One of only three "5 decade"
Bud Hollowell is back where it all began.
Written by Aaron Torres
Over the course of the last 50 years, Hollowell has seen life take him from his youth in California, to the Olympics, minor league baseball and time in the world of hypnotherapy. He is a published author and owns his own business.
But for a few days, Hollowell will again be a Goldpanner, joining the Midnight Sun Goldpanners as they play two exhibition games in Wichita, KS as part of the NBC World Series.
Hollowell’s career with the organization started 45 years ago, when an encounter with longtime Goldpanners manager Red Boucher sealed his decision to spend his summer in Alaska. There was no baseball in the first discussion, as a matter of fact, no discussion at all.
“We were at the College World Series in Omaha, and in comes Boucher to recruit us, with this stunning girl on his arm,” said Hollowell. “I think she was Miss Alaska, either way the prettiest girl I’d ever seen, and I was sold right then and there.”
And with those humble beginnings began what Hollowell referred to, as “one of the greatest adventures of his life.”
Like so many former, current and future Goldpanners, Hollowell went to Fairbanks without the faintest idea of what to expect in the Frontier State. Where would he be staying? How were the playing conditions? What would he be doing for work?
What’d he find? Well a little bit of everything.
Like virtually every other Goldpanner that’s played with the team over the last 50 years, Hollowell stayed with a host family. And the conditions were top flight, as Hollowell was surrounded by several future professional ballplayers at Growden Park. As for the work, well that was a whole other story.
“When I first got to Alaska, I was working construction,” Hollowell said, his eyes widening, when asked about his work experience. “Every day, it was get up, go work construction, play baseball, and I was dead tired.”
“So one night we’re playing, I hit a ball in the gap, round second and slide safely into third base. I was so tired, that I just laid there for a minute. Red asked me what was wrong, and I told him how tired I was,” Hollowell said, a grin forming on his face. “Right then and there Red called time out, walked into the stands and whispered in some guy’s ear. The next day I was a car salesman.”
During his time with the Goldpanners, Hollowell played with future Major Leaguers Rick Monday and Jimy Williams amongst others. But some of his fondest memories on the field were catching future Hall of Famer Tom Seaver.
The two first met on the mound, in Seaver’s first appearance for the Goldpanners.
“It was basically, him saying, ‘hi I’m Tom,’ with me responding ‘hi Tom I’m Bud. Whaddaya throw?” Hollowell said with a chuckle.
“Then I get behind the plate, and he throws one pitch one way, the next the other way,” Hollowell said. “So I go back to the mound because I think maybe something’s wrong with my signs. And he looks me square in the eye and says, ‘I’m just throwing the ball straight’. Catching Tom was tough on me, so I can only imagine how the hitters must have felt.”
Following his days with the Goldpanners, Hollowell went on to play in the Olympics and minor leagues. He then returned to Alaska in the mid-70’s where he worked on the Alaska pipeline earning enough money to open his own hypnotherapy business.
He and his wife currently own and run another business with his wife, Flamingo Home Care. The company helps people whose family members suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. Hollowell also authored the book, The Eternal Dance released in 1983.
But for one more weekend, Hollowell’s priorities will be baseball. His technical title is bench coach, but Hollowell is also on the official roster and could be used in game action in the NBC if coach Jim Dietz is so inclined. Even if he doesn’t get into a game, just being around the ballclub has brought back a lot of very fond memories.
“I’ve lived in a lot of places, Hawaii, Oregon now Florida. Each with their good and bad qualities,” Hollowell said. “But having spent as much time in Alaska as I have, I know that the people up there are tough, independent and overall, very solid. Those are the kind of people you’re glad to have in your life.”
Left, from top: Joe Austin, John Herbst, Rick Monday, Butch Thompson, Steve Clark, Skip Hancock and Walt Peterson. Middle, from left: Mike Stepovich, Tom Seaver, Bob Maxwell, Phil Blackwell, Graig Nettles, Dennis Smith, and Gary Sutherland. Bottom, from left: Bud Hollowell, Curtell Motton, Buddy Bovender, H.A. (Red) Boucher, Sam Suplizio, Jimy Williams and Mike Paul. Batboys: Tommy Alexander and Wolfgang Fischer.