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Each summer, college students find ways to pass the time until the fall semester begins. Some fill the summer void by going home, getting a job, taking classes or traveling.

But UCF baseball player Trent Thompson is marching to his own tune. He's playing baseball in Alaska.

"I figured that coming to Alaska to play baseball was kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I can't really pass up," Thompson said. "I'm not a big guy on traveling, but this is a pretty awesome experience so far."

Thompson is pitching for the Mat-Su Miners of the Alaska Baseball League in Palmer, about 40 miles northeast of Anchorage.

"When I first got the idea and started thinking about coming here was last summer [when] I didn't play summer ball," the junior said. "I was just kind of talking to coach Rooney about this upcoming summer and where to play and he just kind of threw out the idea of going to play in Alaska."

It's common for collegiate baseball players to play in summer leagues because NCAA regulations don't allow players to work out with university coaches after the season ends.

He is not the only Knight to take on The Last Frontier, though. Outfielder Eugene Vasquez and catcher Matt Diorio have a chance at catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights as well. Vasquez plays for the Glacier Pilots, while Diorio dons the same Miners uniform as Thompson.

"It was nice to come in with somebody that you already knew," Thompson said. "Especially coming into a new team, you know you're not really going to know anybody."

Thompson said the biggest adjustment has been the weather. The temperature will range from the 40s to as high as 85, and the sun only goes down for about four hours a night while the sky stays lit.

"It's something they'll never experience, probably, again in their lifetime," Miners general manager Pete Christopher said. "The chances of someone coming back up here on vacation or something is pretty remote."

While baseball is the reason Thompson is in Alaska this summer — he has appeared in nine games for the Miners, posting a perfect 0.00 earned-runs average — he is capitalizing on the unique opportunity in other ways.

There are games almost every day, but usually about once a week the team has an off day when players can take full advantage of the location.

So far, he's done a lot of fishing and hiking, but he's excited for his next excursion: He and Diorio are going to walk on a glacier.

For Thompson, this summer will likely fly by. But the memory of spending a summer in Alaska is likely to last in his mind for the rest of his life

"The scenery is pretty unreal," Thompson said. "The backdrop of our field is mountains; it's pretty awesome."

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Colin Bell is a Senior Staff Writer for the Central Florida Future. Email him at colinb@knights.ucf.edu.

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