Alaska is known as the land of the midnight sun and with good reason. Near the summer solstice the sun is above the horizon for over 21 hours a day and it never gets dark. This summertime phenomenon, unique to the most northern of latitudes, allows for a Fairbanks tradition spanning back over a hundred years, the midnight sun baseball game. This game is unique among Americas favorite pass time because it is the only baseball game in the world that is played with out artificial lighting.
The night before the solstice I had the pleasure of meeting Mike Cloutier at a Goldpanners game.Â No stranger to the sport of baseball, having 10 years experience playing in the minor leagues, even playing on farm team for the Detroit Tigers, Mike has spent most of his life around the baseball diamond. He originally come to Alaska to open a baseball academy for players from Australia and Japan, with the intent to train them to become major league players. While in the process of putting this plan into action he made a trip up to Fairbanks, at the suggestion of a friend, to see the Goldpanners play. When the academy didnâ€™t work out he became involved with the Goldpanners and eventually become the marketing director in charge of advertising and billboards.
â€œPeople in Fairbanks are busy.â€ Mike said, and with just a short drive separating residence of the city from the harsh untamed Alaskan wilderness, combined with the short summer in which to enjoy the sun, it is easy to see why. Living in city with such an active population is both a blessing and a curse. The high activity level translates to an involved community. The problem for Mike is that it makes it difficult to get people to come to games, as he has to compete with so many other activities.
The first major step Mike took to overcome this challenge was to reach out to the youth in the area through boy and girl scouts, as well as church groups, and other youth programs. The next thing he did was to seek the support from the local business community.Â Mike has built a strong working relationship with the Fairbanks business by giving them tickets for their employees and customers in return for their financial support.Â This helps both Mike and the businesses that support his team. Mike gets people to come to the games, and those that do come are then more likely to come back again. The businesses get the benefit of better relations with their employees and customers by providing free tickets from Mike.
â€œIâ€™m not what you would call a great sales person, but I have a lot of common sense.â€ Said Mike. But despite his modesty Mike is a great sales person. When he first started working with the Goldpanners the average attendance at a game was around 50 people. Two years ago the average was 325, and last year the average was 725 per game.
Mike has an approach that I believe is all too rare in the business world. He believes in building mutually beneficial relationships with his business partners. He believes in working with people, not having people work for him.
By: Stuart Murch