Masterful MasterBatters go back, to back, to back

Playing for the camera, the three-time Skagway Softball Association champion MasterBatters show their backsides for their back-to-back-to-back league victories.

"We have a bunch of players that are friends to start out with,” said John O’ Daniel about why the MasterBatters are always in contention for the league title. “No one tries to get on each others case, plus our girls are what make us competitive.”
The championship game was held on a perfect day for baseball, and Minnesota, except for one inning, played a near perfect game. Looked like they were victim to the big game jitters.
In the first inning, Minnesota committed a leadoff error and a walk. That brought right-fielder Dawn Brown to the plate who knocked in a RBI double. Then pitcher Darren Belisle followed with a two-run single before the side was retired.
The next six innings were quick. Both teams fielded well enough that only one player reached scoring position until the seventh inning. But for Minnesota that might have been an inning too late.
“In all the years I’ve been playing softball in Skagway I’ve never seen a better defensive game,” said O’Daniel. “The game only lasted 45 minutes.”
In the top of the seventh Jeff Sobiech got on base via a throwing error on Josh Coughran. That set up Michelle McCormick who drove in an RBI double over the head of outfielder Mitchell Snyder. With two outs Minnesota sent in pinch hitter Mike Pickin, representing the tying run. However Pickin only gave Coughran a chance at redemption. The slugging Pickin missed hitting the ball squarely by about half an inch, resulting in a slow dribbler to third for the 5-3 force out. The MasterBatters won in a close one, final score 3-1.
"We won on the three D’s,” O’Daniel said. “Dawn, Darren, and Defense.”
It looks like O’Daniel was correct: while other teams laced their rosters with talent for the season and playoffs, they left out the key ingredient to success, teamwork.
League Commissioner Cindy O’Daniel said that she has spent her last year in that position and will only participate as a player in 2002.

Fish This!

Fishing is not always about fish

Capt. Andrew, Ray, Tanks and Lee pose for a snapshot after a fishing expedition that obviously brought them all closer together. Photo courtesy Andrew Cremata

Early in the morning, Skagway streets are silent. Occasionally a car passes by or a friend shouts out a “good morning” on the way to work. This peace is not long lived.
Cruise ship passengers depart their respective vessels en masse. Like a wave of men they roll into town, washing into stores and restaurants. Thousands of faces, thousands of lives, yet they appear as one. Later in the day the tourist tide ebbs. They return to their boats with photos, videos, souvenirs and memories.
We’re just glad we made it through another hectic summer day.
My day was not a typical one. I had the day off work. I spoke to Capt. Greg of Skagway Sport Fishing the night before and arranged to take a charter. I was going fishing.
I arrived at the dock a few minutes early and Greg escorted me to the boat. I met the captain, Andrew. I must admit, I’ve always been fond of the name.
Andrew is a first year captain in Skagway, but he has spent his life fishing all over the world. His love of the ocean and the sport of fishing is surpassed only by his love for his two daughters, now grown. He calls them his best friends.
There were three other faces on the boat. They sailed into Skagway on the Volendam. It was a special trip. The passengers were all devoutly religious. The cruise line agreed to close all casinos and not serve alcoholic beverages for the duration of the trip. We all found it interesting that a vice-free cruise costs considerably more than your standard one.
As we motored toward the fishing grounds, Andrew addressed us. He said the number one rule for the day was to set the hook. As he put it, “Fishing is a sport for jerks. Fish jerks, you jerk. Biggest jerk wins.”
Andrew also had to field some questions from the group. “Is this fresh or salt water?” “Do salmon hit like big mouth bass?” “Will we see any penguins?”
To Andrew’s credit, he answered them all without even cracking a smile. I had to step outside.
Within minutes, we were fishing. I had the first strike on the port side down rigger. I lifted the rod from the holder. It was a nice fish, rapidly taking out line.
After a minute or so the line went limp. I forgot to set the hook.
“I guess the fish was the bigger jerk,” I told Andrew.
He gave me a look and shook his head. I’m supposed to know better.
In the next hour, everyone caught fish. Nothing huge but the ice had been broken. Everyone started to talk. All three passengers were living lifelong dreams of coming to Alaska. Part of that dream was to fish for salmon in our pristine waters. They had chosen Skagway.
Lee is a retired small pet veterinarian from Tryon, North Carolina. A bass fisherman, he seemed most comfortable with a fishing rod in his hands. He was also hoping to see a whale. He told us stories of fishing back home and how much he loved it but how different it was here surrounded by such unspoiled beauty.
Lilias is a minister from Marietta, Georgia. His friends call him “Tanks.” We swapped stories of fishing for catfish down south. We both agreed they were best when fried hard with green tomatoes. Tanks had an infectious smile and seemed the least concerned with catching fish. Tanks pointed out that his primary responsibility was as a fisher of men. I guessed it was a lot more difficult than fishing for salmon.
Ray has been retired for 24 years from United States Steel. He worked in a machine shop south of Pittsburgh and now lives in Sun Lakes, Arizona. Just a month away form his 90 year birthday, he was content to sit and watch the starboard side down rigger. Waiting for a good strike.
It didn’t take long. The rod bent over double and the fight was on. I lifted the rod from the holder and quickly set the hook. Never make the same mistake twice.
As I handed the rod to Ray, Andrew shouted from the cabin, “Did your remember to set the hook this time?”
He was smiling.
Ray worked the fish like an old pro, and it wasn’t long before the fish was in the boat. A 15-pound king salmon. He held up the fish for a photo. Grinning ear to ear, he informed the rest of us we obviously were not holding our mouths right, which explained our inability to catch the big one.
After the battle, Ray went inside the cabin to rest. I sat with him and we talked for the next 45 minutes. Ray was a World War II veteran. He had flown B-24s off the coast of Okinawa during the invasion of that small island.
We talked about the war, the airplane he flew and of course about fishing. He said we’d make a good team. I could hook the fish and he would reel them in.
Andrew called us out and showed us a humpback whale which was surfacing about 50 yards off the starboard side. Lee was snapping photos. As the whale dove out of sight two bald eagles circled overhead, everyone was silent.
"Welcome to Skagway,” I thought to myself.
Our trip was at its end, the wind was picking up and whitecaps started to appear in the rolling waves. We reeled in our lines and went into the cabin for the ride back. I looked around at the faces of these men, now smiling with contentment. No longer just faces, they had names and stories and one story would be about fishing in Skagway, Alaska.
On a good day, fishing in Skagway, you’ll catch fish or see an eagle maybe even a whale. I had a great day.