In opposing dugouts during the historic Midnight Sun 24 Hours of Play Ball opening game, two American Legion Baseball coaches squared off with a lot in common.
The two coaches, Rodney Perdue, Sr., of the Fairbanks (Alaska) 49ers out of Post 11 and Raymond Pulsifer II, coach of the Alaska Wild out of North Pole, compete quite frequently but share a bond over their shared sense of community and service.
What was once one team for six high schools in the Fairbanks area is now two, led by Perdue, an Army veteran, and Pulsifer, an Air Force veteran.
“This is a continuation of my military service in a way,” Perdue said. “We were taught that West Point prepares you for a lifetime of service to the nation. I don’t jump out of airplanes anymore and climb through woods and deserts but there is a need for folks like us to help this next generation of young men do things that they like to do and give them a positive outlet and help them to grow.
“I actually started coaching when I was on active duty, it was a natural transition,” he continued. “This was my final duty station and where I retired. As my kids came up through the system I continued to coach and as I traveled from duty station to duty station it gave me different environments and allowed me to coach kids of different backgrounds.”
Pulsifer agreed, saying, “I love this. This is a mission. This is a calling. I’m fully retired and this is all I do all summer. Your fighter squadron is a very tight-knit team and this gives me that team feeling. I love the kids. I had one youth that I got to ‘raise’ from eighth grade all the way through his first year in college. Talk about a great privilege to see that kid grow and play in college. I get to watch that kind of development and make friendships that I will have for life.
“I just had two players go into the military so that is continuing the mission,” he continued. “I had one go to the Air National Guard and one into the Navy and how can I say no? They are continuing to serve and carry on my tradition. It is fun to see some of them go into military service, as well.”
Both coaches credit The American Legion for the success of the programs in the area.
“The American Legion provides a framework for not only helping us fundraise but also providing some funds to help kids participate. Many of the kids wouldn’t be able to play without the support provided by The American Legion,” said Perdue. “Post 11 helps a lot with fundraising and helps make this possible.”
Pulsifer elaborated, “In 2014, they decided to split one team into two to allow for more players to get opportunities to play. It is just a great opportunity for any kid who lives baseball. I retired here as well after getting into the Air Force after Desert Storm. I’ve been doing it since 2009. I was an assistant with the 49ers and then I helped create the Alaska Wild and now I’m the head coach of the Alaska Wild. Legion support is fundamental. Post 30 in North Pole gave us $5,000 this year. Without that we wouldn’t have these uniforms. Post 57 has chipped in money. I don’t want economically disadvantaged youths to not be able to play and without the community support, especially the Legion’s support, we couldn’t do this.”