In 1964, Dave Dowling became the first Goldpanner to reach major league baseball. His 1963 pitching performance was so strong that, for the first time, baseball scouts from across the nation began paying attention to what happened in Alaska.
When Rick Monday was picked first overall in the inaugural amateur draft in 1965, the Panner organization began cementing its reputation as a talent pipeline from the top of the world to the top of the game. Since then, no less than 197 Goldpanners have ascended to Major League Baseball, coming off 38 of the teams - averaging roughly 5 players per team to reach the pinnacle of the game.
The record of sending Goldpanners to the major leagues is not even remotely challenged by any other single summer amateur team and, until recently, even the entire 100-year-old Cape Cod League had not managed to reach the aggregate.
As impressive as is the major league figure, the real measure is seen in the thousands who have had an opportunity to play professional ball after their Fairbanks careers.
There were no Goldpanners to go up from the predominately local teams of 1960-61-62, and no players from the four most recent teams have yet ascended. However, a number of prospects from recent teams (Conrad, Robinson) are on the verge of the big time. The most recent Goldpanner to get "the call" is Brendan Ryan, a key member of the 2002 NBC World Series Championship squad.
In addition to those to who have moved through the Goldpanners en route to the majors, three pitchers have thrown for the Fairbanks after the end of their big league careers (Dick Selma, Eddie Bane, Danny Boone).
In 2002, Jason Lane (96-97) and Jim Rushford (94) were called up for major league service. Jason was called up to the Houston Astros on the 9th of May in 2002. Jason was, as he put it, "all smiles" when he arrived at Veterans Stadium after a 5 1/2 hour flight from Fresno an hour before game time on Thursday. According to Lane, Triple-A manager Chris Maloney pulled him from the Zephyrs game against Fresno in the sixth inning, much to Lane's surprise. "He said 'You're out of the game,'" Lane recalled. "I was kind of surprised. I said 'Why?' He said, 'You're going to the big leagues tomorrow.'"
The 1983 season saw what was possibly the most talented Goldpanners squad of them all, as attested by the record 14 players that later went on to make the major leagues. Among all the recognizable names on that list (see below), the one that stands out the most is that of Barry Bonds, who on May 28th of this year hit his 715th home run, passing Babe Ruth for second place on the all-time list. (Barry is a future Major League Baseball Hall of Famer, and had certainly established himself on such a plane even prior to 1998.)
What is amazing about Barry’s time with the Goldpanners is that, being unable to crack the superbly talented outfield, he was forced to handle fielding duties at FIRST BASE. That season, the Goldpanners were sporting what NCAA Hall of Fame coach Dave Snow called “the most talented outfield I have ever coached”. The trio of fielders -- all future major leaguers -- were dubbed the original “Million Dollar Outfield” . They were Mark Davis in left, Oddibe McDowell in center, and Shane Mack in right. The combination was lethal to opponents, helping lead the Panners to the title game in the 1983 NBC World Series.
Though Barry was not in his usual left field position, he still showed flourishes of brilliance as the first baseman, including a portentious over the head catch drifting towards the wall in right field. In six games during the NBC tournament, Bonds went 4-for-18 for a .222 average, with a double, two runs scored, two RBIs, three walks and 4 stolen bases.
*Was in Major Leagues Before Joining Panners, or Coached/Front Office in Major Leagues After