FAIRBANKS — One reason that Scooter Bynum chose to sign a National Letter of Intent with the baseball program at Arizona Western College is because it uses wooden bats.
It’s also a reason the multi-sport standout for Monroe Catholic High School is staying home this summer and playing for the Alaska Goldpanners of the Alaska Baseball League.
“It’s a big factor,” the Monroe senior said by telephone Tuesday. “My summer (youth) ball team doesn’t use metal, and I wanted to stay away from metal bats as much as possible.
“It also helps me get ready for the next level,’’ Bynum said of playing for the Goldpanners. “They have some of the best (college) talent coming in here.”
The Goldpanners program, which is celebrating its 55th year, has helped more than 200 college players go on to Major League Baseball. Current MLB players who are former Goldpanners include Atlanta Braves pitcher Kris Medlen, Cleveland Indians designated hitter Jason Giambi, and among the former major leaguers who once played at Growden Memorial Park are Michael Young, Tom Seaver and Dave Winfield.
Bynum will compete for playing time in the outfield with the Goldpanners, and he’s looking forward to learning from players who are experienced in college baseball.
“I want to pick their brains about college life,” the 18-year-old center fielder said. “They’ve been in college, and I want to listen to their advice.”
The Goldpanners open with tryouts and a practice in Los Angeles on June 8-9. They play their first regular season games at Mulcahy Stadium in Anchorage against league rivals Anchorage Bucs (June 10) and Anchorage Glacier Pilots (June 11).
The Goldpanners open at Growden against the San Francisco Seals from June 13-17. They then face the Lake Erie Monarchs of Michigan from June 19-22, and the homestand is highlighted by the 109th Midnight Sun Game at 10:30 p.m. June 21. The game is played entirely without artificial lights.
Before he puts on a Goldpanners uniform, Bynum will play his last high school baseball season with Monroe. He played last week with the Langley Blaze, a senior youth program from British Columbia, in a tournament in Arizona against minor-league players from major league teams.
Bynum played in four games in Peoria and Goodyear, Ariz., and in Phoenix against prospects from the Cincinnati Reds, Oakland Athletics and San Diego Padreers. He compiled a .583 batting average on seven hits in 12 at-bats and he stole four bases.
“It was a good chance to get exposure to major league scouts,” Bynum said. The games in the tournament didn’t count for wins or losses.
Before he joined the Blaze in Arizona, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Bynum helped the Monroe Catholic boys basketball team cap an unbeaten season (28-0) with its third straight Class 3A state title in Anchorage.
The guard was named as the Alaska Basketball Coaches Association Class 3A Boys Player of the Year and as the Gatorade Alaska Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
Last fall, he helped the Rams football team reach the small schools state championship game. He was an All-Greatland Conference and Small Schools All-State Team selection at three positions — wide receiver, defensive back and return specialist.