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In 2008, the Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks baseball club celebrated its 49th season of competition in the 49th anniversary of statehood for the 49th state of the Union. In connection with this remarkable confluence — and in appreciation for the half century of student-athletes who have been elevated by the Panner program — it was decided to finally form the long-awaited alumni group.
The AKGPA is an association – under the auspices of “The Sons & Daughters of the Midnight Sun” – consisting of Goldpanner players, coaches, personnel, and fans. During the 2008 midnight sun game pregame, the AKGPA was officially launched, and its charter class inaugurated.
Many regard the experience of summer baseball in Fairbanks, Alaska as one of life’s highlights, and the AKGP seeks to present that unique experience to the rest of the sporting world. It is widely felt that the century-old experience and atmosphere of the game of baseball in the Tanana Valley forever changes all who truly experience it — whether one is a player, coach, or one of the lucky witnesses to the spectacle. Accordingly, with each passing season, a greater fraternity builds, joined by all who are able to appreciate the special memories which come from baseball in Fairbanks.
This abiding “Spirit of the Interior” has perhaps been best manifested in Bob Boone’s official request of Major League Baseball (in 1973) to allow all Goldpanners to wear a “star 49” pin on the sides of their major league caps. Though the cap request was ultimately turned down by the commissioner’s office, this enduring fondness for Fairbanks and the Goldpanners experience still remained to be worn on the sleeves of Bob and countless other veterans.
The AKGPA charter class included the following FIELD DIVISION members:
– Bill “Spaceman” Lee (66-67) – MLB All-Star Pitcher ; Member, Red Sox Hall of Fame ; 1988 Presidential Candidate, Rhinoceros Party ticket.
– Bruce Robinson (72-73-74-75) – First Round Draft Pick, 1975 ; MLB catcher with Oakland and New York (AL) ; Inventor of catcher’s gear modification
– Jerry McClain (67-68) – Head Coach at Santa Clara University ; Manager of the Valley Green Giants, North Pole Nicks and Anchorage Bucs.
– Al Coutts (63) – 1st Team NCAA All-American ; Played in LA Angels System ; Member of Orange County Sheriff’s Department for 32 years.
– Don Sneddon (80) – All-Southern California Player at Cerritos ; All American at CS-Fullerton ; All-time Winningest Coach in California Community College History
– George Horton (81-83) – Head Coach at CS-Fullerton, 2004 College World Series Championship ; Now Rebuilding University of Oregon’s Baseball Program After 26 Year Span as a Club Sport.
In addition to these, there are a number of members of the FAN DIVISION who entered into the rolls at the 2008 inauguration.
To commemorate the launch of the AKGPA, Bill Lee, Al Coutts, and Don Sneddon were on hand at the 103rd Midnight Sun Game on June 21, 2008.
Details on how you can join the AKGPA will be released in the spring of 2017. For a complete list of membership, visit the AKGPA Membership List