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|
|27||09/19/71||Dan Pastorini ^||1968||HOU|
|77||04/07/82||Ed Vande Berg||1978-79||SEA|
|164||05/31/97||Jose Cruz Jr.||1993||SEA|
|189||03/21/08||Sheng-Wei Wang #||2005||BRO|
|198||11/02/12||Mike Dunlap $||1976||CHA|