June 28, 2002

Notre Dame Baseball Summer Diaries (J.P. Gagne, Entry #1; Fairbanks, Alaska)

Hello everyone, this is J.P. Gagne and I am reporting from Fairbanks, Alaska. I flew into Anchorage on Tuesday the 25th of June and it was amazing. I was scheduled to land at 11 p.m. but as the plane came in around the mountains it seemed as though it was still 4 in the afternoon. It was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen, just coming over the mountains to see this city right on the water with islands and rivers everywhere, it was amazing.

It still hasn’t got completely dark since I have been up here, the sun pretty much never sets, so my sleeping and eating schedule is a little messed up.

We played the next day after arriving that night and I started against the Anchorage Glacier Pilots, who won the National Baseball Congress World Series last summer (I pitched in that NBC championship game vs. the Glacier Pilots, when I was with the Hays Larks).

I pitched 6 innings in Wednesday’s game and threw 100 pitches, giving up only one run which came on a two-out wild pitch/passed ball, and we ended up losing 1-0 (not a great start for me). We won the next night and improved our record to 3-6 in the league, good enough for dead last, but we are improving.

Almost every player on the team is either from California or goes to school there, so they are a little different than what I am used to. After the game on Thursday, we had a 9-hour bus ride back to Fairbanks and I met my host family for the first time. They are very nice and they have three kids, so it should be fun. The dad is planning on taking me fishing sometime next week and we are eating moose for dinner tonight, it should be interesting.

But since I have been up here, I’ve been able to reflect back on our season and how magical it was. For me it was a dream come true. I am so glad that we were able to accomplish so many things for the senior class, because they deserved everything we experienced this year. All of us juniors have learned so much from the leadership, talent and all-around class of the seniors that we really feel close to them and felt like we owed it to them to win the Big East and get to the World Series.

In the past few years, it has been tough to say goodbye to the seniors, but this year was almost impossible. I felt so close to all of them and have played so many games with them that it is going to be really tough next year to get on the mound and not get the ball from Bushey after it has been thrown around the infield, then check centerfield to see if Steve is ready and then turn around and pitch to Pauly. I took for granted all of the everyday little things I appreciated that all of the seniors did and they are going to be really missed next year.

But I was so glad that we all got to experience Omaha together. Even though I think that we were the best team there and deserved to do a little better, the experience was amazing. Everything from walking into the stadium on the opening night, to practicing on the field, to the fans, to the TV blip with EPSN, and the excitement – it was and is so tough to put into words the experience we all had. Someday I am going to really look back and realize how lucky we all were to get to play in Omaha.

All of this really gets me excited for next year. Although we lose a lot of leadership and talent with the senior class, I think next year’s team will surprise a lot of people in how good we will be. Although we will lose two staples of the pitching staff over the last four years in Duff and Buchmeier, we should be really deep. Everyone will have an extra year of experience and we will go from a very young pitching staff from last year to a deep and experienced staff for next year.

And I really think that a lot of the freshman and reserve position players from this year will step up and do great things for us next year. Our lineup will surprise people next year, we are not going to have anyone hit .440 like Stanley, but we will be very balanced and will scare a lot of teams. Just talking about it right now makes me want to get back to school right now and start fall ball.

I enjoyed all that we did last year, but I am so excited to do it again next year and hopefully take it a step further. Well, I better get going now, I guess the moose is on the table, but I will check in with you later on.

Talk to you all soon,

J.P. Gagne