JuneauLittleLeague.com: GCLL History

History Highlights of Gastineau Channel Little League

1950’s

           In 1952 a group of enthusiastic parents organized the first Little League games in Juneau.  The name “Gastineau Channel” was selected to represent all kids throughout the area, including Douglas.   GCLL is the oldest continual Little League in Alaska.     

           The three original teams were sponsored by the Moose, Douglas Lions and Elks.  The Moose won the first season.  (Some of the original players’ children, and now grandchildren, participate in GCLL.)  The games were played on the Fireman’s Field where the Federal Building now stands.  The field was a full sized field for local adult teams with full dug-outs.  The bases were moved in when Little League played.   

 

            GCLL was incorporated in 1957 in the Territory of Alaska, a corporation that transferred with statehood and continues to this day.  The Articles of Incorporation stated the purpose was:   

“To promote and encourage participation in the sport of baseball in the Gastineau Channel area of the Territory of Alaska.“ 

           By 1957 there were five teams in the majors division.  A minor league was added that year.  The league souvenir program stated: “the most important benefit of the Minor League was that all young boys of the 8 - 12 year Little League age were able to play for a full season.“  1957 was also the first year GCLL selected an all-star team that flew to Anchorage for the tournament.   
1960’s 
           With construction of the Federal Building in the early 1960’s, the league needed a new field.   Land behind the new Glacier Valley School was donated to the league for this use.  At the time the “valley” was barely developed, with only a couple trailer courts on the loop road and a few houses.  The field was constructed solely through volunteer efforts.  Dredging material from the channel was used for the first ground covering.   The first years were played without an outfield fence and without dugouts.  Eventually a picket fence was put in place in the outfield and dug-outs were built, using Governor Egan’s plywood campaign signs for the roofs.     
           By 1965 the number of Major league teams had increased to eight and the minor league system had fallen to the wayside.  In 1968 the GCLL board reduced the number of Major league teams to six and reorganized the minor league system with six teams.   
1970’s 
           By 1971, over 400 boys participated in GCLL.  Wanting to keep the major division to six teams, the league had 14 minor league teams divided into AA (8 teams) and AAA (6 teams).   In the early 70’s, the season typically ran from mid May to mid July.  Major league teams played a 20 game regular season schedule.  A full slate of games were played on Sunday but not Saturday.  A full slate of games was played on July 4 as well.   
           1973 was the first year the GCLL all-stars won the state championship.  At that time there were two districts in Alaska.  Anchorage was District 1 and District 2 was a combined southeast and Fairbanks.  GCLL had to win the southeast tournament in Petersburg, then beat the Fairbanks representative to take the District 2 title and then defeat the Anchorage District 1 championship.   All tournaments were double elimination.  GCLL repeated as state champions in 1975. 
           1975 was the first year Alaska added a new age division.  The “Senior League” was formed for 13 - 15 year olds.  Games were played at Centennial Field next to the airport.  GCLL won the first ever Senior League state championship. 
1980’s 

           The most significant event of the 1980’s was the addition of girls softball to Little League.  The local Parks and Recreation program was struggling and GCLL agreed to take it over.  GCLL was one of the first little leagues in Alaska to add softball.        

           In the early 80s CBJ constructed a new field for the upper divisions next to Floyd Dryden Middle School.  The facility was named Adair-Kennedy in memory of two Juneau police officers killed in the line of duty on April 17, 1979. Jimmy Kennedy and Rick Adair both had been involved in youth activities.  Rick Adair was a long time Little League coach.  

1990’s

           In 1995, the fields at Glacier Valley were named the Miller Fields, in recognition of long time volunteers in Juneau and Southeast, Stan and Joanne Miller.   
           Perhaps the most visible change occurred in 1995 with the establishment of two divisions in the Major league, to comply with Little League rules regarding league size.  At the time the Board wanted to provide more opportunity to play at the major league level and thus established 12 teams in two major divisions, East and West.   With two divisions, GCLL began to send two all-star teams to tournament.   Participation numbers grew immensely in the late 1990’s.   
           In 1997, the Junior boys’ tournament team advanced to the championship game of the U.S. Western region, one win away from the World Series.  In 1998, Juneau East won the state major championship, the first time a GCLL major league team had won since 1975.  Bob Urata was named Manager of the Year for the U.S. Western Region.   
2000’s
          By the 2001 season, GCLL had over 1,000 players in the league.  There were 11 player agents working with 74 managers and 84 coaches.   
           GCLL all-star teams won back-to-back state Major League championships in 2001 and 2002.   
           In 2002, GCLL won five of the six state championships: softball Majors, softball Juniors, softball Seniors, baseball majors and baseball Seniors.  

           In 2003, the girl’s Senior softball tournament team advanced to the championship game of the U.S. Western region, one win away from the World Series.Chad Bentz  

           In 2004, Juneau's Chad Bentz became only the 2nd player born and raised in Alaska to play in a Major League Baseball game.  Bentz was raised in Juneau and played on GCLL teams throughout the 90's.   

           Participation declined in recent years, beginning in approximately 2003 and 2004. An increase in other youth activities and offerings during the summer season has contributed to the decline. Nevertheless, with approximately 700 participants, GCLL still remains by far the largest youth sports organization in Juneau and one of the largest little league programs in Alaska. 

Final Note:  We have a history now spanning 61 years, tens of thousands of participants, thousands of coaches, thousands of volunteers, hundreds of sponsors, dozens of successful all-star teams and state championships.   It would be impossible to mention them all.  By referencing particular events and teams above, this history does not intend to give them any more importance than other events.  What truly is important in our history, and the reason for this brief summary of our history, is the legacy of kids playing baseball and softball on any given summer day for the past 56 years, a legacy that we can be proud to have participated in, and more importantly a legacy that we have been given the responsibility to foster and pass on to the future.    

Prepared by Sheldon Winters (Board Member 2005 - 2007), with research from a variety of materials and input from J. Allan MacKinnon (Board member 1993 - 2003) and Richard Smith (Board Member late 1960’s to early 1970’s). 

 


Gastineau Channel Little League - bringing Little League play to Juneau youth.
P.O. Box 33694, Juneau, AK  99803-3694
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