It's the first time in Alaska for 19-year-old outfielder Seth Ballenger, from Tyler Junior College.

"We're flat in Texas, this is a little different, that's for sure," said Ballenger, who has company on the Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks of the Alaska Baseball League.

Luke Van Dover of Harding University is also new to the area.

"It's awesome, great scenery, great weather," said Van Dover, during warmup prior to the Alaska Baseball League game against the Peninsula Oilers at Lee Jordan Field.

The two live about three hours away from each other, Luke in Little Rock, Arkansas, and Seth from Carthage, Texas. Yet, each had to travel 5,000 miles to learn they share a closer bond than either imagined.

"Luke came up to me and said, 'hey, I think we may be cousins,' and I was like 'no way,'" Ballenger explained. "He was like, 'Is your grandmother Dawn Smith?' and I said, 'Yeah.' He said, 'You have to read this text message,'" 

Two weeks into training camp, Van Dover got a message from home. It came from his grandmother who looked at the team's roster.

"My grandmother texted me, asked if I had a kid on the team with the last name Ballenger, and I said, 'yes ma'am,'" said Van Dover.

"We checked back the timeline of the family tree, and it's true, we're cousins, never met before, been 19 years, never met Luke before, so it's pretty cool," Ballenger said.

Turns out, the two are second cousins.

"It was crazy. I have friends back home who joke with me about having a big family, nothing surprises me anymore, so, it was awesome," said Van Dover.

"I'm 19 now, I'm kind of grateful I met Luke now, get to be with him, grow with him for the rest of my life now, going forward," Ballenger said.

Alaska represents the trip of a lifetime for many people, they come to the 49th State and leave with indelible memories. Soon, a pair of summer baseball players will depart with more than just game experience, they'll leave with a newfound connection 19 years in the making.

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