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Friday, July 23, 2010Lipscomb Bisons pitcher Chad Fromm is a fan of playing baseball at night, but he admits that the phrase “playing under the lights” has a completely different meaning in Alaska.
Fromm is playing for an Athletes in Action team called the Fairbanks Fire in the Alaska Baseball League. His team is based in Fairbanks where it shares a field with the Alaska Goldpanners.
“It is really pretty neat when you start a game at 8 p.m. this time,” Fromm said. “You can play a game all the way through and never really have to turn on the lights.
“The sun never sets but it just kind of gets dim. By 2 a.m. the sun is back up again. It makes it tough to sleep, but it is fun to play baseball in it.”
In Fairbanks there is one day that has 24 hours of daylight. That is the date of the league’s annual “Midnight Sun” game. The Goldpanners played a military team this year.
“You have to close all the blinds and do what you have to do to get to sleep,” Fromm said. “You will get up at 10 a.m. and feel like it is 4 p.m. at home because of the sun.”
Summer is short in Alaska and there really is no fall. With the days of summer dwindling, Fromm is seeing some changes in the length of time the sun shines.
“They call summer `65 and no humidity’,” Fromm said. “We are just starting to use the lights around 9:30. We don’t really have to use them, but it is kind of like dusk and it makes it hard to see the baseball.”
Fromm sometimes feels more like he is an extra on Animal Planet than a baseball player. He has seen more than his share of wildlife that past couple of months.
“There are moose on the side of the road,” Fromm said. “I freaked out the first time I saw a moose. We went to Denali National Park to see grizzly bears, but didn’t see one.
“We got to see the red salmon run. I didn’t realize how big the salmon are.”
The Alaska Baseball League is one of the premier wooden bats leagues in the country. Major League stars ranging from Mark McGwire to Barry Bonds to Randy Johnson have spent time in the league. Fromm says that there is a wall in every team’s stadium dedicated to the Major League players who spent time with a respective team.
“It is a great league,” Fromm said. “We are playing against a lot of the big name guys and players from the powerhouses that you see on TV,” Fromm said. “We are getting a chance to not only bond with those guys but to play against them and hopefully beat them.
“It is about winning and losing. But it is more about just developing. We play a tough schedule. You have to come out every day and bring your best stuff.”
Fromm is 0-2 with one save and a 4.30 earned run average. He has made 10 appearances, nine in relief. In 14.2 innings he has allowed 18 hits and 12 runs, seven earned. He has walked nine and struck out 13.
Due to an injury that occurred during his time with the Bisons he was delayed in finding a team for the summer.
“I injured by elbow during the school season,” Fromm said. “ I decided I was going to take summer classes and rest my elbow. “But my elbow started feeling good enough for me to play summer ball. By the time that happened it was too late for me to play in any good leagues.
"By the grace of God the Alaska League called me. The Athletes in Action team had some injuries and needed a couple of pitchers.”
On June 12 he made the move to Alaska. Fromm, a resident of Cleveland, Tenn., admits that the adjustment took some time.
“It was a blessing,” Fromm said. “It felt surreal the first couple of weeks. It all happened in about five days.”
Fromm, a right-hander, has enjoyed the level of play, the wildlife experiences and the abundance of fresh food that is readily available on a daily basis.
One thing Fromm won’t miss is the travel. The teams go from town-to-town on charter buses, but it is a step down from what he has experienced in his travels with the Bisons under coach Jeff Forehand.
“The charter buses aren’t as nice as the ones we use at Lipscomb, but they get you from point A to point B,” Fromm said. “One time we were going down to southern Alaska which was a 12-hour drive and our bus broke down on top of a mountain in the last hour of the drive.
“It was pretty interesting. There was no cell phone service. It looked like the setting for a bad horror movie. There was no civilization. We didn’t know what to do.”
As part of Athletes in Action the players participate on an almost daily basis. Pitching Coach Chris Beck and head coach Bobby Randall lead a team devotional at a local church or other building a few hours before going to the ballpark.
“We call it discipleship,” Fromm said. “We talk about sharing the Gospel. We share our experiences in our Alaska.
“I wouldn’t call it preaching. It is more personal than that. We all give our testimonies. It is a neat brotherhood. I have only spent a month-and-a-half with these guys but I will keep up with them for the rest of my life.”
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.