July 31, 2000
Go to a Goldpanners game, and you'll likely see a number of young boys with baseball gloves in the stands cheering for one of their favorite Panners--Brooks Conrad.
"I've got a lot of little buddies," Conrad said. "I'll go to the movies and kids'll see me and be like, `Hey, Brooks!' "
Conducting baseball camps for Fairbanks kids is only one of the many reasons Conrad enthusiastically returned to play summer ball in Alaska. A top scorer, base-stealer and hitter for the Panners in the 1999 season, it didn't take him long to decide he was ready to come back North.
"I love coming here," he said. Last year I went home to San Diego. It's nice there--I like the beach--but after the fourth day, I couldn't wait to come back to Alaska.
"I have the best host family (the Wentz'). Last year I came and I didn't know what to expect, but I got to love it here."
Meeting kids and their parents, spending the day working at the ballpark grounds and getting away from the fast pace of the city are all highlights for this outgoing second-baseman, who goes fishing after the games.
"In the summertime this is one of the best places to be," Conrad advised.
Even with the opportunities that Alaska baseball affords him, Conrad gives just as much to this community and the Goldpanners team. After a shining summer season in Fairbanks last year, he returned to Arizona State University where he hit .336, earned two Pac-10 Player of the Week awards and was named to the All-Pac-10 Team at the end of the year. The Sun Devils also made it to the first round of the college championships.
The returning Goldpanners are ready to win a championship for Fairbanks.
"There's a lot of scrappy guys who want to win this year," Conrad said. He noted that oftentimes in summer leagues players would rather be on vacation than work toward a winning season. This year, however, everyone has the same goal--to win.
"Cowgill came up and said to us, `Last year was a pretty good year, but now I'm tired of losing,' " Conrad said. "We saw that he was on the same page as us on that. He went out and picked players who want to win and who won't be homesick and tired of working."
Conrad said that the veteran players, including himself, Jonah Martin, Greg Sain and Arik Van Zandt, have the responsibility of getting the newer players--especially the freshmen--focused on playing baseball and winning games.
And with this Alaskan-at-heart pushing the team, the Goldpanners may soon see their first championship of the new century.
Copy Courtesy of Michelle Eastty
Alaska Goldpanners Baseball