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The Alaska Goldpanners has hired former Goldpanner and Major League Baseball first baseman Phil Stephenson to replace Miles Kizer as head coach for the 2020 season.

Stephenson was a member of the Goldpanners’ 1980 National Baseball Congress championship team and returned to Fairbanks for the 1981 season, when he was named team MVP.

Stephenson played at Wichita State University before being drafted in the third round of the 1983 MLB Draft to the Oakland Athletics. 

While at Wichita, Stephenson hit 57 home runs and was named the Baseball News College Player of the Year in 1982. At the end of his college career, the former first baseman held 13 individual NCAA records and still currently holds the NCAA career records for hits (418), runs (420), total bases (730), stolen bases (206) and walks (300).

He made his major league debut with the Chicago Cubs in 1989 and finished his major league career with the San Diego Padres in 1992. He retired from professional baseball in 1995 and is currently the head coach for Dodge City Community College in Dodge City, Kansas.

In 2007, Stephenson was elected to the National College Baseball Hall of Fame and was named one of the top 10 college baseball players of all time by Baseball America.

“We heard that he was interested in coming back to Alaska and coaching so we met and put it together,” Goldpanners general manager John Lohrke said over the phone on Monday.

“I’m really excited and happy to be working with him and am looking forward to another good summer.” 

Lohrke said the team spoke with a few other potential candidates, but Stephenson’s connection to, and former success with the Goldpanners made him an ideal fit.

“He’ll keep (the team) going forward with so many of the new things we’re doing but also to still have a little bit of a taste of the past is a nice combination.”

Kizer, who served as the head coach of the team for the past two years, accepted an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator position at Yavapai Community College in Prescott, Arizona. The new role didn’t allow the former head coach to return to Fairbanks next summer.

Contact News-Miner sports writer Laura Stickells at 459-7530. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMsports.

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