I love baseball. I was not a good baseball player growing up as a kid--basically I survived on the field. The instinct to survive being hit by a blazing ball made me a fairly good fielder, but I couldn't hit worth a hoot. Despite my "love/hate" of playing the game, I found just as much love for the game in watching it. I cannot stand to watch it on television (unless it is the College World Series), but I love to watch a "live" game whether it is Little League, Major League, or anything between. I love the competition, strategy, atmosphere, crowds, and just being outdoors soaking it all up. I love baseball and I especially love Minor League baseball. I have watched Minor League baseball games all across this great land of ours. For the price and atmosphere, Minor League baseball cannot be beat.
Besides having wanted to live in Montana for a good majority of my life with all of its openness and mountains, another bonus that attracted me to Montana--especially where the two job offers were--was the fact that the big city down the road had a minor league baseball team. Deep in the recesses of my rock garden--I mean, mind--I probably thought this was as close to heaven as I could ever imagine. Mountains, baseball, and throw in all the breweries and it is easy to see how I could mistake this for heaven. Right now I have the best of all worlds!
The Billings Mustangs have been a mainstay in the big city and the Pioneer League since 1948. The Mustangs were officially established on November 4, 1947. The team is a rookie level entry into the profession of baseball. This means that the teams are often composed of kids just out of high school or college plus a few journeymen thrown in the mix. The Mustangs has been affiliated with the Cincinnati Reds organization since 1974--prior to that they were an affiliate of the Kansas City Royals. The team played its games at the historic Cobb Field. Cobb Field was named after Bob Cobb who was credited with bringing professional baseball to the big city. September 2007 saw the demolition of the "old school" Cobb Field to make way for the team's new field--Dehler Park.
I am not a Cincinnati Reds fan. The wife grew up in central Kentucky--Bluegrass Region--only 90 minutes from Cincinnati and the "Big Red Machine" of the early 1970s. Because of this she is a Reds fan. Also a Reds fan is the youngest son. The Mustangs are a natural fit being an affiliate of the Reds. I am first, and foremost, a Baltimore Orioles fan; secondly an American League fan (except for those damn Yankees). Any baseball is better than no baseball. They get to semi-root for their favorite team and I get to see baseball.
Though the Mustangs are associated with the Cincinnati Reds, I think that the coolest thing at the park is their tribute to a Baltimore Oriole. Outside the main gate of the stadium is a statute of Dave McNally--a Billings native who had a stellar career with the Orioles in their heyday.
A lot of famous player got their start with the Mustangs. Among some of the more well-known are George Brett (Royals), Reggie Sanders (Reds), Paul O'Neill (Yankees), Danny Tartabull (Royals/Yankees), Aaron Boone (Reds), Adam Dunn (Nationals), and Austin Kearns (Indians).
Tonight marks the start of the new season--it is Opening Day. I have not missed an opening day since moving to Montana. The Mustangs take on their Pioneer League rivals the Great Falls Voyagers. I am excited to get the season under way--baseball, hot dogs, and some micro brew! It doesn't get any better than this--Montana in the summer time!
Carly Simon--Take Me Out to the Ballgame