The Chinooks played their first home game at Loretta French Park on June 8. Spectators watched and cheered the first strikes, outs and runs of the season. New signage above the scoreboard declared the game was taking place at Lee Jordan Field, and despite the accolade, the eponymous Lee Jordan sat quietly and humbly by watching his Chinooks.
Slated to be a celebratory unveiling, the game’s opening events included little other than a brief welcome to Jordan from Mayor Ethan Berkowitz. This is just what Jordan prefers – little fanfare, even for a man who has been instrumental in the development of baseball leagues and teams through the area for over 50 years.
Starting with founding Knik Little League in 1963, Jordan’s interest in local ball has most recently come to fruition with the founding of the Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks in 2012. Now in its sixth season, the Chinooks are made up of collegiate ball players from across the nation. These dedicated young men travel to Alaska to continue their training through the summer. Completely unpaid, they stay with local host families from June until August, fine tuning their skills and giving us all some high-level ball to enjoy.
When speaking of Jordan’s influence on the development of the Chinook team, Chinook Marketing Director Katherine Singer has no hesitation to give credit where it is due. She describes how he worked with the state legislature to get the team – once the Fairbanks Fire – moved to the Chugiak area.
“His fingerprints are all over the organization,” says Singer.
The founding of the Chinooks was not a one-man show. Sen. Bill Stoltze – also the current president of the Chinooks Booster Club – recalls the exhibition game he organized at the 2011 Bear Paw Festival to garner community interest in the idea of a local addition to the Alaska Baseball League. He also remembers the success of the game against Anchorage’s Glacier Pilots. The Chinooks had a team the next season.
“This is my passion,” Stoltze says looking out on the game, itching to get a better view.
Jordan served as a mentor to Stoltze in the past, and together – with community support – they were able to make the dream of a local team a reality. Now, baseball fans through the area have access to minor-level games through the summer.
Lee Jordan Field is second to none among area ballparks; with great views, newly added dugouts and infield turf, as well as the adjacent playground and skate park, the whole family is invited to attend the local games. On top of all that, admission is free.
With twenty more home games in the season, there are plenty of opportunities to make it to Lee Jordan Field and catch a game before the players head back to school in the fall. Keep an eye out for Lee Jordan down in front, it’s a near guarantee that he will be there.
The Chinook’s season schedule can be found at www.cerchinooks.com/schedule