Missoula Fastpitch Restoring Its Field of Dreams

Written by Bob on April 20th, 2016
The Missoula Adult Fastpitch League is determined to renovate Orchard Park (also known as Spurgin Field) for league and tournament play. Courtesy photo

The Missoula Adult Fastpitch League is determined to renovate Orchard Home Park (also known as Spurgin Field) for league and tournament play. Courtesy photo

MISSOULA, MT – The need was there, the will was there, but it would take money – and a lot of it – for men’s fastpitch in Missoula to rebuild its Field of Dreams.

Orchard Home Park, known to local fastpitch enthusiasts as Spurgin Field, sits on the corner of Spurgin Road and Tower Street. It’s been home to men’s fastpitch since the 1970s.

But last August a powerful windstorm blew down a third of the grandstand; the fence surrounding the field, along with the infield and outfield are a mess. In other words, the entire ballpark needs a makeover.

    RAISING THE DOUGH

But that costs money. And a lot of it says Dusty St. John, who along with an army of volunteers resolved to bring the ballpark that hosts the Missoula Adult Fastpitch League (MAFL) back to first-rate playing conditions.

“We needed to raise $15,360 to revive the field and run the league this year,” said St. John, MAFL president and co-manager of Shock-N-Awe, one of five teams comprising the league. “It was a lofty goal to ask of five teams, but much to our delight the teams stepped up and exceeded our goals by raising $16,245.”

Missoula fastpitch players and volunteers have been working to clean up and rehab Orchard Park. Courtesy photo

Missoula fastpitch players and volunteers have been working to clean up and rehab Orchard Home Park. Courtesy photo

St. John, along with co-captains Aaron Wade and Fuata Samuela put together a project plan. They presented it to the Big Sky Park Stewardship Committee, which approved it, thereby initiating matching grants from Missoula County.

    PLAYERS STEP UP

But a good share of the money was raised through personal donations, sponsorships, and selling raffle tickets. Most of it done by the players in the league who staged nothing less than a fundraising frenzy.

“It was a HUGE success and I am so proud of my fastpitch buddies,” St. John said, adding that as an incentive, the teams were offered free jerseys if they would raise $1,500. St. John figured one or two teams would reach that goal, but to his and the league’s delight every team topped the mark.

Along with fundraising, every weekend finds players working on the field, hoping to begin playing in mid-May when the renovations should be completed.

    SUMMER FULL OF FASTPITCH

Along with league play, Orchard Park will also host the Moe Smith tournament July 16-17, and the Montana State Tournament Aug. 6-7. One of the teams considered a contender for a state championship is Press Box of Missoula, which took the title in 2014. (When league starts, the team will change its name to Desperado Sports Bar.)

Press Box manager and pitcher, and former president of the league, Frank Hendrix III, turned over the reins to St. John this year. He appreciates the determined effort from the new leadership to keep men’s fastpitch healthy in Missoula.

“We have a good group of guys taking over,” said Hendrix. “These guys are led by Dusty. He has been instrumental in moving the league forward. The guys recognized it was time for them to step up. And they have done an amazing job.”

    A MISSOULA LEGACY

Missoula has produced some very good fastpitch players extending back to the 1930s, including St. John’s 99-year-old great grandfather, Bert Sommers, a pitcher. St. John, 30, has followed his great grandfather to the circle. Four years a go, he started pitching after shuffling between centerfield and first base.

Like his grandfather, many former Missoula players still live nearby and occasionally stop by the ballpark, sometimes giving pointers to the younger generations practicing and learning the sport. He wants to keep that camaraderie between the past and present fastpitch generations flourishing in Missoula, where the sport has seen an upswing in popularity over the last several years.

So the renovation of the ballpark has become a mission and a dream that must be accomplished for men’s fastpitch to have a place of its own for new players to learn, and to hold leagues and tournaments.

“That’s why we named the project ‘Our Field of Dreams,’” St. John said.

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