Peninsula Oilers may suspend operations due to a lack of money
Paul Steffensen, of Kenai, is in his first season as an outfielder with the Peninsula Oilers — a college summer baseball club in the Alaska Baseball League.
"It's a lot of excitement, you see a lot of guys come through here," he said. "When I was a little kid, I would always come out here to watch, so to actually be in the uniform for the Oilers is pretty special."
It's a similar story for Oilers pitcher Joey Becher, who's from Soldotna.
"It's been kind of a dream come true out here for my second year of the Oilers," he said as his team prepared for the home opener against the Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks.
The Oilers have been part of the Alaska Baseball League since 1974, but the team's president Michael Tice says this may be their last year because of the team's lack of finances.
"It's a possibility we'll have to suspend after this season if we don't some pretty good donations I guess," he said. "But, we made it this far. We had a few fundraisers and we made it this far and we're hoping that we can just keep doing that."
According to 2016 tax documents, the team's total liabilities for the year were around $180,000 and their total expenses were nearly $300,000.
"Certainly our biggest source of revenue is gaming and the economy as a whole is down," said Oilers Treasurer Sharon Hale. "People aren't spending as much money as they used to on things like gaming."
Players hope this is not the team's last season.
"It's kind of disheartening because growing up, always coming after our games and watching the Oilers play, from kids that come from all around the country, it kind of sucks to hear that, you know, things might not be the same after this year," Becher said.
Fans also hope the team will survive another season, saying it's about more than the loss of college baseball on the Kenai Peninsula.
"I think that's, I hate to such extreme terms, catastrophic, there are a lot of folks here, this is one of their prime summer entertainments," said Marck Manuel. "There are a lot of folks here who are solid baseball people, and then poof, it's gone."
Even as the Oilers take the field this season, their financial problems persist. In 2016, tax documents show they were over $34,000 short of meeting their budget. Management says they aren't doing any better this year.
"We have players here now, but we have to guarantee that they're going to go home in August and we can't guarantee that right now," Hale said.
For now, management says some board members have offered to pay to get the players home out of their own pockets.
"After years of trimming budgets and doing with less the Oilers are faced with a serious financial deficit and can only think to reach out to those that love baseball for help," the team's website reads. "If you find yourself able to donate, with any amount please do so."
More information on how to donate to the team is available on their website.
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