Someone to know: Frank Hendrix III and Dusty St. John of Missoula Men’s Fastpitch

Written by Bob on April 20th, 2016

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MISSOULA, MT – Men’s fastpitch plays pretty well in the Midwest states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan, and east in New York, and out west in California.

But Montana? Yes, there too.

Granted, the sport isn’t as popular in the United States as in the 1950s to the mid-‘90s, but its still being played. For the committed fastpitch player, leagues and tournaments can be found with a little effort, and a willingness to travel.

None are more committed than Frank Hendrix III and Dusty St. James. Both men live, play and manage teams in Missoula.

Hendrix manages and pitches for Press Box, and St. John, co-manages and pitches for Shock-N-Awe. Both teams play in the Missoula Adult Fastpitch League that comprises five teams.

Here’s what they have to say about fastpitch in their part of the country:

Q: How long has fastpitch been played in Missoula?
“My great grandpa still tells stories of his older brothers not letting him pitch even though he was a better pitcher than them,” St. John, 30, said. “They played at the old school where the Missoula Children’s Theater sits now. That was in the 1930’s…”

Q: Besides Missoula, where else is Fastpitch being played in Montana?
“We have the five teams in city this year,” said Hendrix, “and there’s eight in the Blackfoot League. Other leagues are growing as well. The Helena boys are getting their league going again and Havre has been a powerhouse for quite some time now.”

Q: Pitching is critical in fastpitch. What’s the prognosis in Missoula?

“Right now, for the first time in I’d say a very long time, we have multiple pitchers per team, which was not common in recent history,” St John said. “So getting the field done, growing in our pitching status, we’re really lending ourselves to a high-growth model here.”

Q: What success have some of the teams had in state and national competition?
“We (Press Box) have had some success in recent years,” Hendrix said. “We took second in the 2015 Las Vegas Road Trip; third in the 2014 NAFA A-Major at the Seattle Invite. And in 2014 (won) the Montana State Championship. We were 2-0 in NAFA A Division at the 2016 Las Vegas Road Trip beating the Buzzards (Taft, Calif.) and Pala Braves (So. Calif.) The start of league this year we will be changing our name to the Desperado Sports Bar. Our average age is 30. We will be playing in Seattle in the NAFA Western A Division.”

Q: And your team, St. John?
“Our team has also been doing some traveling,” said St. John. “We are finding that we compete well on defense but some of the pitching in the larger tournaments is challenging to hit off of. We took second in state last year and third the year before. The N-unit prides themselves on competing with local talent from around the greater Missoula area and Deer Lodge.”

Q: Are new teams forming in Missoula?
“The season hasn’t kicked off yet due to the renovations on (Orchard Home Park, also known as Spurgin Field),” St. John said. “But we are looking to start the middle of May. We have a couple new teams as of the last couple years. The N-unit has split up into three teams to help the league grow. We are hoping for a couple of other new teams to come out of this once they see how we have improved the field.”

Q: Along with the Missoula League, what else will be taking place this summer?
“We will be hosting the Moe Smith tournament, on July 16th and 17th,” St. John said. “The Montana State tournament is August 6th and 7th, and we are integrating a small tournament in May within a slow-pitch tournament called “Freedom isn’t Free” thrown by Shock and Awe softball.”

Q: What gives you hope for the future of men’s fastpitch in Missoula?
“Most of us have been playing since the late 1990s through the early 2000s,” St. John said. “We are getting a lot of new faces recently, and it is great to build the camaraderie and friendships.”

“As far as the young players, a lot of us have played together in league for some years,” Hendrix said. “In my opinion it’s more that the guys who were younger when they started have finally finished school and have gotten jobs and families and just settled down more.”

Q: What do you like best about the sport, and playing in the league?

“We’ve built such a good camaraderie amongst all the different teams here (and) we have a blast playing league,” St John said. “It’s so much fun. That positive team spirit, it’s contagious. I think it’s attracting people.”

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