Alaska loses icon in Mattingly (Baseball)

January 6, 2012

Denise Mattingly

The Alaska baseball community lost one of the true giants of the game late Thursday night with the passing of Anchorage Bucs founder Dennis E. Mattingly. He was 63.

His wife Sandy and his three children Shane, Tony and Rhonda were at his side when he died at his home around 10 p.m. after a 12-year fight with cancer.

Mattingly was involved with Alaska baseball for more than 40 years, working at every step from Little League to American Legion to Adult League to the Alaska Baseball League.

He even had ties to Major League Baseball, helping dozens of players get to ‘The Show’ through their time in the summer with the Bucs.

He helped put Alaska baseball on the map.

“My dad did that,” Tony told me, the pride oozing from his voice.

But Mattingly was more than just a baseball man. He was a father and he was a father figure to hundreds of men, including me.

My memories of him are more personal because I knew the man behind the tough exterior. I grew up with his sons, living with Tony and working for Shane, so I got a sneak peak at Dennis, the dad.

He was a grizzly bear in the business world and a teddy bear at home.

Kind. Caring. Loving.

He will be dearly missed.

“The support … it’s been overwhelming,” Tony said. “He’s got 99 text messages on his phone. People I don’t know, but he knows. You think you knew who your dad hung out with and who he knows, but you don’t. You might know a third. The people he touched and made a difference to. It’s way overwhelming.”

Tony, now 40, grew up on the diamond and played for the Bucs when his dad was general manager. He saw the impact his dad had on the college players.

“At the time you don’t think about it,” he said. “You think it’s no big deal. But when you look back at it, you’re like, wow, you’re in awe of what you got a front-row seat to.”

A celebration of life ceremony will be held Thursday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Tudor Road Bingo.

Next summer the family would like his ashes to be spread over the field at Mulcahy Stadium.

“Maybe opening day, I don’t know,” Tony said.

If anybody deserves it, Dennis Mattingly does.