Don Rabung Day to be celebrated Saturday at Mulcahy

Posted by Van Williams, ALB Media Director | May 14, 2022

One of the founding fathers of high school baseball in Alaska will be celebrated Saturday at Mulcahy Stadium.

Don Rabung Day will honor the former Dimond Legion Post 21 manager around 12:30 p.m. – right after the Dimond/West game and right before the East/Service game.

A short ceremony will be held on the field, featuring his family and former players. Lt. Governor Kevin Meyer will be on hand to make remarks about the man who touched so many lives.

Rabung passed away last November at the age of 85.

A former professional pitcher in the Cleveland Guardians farm system in 1950s, Rabung brought his love of the game to Alaska and shared it with hundreds of young men as a coach and then as an official with the American Legion of Alaska.

 

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Don Rabung (center)

Rabung was a longtime Legion district director and preached honor and honesty.

“He was a man of little words but when he spoke you listened and he was probably right,” his grandson Wesley wrote on Facebook.

In 1992, Rabung and Earl Davis were key figures in getting high school baseball off the ground in Alaska. It started with the Cook Inlet Conference and grew, with ASAA creating a state tournament in 2000.

“I didn’t think it would grow to the extend it is now,” Rabung told me in 2012. “It’s good for the kids, and that’s what you got to look at.”

Rabung played two seasons of pro ball, lacing 'em up for Class B Yakima of the Northwest League in 1955 and Class A Montgomery and Knoxville in the South Atlantic League in 1956.

He posted a respectable 3.45 ERA in 352 innings during an era when a starting pitcher finished the job, as evidence of his 18 complete games in 43 career starts.

Rabung compiled a pro record of 16-24 with 260 strikeouts in 59 appearances.

“I never did make it to ‘The Bigs,’” he said. “I was just one of those guys not good enough to make it, but at least I had a chance.”

Rabung didn’t give up on baseball, instead putting himself in position to create a path for the next generation.

He led Dimond Post 21 to back-to-back Legion state championships in 1986 and 1987.

Ken Wooster was a member of Rabung’s coaching staff and credited the man for inspiring him to become a coach himself.

“I loved that old man,” Wooster said. “We lost one of the great ones. Old school in the best sense of the phrase."

“He was a great man,” said longtime Alaska coach Tony Wylie. “He was old school, respected the game like we’re supposed to and a great pitcher in his day.”

In 2012, Cook Inlet Conference baseball directors Steve Nerland and Don Winchester renamed the league’s MVP award in his honor – the Don Rabung CIC MVP Award.

“I told coaches, ‘Your program is only as good as your integrity,’” he said in 2012. “If it’s all about winning you kind of lose sight what you should be teaching those young kids; how to handle adversity because in baseball there’s a lot of adversity.

“Once you learn how to handle that then it becomes a life skill and it helps you in your everyday life.”