Thursday, July 2, 2009

Helena Brewers 5, Billings Mustangs 4

July 2, 2009

The Weisenheimer tour of the Pioneer League continued this evening in Billings, Montana with the hometown Mustangs taking on the visiting Helena Brewers at Dehler Park. I'll save the suspense: Of COURSE it rained. People may wish to blame this on people from Seattle. But I hear tell it's been clear and pushing 90 degrees in the great Northwest, so it's clear that we are following the weather, and not vice versa.

Dehler Park opened last year, replacing the ancient Cobb Field, where generations of Billings teams played. Dehler is a fine facility, a little odd in that it's not very high; the deepest sections in the grandstand are only about 10 rows or so. That means every seat is pretty darn close to the field. They have a BBQ area, beer garden, ample concession stands -- it's a nice operation. The one black mark -- inadequate parking. There's a tiny lot out beyond the outfield fence. We had to park in the surrounding neighborhood, which the residents must just love. We had a walk of several blocks, so it wasn't a huge deal. The park is set below a large bluff, on top of which sits the Billings airport. A number of flights came in and out during the game.

There were ominous black clouds around at game time, and the scoreboard claimed it was 81 degrees out, but it didn't feel that warm. A crowd of 2,483 turned up and saw the Brewers build a 2-0 lead after three innings. In the fourth the wind really kicked up. In the bottom of the fifth the Mustangs got on the board with back-to-back doubles to make it 2-1. A few drops of rain started to fall. Then, with two out -- one measly out from an official game -- Ma Nature turned the spigot and it absolutely began to pour. The umps called the game and everyone scrambled for cover.

My Sweetie, the official scorer, wonders why these teams we're visiting, where it apparently rains all the dang time, don't have any sort of adequate shelter for the customers when inclement weather hits. Security Service Field in Colorado Springs has a large covered area, but most of the rest are pretty exposed. At Dehler Park many of the fans simply departed. Those of us who haven't had enough baseball this week found restrooms, souvenir shops, and other small spots mostly out of the rain, hoping the storm would only be a passing thing.

It was. In less than an hour we had a double rainbow, a cool sunset, and were back in action. But only a few hundred of the original crowd remained. Billings took a 4-3 lead with three in the sixth, a rally capped by the play of the game: A booming, two-run triple by Mustang catcher Humberto Sosa. The program lists Sosa at 5' 11" and 195. I'm here to tell you that 195 might have been when he was in eighth grade. I'm thinking 230 at least. Still, he cracked one over the center fielder's head to the wall 410 feet away, and moves pretty well for a big man, making third easily.

Billings held the lead until the ninth, when a bad throw and a controversial call by the first base umpire ignited a rally for the Brewers. Left fielder Chris Ellington led off with a grounder to Mustang shortstop Shane Carlson, who uncorked a wild throw. First baseman Chris Richburg, lunging to his left, snagged the ball and swept the tag toward Ellington, but the ump ruled the tag missed. Carlson, who has a live and wild arm, was charged with an error. Ellington took second on a wild pitch by Don Joseph. Joseph then struck out Cameron Garfield, but walked Cutter Dykstra, and Ellington stole third on ball four. Helena's Kyle Dhanani then hit what should have been an inning-ending double-play grounder. But Billings second baseman Mauricio Pimentel hesitated on the throw to second, decided to take a sure out at first, and then made such a rotten throw he looked like a quarterback spiking the ball to stop the clock. E-4, and Ellington scored the tying run. Dykstra and Dhanani then pulled a double steal, and Dykstra scored the go-ahead run on another wild pitch by Joseph. Two runs, no hits, two errors, one left on, 5-4 Helena. Billings went out 1-2-3 in the ninth, Pimentel whiffing for the final out. Box score.

Weather aside, the game at Billings was a lovely time. They don't have a mascot. They don't throw crap at you or have constant on-field promotions. The PA announcer doesn't yell, he just announces. The food was pretty tasty and reasonably priced. All Billings really needs is a little infield defense.

Tomorrow: Missoula!


Sweetie the Official Scorer said...

I wonder if they bring out a mascot and throw t-shirts and all that on the weekends. They did have some promotions (the inevitable recliners, 'best seat in the house'; I saw them wheel them away in the deluge! Soggy red leather) and everything the PA announcer said was "sponsored," but they were pretty unobtrusive about it. Anyway, A+ for the announcing -- articulate, loud enough, not too loud, and gave a lot of information about the game before, during, and after. You know, like BOTH lineups, and totals.

Jeremy said...

Thanks for visiting Billings and Dehler Park! There is no mascot here, and I've never seen them throw anything out to the crowd. The reason there isn't much for rain shelter is because, even though it sounds like your visit was an anomaly, we only get about 14 inches of rain per year. Thanks again for coming!