Baseball in Alaska featured on TWIB

Baseball in Alaska featured on TWIB

It is a transfixing under-the-radar tradition that has been played by legends such as Tom Seaver, Barry Bonds and Dave Winfield. Baseball in the dead of summer in Alaska. First pitch? 10:30 p.m. The game usually ends around 2 a.m. And they don't need lights.

They call it the Midnight Sun Baseball Classic, and This Week in Baseball found it to be the perfect symbol for its Aug. 9 episode, themed "Baseball is Everywhere."

"Baseball is everywhere in the sense that it is so far reaching," TWIB producer James Potocki said. "It is saturated in our country, but also in places you wouldn't expect it to be, such as Alaska, which has a rich history of baseball that has been played there for over 100 years."

The MSBC will be featured by TWIB, with a zany twist -- Bill "Spaceman" Lee, who pitched in the annual contest and received the loss in 1967, was coaxed out of retirement for one game to attempt to avenge his loss more than 30 years later.

TWIB follows the Spaceman as he gives a tour of Fairbanks, Alaska, and explains what the tradition is all about. Fans will get unfettered access of Lee's comeback, as well -- he wore a wireless microphone during the game.

"This is the type of event that Bill Lee is all over. He's a fun guy; he's not called the Spaceman for nothing," Potocki said. "He's not going to disappoint, his personality comes through. His teammates, the fans and the opponents all get a kick out of him. He's a ballplayer, but he knows how to put on a show."

The Midnight Sun tradition began in 1906. On June 20-22, the summer solstice, the sun doesn't set in Fairbanks. Every year, the Alaska Goldpanners of the Alaska Baseball League challenge an opponent to take the field at a time when some would be tucking themselves into bed. This year, the Goldpanners took on the California Running Birds.

The game has never necessitated artificial lighting and it has never been postponed by darkness.

"Above all, it's just playing the game -- it's baseball," Potocki said. "No matter where you go, people are obsessed with it and are willing to go to a game in the middle of the night in Alaska to watch. People from all over the country come to watch it."

The show's second piece follows the general theme, but could be entitled "Man sees Baseball Everywhere in 27 Days." The man, Josh Robbins, fulfilled every diehard's fantasy by watching a game in all 30 Major League ballparks in just 27 days, setting a new record.

TWIB catches up with Robbins during the trip, which started in Seattle on June 16 and ended in Milwaukee on July 12. Robbins drove the entire way, zigzagging around the country in order to see all the ballparks in the shortest amount of time possible.

TWIB documents a day/night doubleheader of the intrepid traveler. On July 9, Robbins caught a day game at Yankee Stadium, where TWIB hooked him up with press passes to experience the game in a new way, and then drove to Shea Stadium that evening for a Mets game.

Robbins, who shot his own footage of the outing and has aspirations of making a documentary, received exceptional luck on the trip as there were no rainouts. His father and some friends tagged along for various legs of the trip, but Robbins alone made the entire journey.

"He's just a fan of the game," Potocki said. "He just thought this was something to do before he couldn't. I think a lot of fans would like to get to all 30 parks in their lifetime. I've been working for Major League Baseball for eight years and I've only been to about half the parks that Josh went to in 27 days."

TWIB will be shown Saturday on FOX -- check your local listings for time.

In other segments this week:
• TWIB presents the clutch performer winner for July in "Pepsi Presents."

• Kurt Suzuki of the A's tours Tokyo during the season-opening series against the Red Sox in Japan during the "Baseball Is...," segment sponsored by Chevrolet.

• The week's great plays and bloopers are cut to Shockwave by Black Tide in "How 'Bout That," presented by Taco Bell.

• Fans of the show can e-mail TWIB@mlb.com with any questions or suggestions, while past episodes can be found at TWIB.mlb.com.

Thor Nystrom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.