The motto for the state of Alaska is “North to the Future” – The motto is meant to distinguish The Last Frontier as a land of promise.
That promise is lacking in one department: baseball.
APSU pitcher Nolan Monaghan is no stranger to this. The lack of drive for advancement around the game, combined with a lack of any regional university offering the sport, made Monaghan the lone division one baseball player from Alaska for the 2020 season, according to research done by Van Williams of the Alaska American Legion.
The distance doesn’t bother Monaghan, even with a three hour time change and being over 3,900 miles away from his hometown in Wasilla, AK. The concept of playing away from home in pursuit of a baseball career is a commonality within the lives of all Alaskan ballplayers.
“For me, I’m okay with being away from home,” Monaghan said. “It’s nothing I couldn’t handle. I knew it the whole time, even when I was in little league, to play college baseball I would have to leave the state and play. It was something that everybody who doesn’t play for leisure understands.”
Monaghan describes the biggest non-weather related difference between Alaskan baseball and his collegiate stops at Feather River and APSU to be the competition.
The pitcher believes the lack of division one advancement for Alaskan players is due to the competition, or lack thereof, found within the high school levels of baseball.
“I would have to say with every team in Alaska, you have a few good players on every team and those are the people that you have to show you’re better than,” Monaghan said. “A lot of people play more casually here in most parts.”
Even with high-profile names like Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds and Randy Johnson of the 1970s, summer league baseball teams continuously struggle to stay afloat in Alaska. In June 2019, the Peninsula Oilers of the Alaskan Baseball League faced financial trouble due to lack of interest in the area.
Monaghan recognizes the need for professional advancement in guidance when it comes to baseball on The Last Frontier and hopes to provide insight to aspiring baseball players while back in Wasilla.
“To show that you’re really really good and not okay with just losing or being beat, you really have to show out your skill-set. No matter the competition level, you really just have to show every day that you can dominate the team on any given basis just to get out of here.”
In his two years as a Governor, Monaghan has made five starts over 23 appearances. The senior battled with injuries throughout his career, but still managed to produce an impressive 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings.
Despite the NCAA regulating a one-year extension to spring-sport athletes due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Monaghan has all but made his decision regarding his athletic career: the pitcher has seemingly made his last appearance as a Governor.
The Wasilla native still stands as a representative for division one baseball in Alaska, however: Monaghan hopes to give back to potential collegiate ballplayers in his area now and in the future.
“I think the goal for a lot of people who have been playing college baseball through Alaska is to help pave the way to make it easier for the next generation of people to come.
“I feel like it should be something a player who can advance should do for Wasilla is to give back a little bit,” He said. “It’s helping to keep on paving the road for the younger generation of kids, to make it a little bit easier to route and to help market those kids.”