Saturday, July 1, 2017

Billings Mustangs 1 at Missoula Osprey 8 (Pioneer League) - June 30, 2017

My Pioneer League trip continued as I headed west from Great Falls to Missoula, using MT-200, a beautiful highway mostly devoid of traffic, making for a relaxing 3-hour drive. After a quick stop at my hotel and lunch at the Silver Slipper Sports Bar and Casino (much better than it sounds), I made my way to Ogren Park Allegiance Field to see the Missoula Osprey in action.

The ballpark name is confusing in that it is both a park and a field, but there is no consistent way to refer to it. The team website says Ogren Park Allegiance Field, the park itself is Allegiance Field & Ogren Park, while others replace the ampersand with "at". It opened in 2004 and was originally called Missoula Civic Stadium, a name that it should have kept.

Parking here is $4, the first time I have paid for parking in rookie ball. There seems to be free spots along Wyoming Street if you approach from the west, so if you see one, take it. After leaving the car, I went to the box office and was surprised to see a line up at the gates, despite first pitch being only 45 minutes away. Sure enough, gates here only open a half hour before, not enough time to do a proper tour, get some food, and then set up the scorecard. It was also very hot, so much so that I was sweating while waiting in line. Two strikes right away.

Tickets range from $13 down to $8 for general admission, which consists of benches down the lines. The team draws about 2,000 per game with capacity for 3,500, so you can generally find a spot in the box seats, but if you want to avoid the risk of being kicked out, buy a reserved seat for $10. Note that the seats along third base are shaded for night games, but there is no cover for day games.

Also, the protective netting along the dugouts blocks the first 5 or 6 rows, so if you want a clear view, sit near the top of 105 or 107.

There are berms down the line, as well as a standing area just above here in the left field corner that includes a drink rail, perfect for resting the scorebook. I used this for the last part of the game as the view is completely unobstructed from here.

The promotion tonight was Grab Bag Giveaway, where the team gets rid of leftover bobbleheads and other items that aren't selling. When you walk in, you are handed a slip with a number on it; the number determines your prize. I was given a red baseball, which I promptly forgot when I moved seats.

Just inside the main gate are large posters of major leaguers who have played here, while the starting lineups and standings are on the back of the press box building. I was happy to see several other people filling out scorecards; scoring a ball game is a lost art.

The right field foul line is only 287 feet away, so they try to make homers a bit more difficult with a high fence that slopes downward, something that I haven't see before. Note the Pioneer League championships that are commemorated to the right of the foul pole.

The backdrop here is quite nice, particularly from third base. In the distance are two mountains with letters on them: the L on Mount Jumbo is for Loyola High School, while the M on Mount Sentinel is for the University of Montana.

The view from first base isn't bad either.

The mascot here is Ollie Osprey, who can be spotted wandering around the stands throughout the game. There is a pair of actual ospreys here, nesting atop a pole beyond the outfield fence, though I did not see them on this night.

Concessions are fairly basic and reasonably priced. Freshly delivered pizza slices from Dominos are available for $2.50 and limited to just a couple of pies, while a 16-oz craft beer is $6.

In the end, I quite enjoyed my experience here. I would prefer that gates open an hour before game time, and of course, parking at this level should always be free, but those are minor quibbles. Once I got settled, I found the setting very peaceful and the fans supportive of their team. They were rewarded on this night with a good game from the Osprey.

The Game

Missoula (Arizona) started Franklyn Soriano (below) while Billings (Cincinnati) sent Jhon De Jesus to the hill to make it a battle of Dominican youngsters. The Osprey opened the scoring in the first when Eduardo Diaz led off with a double and advanced to third when Satchel McElroy (21st round, 2015) misplayed the ball in left field. A groundout plated Diaz and Soriano maintained the lead until the 5th, when Alejo Lopez (27th, 2015) homered to tie it up.

In the bottom of the 6th, Joey Rose (5th, 2016) hit a 2-run shot and Toronto native Andy Yerzy (2nd, 2016, Arizona's #16 prospect) doubled home another run to celebrate Canada's 150th birthday a day early. An inning later, Gabriel Maciel (#27 on the D-Backs prospect list) lined a 3-run homer to end any suspense. Missoula tacked on another run to make the final 8-1 in a game that took just 2:36. With 281 pitches thrown, the PPM was 1.8, again a great pace for a baseball game.


I found it interesting that there is no running allowed in the stadium. None of the players obeyed this directive.

The game ended around 9:50, and as we are quite north and west, the sun was still setting at that time, providing for a scenic end to the evening.

Next Up

I'm on my way to Boise for my first Northwest League game of the trip. After that, I'll be doing a little touring around the national parks in the area as well as checking out a game in Billings on July 4th. Updates will be posted when I have time, so check back on occasion to see what is going on in the world of SportsRoadTrips.



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