This long Labor Day weekend wrapped up the 6th season of the Missoula Osprey and the team’s first season at Play Ball Park, which will be officially named during this coming off-season (let us suggest “Catch and Release Park,” in honor of that whole so-much-fun-you’ll-drop-your-fish conceit). Great Falls beat the Osprey 5-3 in Monday’s season finale.
It’s been a record year for the Osprey on a couple of counts. The number of fans is up, and with three fewer games in the season than last year to boot. The Osprey counted 64,942 folks in attendance this year, up from 56,079 last year. It’s also a record year for the team itself. Not the good kind of record year, but a record year nonetheless.
“It was our worst year ever,” says Vice President and General Manager Matt Ellis of the Osprey, who ended the season with a record of 27–46. Ellis isn’t complaining, though: “We’ve been good for so many years that we’re kind of spoiled.”
Come the off-season, the stadium—which can be rented out for community events—will grow to include clubhouses and permanent restrooms. But on Saturday night, at a game against Great Falls, the Osprey delivered a different sort of goody: 750 ceramic bobblehead dolls molded in the (rough) likeness of former Osprey pitcher Jose Valverde, who, having made the show, now hurls for the Arizona Diamondbacks. One entrepreneurial fan had plans for his bobblehead: “I can’t wait to go home and put mine on eBay.” A cursory search on eBay Tuesday afternoon revealed no Valverde bobbleheads up for bid, so perhaps the fan warmed to the toy’s agreeable nod and decided to hold onto it after all; it can only appreciate with time.
Elsewhere in the park on Saturday night, four staff peered over one vegetarian burger, wondering how to determine when it was cooked. At a nearby condiment table, another fan, perhaps a hot-dog connoisseur, expressed disappointment: “They used to have sauerkraut.” Waaah.
In recent years, the location of the park was hotly debated in civic circles, but over the course of the season a lot of neighbors have come out of the woodwork in favor of the park, says Ellis: “We were just real pleased with response from the fans regarding the stadium.”
Now if the team could just give them something to cheer about.