- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 22, 2016

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - A summertime sports tradition in the land of the midnight sun was foiled early Wednesday morning by an unlikely foe: darkness.

The 111th annual Midnight Sun Baseball Game in Fairbanks, Alaska, was called at 1:30 a.m. because players had trouble seeing after sunset. Storm clouds added to the darkness.

“Hitters were coming back to the dugout saying they were having a really difficult time. We don’t want to get anybody hurt. It was pretty dark,” said John Lohrke, the president and the interim general manager of the Fairbanks team, the Alaska Goldpanners.

The annual game is played on the solstice, when there is more light than any other day. In Fairbanks, that means 21 hours and 49 minutes of sunlight.

The sun sets at 12:48 a.m. and rises at 2:59 a.m., National Weather Service meteorologist Ryan Metzger said.

Storm clouds that brought rain before the game started Tuesday evening made it even darker than normal.

First pitch for the midnight sun game was 10:30 p.m. Tuesday. The Goldpanners were leading the Kenai Peninsula Oilers 8-0 at the top the seventh inning, about 1 a.m.

“It was starting to get quite dark,” said Tal Norvell, a spokesman for the Goldpanners.

The umpires decided to delay the game for 30 minutes to let the sun come back up, Novell said, despite the crowd of just under 2,000 people chanting “Let’s play ball! Let’s play ball!”

Soon after, the crowd began pouring out of the exits.

“It takes a little bit longer for the sun to kind of dip down and come back up than a half hour,” Lohrke said.

At about 1:30 a.m., umpires called the game.

“I would imagine perhaps the 8-0 scored played a role in that,” Lohrke said. “If it had been 4-3, it might have been different.”

Players were initially scheduled to finish the game Wednesday evening before another regularly scheduled game between the two teams, but Lohrke said they decided to skip completing the midnight sun game. He said neither team really wanted to finish the game, and he didn’t want it to interfere with a promotion night that was already scheduled.

This isn’t the first time darkness had caused a hitch in a midnight sun game. Lohrke said about 30 years ago, a team walked off the field and refused to play because it was so dark.

Despite the glitch, don’t expect the Fairbanks team to ever install artificial lights for the Midnight Sun Baseball Game.

“We’re never going to do that,” he said. “That’s the whole meaning of the game, is to play it without lights.”

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