsu 1983 CWS
130 05/25/91 Jose Mota 1984 SDP
131 06/16/91 Bret Barberie 1986 MON
132 07/02/91 Mark Davis 1983-84 CAL
133 09/01/91 Tom Goodwin 1987 LAD
134 09/02/91 Ed Zosky 1986 TOR
135 05/17/92 Brad Brink 1984 PHI
136 05/17/92 Benji Figueroa 1983-84 STL
137 08/03/92 Doug Linton 1986 TOR
138 08/06/92 Shawn Barton 1983 SEA
139 08/19/92 Bret Boone 1988 SEA
140 04/05/93 Joe Szekely 1981 KCR
141 05/05/93 Pat Meares 1989 MIN
142 05/29/93 Greg Brummett 1988 SFG
143 05/29/93 Kevin Higgins 1987 SDP
144 05/31/93 Daryl Scott 1987 CAL
145 07/28/93 Ty VanBurkleo 1984 CAL
146 08/13/93 Brian Turang 1987 SEA
147 09/01/93 Roger Smithberg 1987 OAK
148 09/04/93 Eric Helfand 1989 OAK
149 09/12/93 Bob Hamelin 1986 KCR
150 09/21/93 Marc Ronan 1988-89 STL
151 04/05/94 Mike Kelly 1989 ATL
152 04/05/94 Keith Lockhart 1985 SDP
153 04/19/94 Jeff Tabaka 1985 PIT
154 07/18/94 Eric Schullstrom 1988 MIN
155 04/28/95 Todd Steverson 1989 DET
156 04/28/95 Gary Wilson 1990-91 PIT
157 04/30/95 Steve Rodriguez 1990 BOS
158 05/08/95 Jason Giambi 1990 OAK
159 08/02/95 F.P. Santangelo 1988 Mon
160 09/10/95 Darrell May 1991 ATL
161 04/02/96 Dan Naulty 1989 MIN
162 05/18/96 Shad Williams 1990 CAL
163 09/06/96 Mike Robertson 1988 CWS
164 05/31/97 Jose Cruz Jr. 1993 SEA
165 09/03/97 Dan Rohrmeier 1986 SEA
166 03/31/98 Travis Lee 1993-94 ARI
167 04/02/98 Bobby Hughes 1989 MIL
168 06/09/99 Jacque Jones 1994 MIN
169 08/21/99 Adam Kennedy 1995 STL
170 08/27/99 Robert Ramsay 1993 SEA
171 09/03/99 Cole Liniak 1995 CHC
172 09/07/99 Jeff DaVanon 1992-94 ANA
173 08/29/00 Jerrod Riggan 1994-11-12 NYM
174 09/04/00 Todd Belitz 1996 OAK
175 09/07/00 Michael Young 1996 TEX
176 04/06/01 Christian Parker 1995 NYY
177 07/16/01 Adam Pettyjohn 1996 DET
178 09/19/01 Jason Phillips 1996 NYM
179 05/10/02 Jason Lane 1996-97 HOU
180 09/03/02 Jim Rushford 1994 MIL
181 06/26/03 Aaron Heilman 1998 NYM
182 09/02/03 Bobby Crosby 1999 OAK
183 04/05/04 Randy Whisler 1982 CIN
184 07/02/04 David Bush 1999 TOR
185 09/08/04 Greg Dobbs 2000 SEA
186 04/16/05 Dave Gassner 2000 MIN
187 09/18/05 Ryan Garko 2000 CLE
188 07/02/07 Brendan Ryan 2002 STL
189 03/21/08 Sheng-Wei Wang # 2005 BRO
190 07/11/08 Mike Cervenak 1998 PHI
191 07/21/08 Brooks Conrad 1999-00 OAK
192 04/05/09 Steve Hecht 1986 SEA
193 05/21/09 Kris Medlen 2005 ATL
194 05/23/09 Carlos Fisher 2004 CIN
195 09/01/09 Brian Jeroloman 2004 TOR
196 07/21/10 Brad Davis 2004 FLA
197 09/08/11 Chris Schwinden 2004 NYM
198 11/02/12 Mike Dunlap $ 1976 CHA
199 06/16/13 Jake Dunning 2008 SFG
200 06/23/13 Ryan Robowski 2008 DET
201 09/03/13 Zac Rosscup 2009 DET
202 04/13/15 Allan Dykstra 2005 TBR
203 08/20/15 Dustin Garneau 2007 COL
204 06/11/16 J.T. Chargois 2010 MIN
205 06/27/17 Mike Tauchman 2010 COL