Blown call

I have followed the Houston Astros for close to 50 years, so I know something about inept baseball management. But even the Astros couldn’t have screwed up Wednesday’s rain delay at Dehler Park as badly as the Mustangs did.

The delay came at the worst possible time: Tie score, top of the ninth, runners on second and third, one out. But I can’t complain about that. It was starting to rain really hard, and there was danger that the game could end in some rain-induced sloppy fashion, or that somebody could get badly hurt.

It turned out to be a typical Montana rain: a few minutes of hard rain, then nothing. The field looked reasonably playable: home plate and the pitcher’s mound were covered with a tarp during the worst of it, and there were just a couple of small puddles in the infield. No obvious slush or slick spots. And the new Dehler Park was supposed to have been designed to handle exactly this sort of quick shower.

So I waited it out. Up to a point, rain delays can be pleasant. It rains seldom enough in Eastern Montana that I usually sit on the front porch to watch it rain, so I figured I might as well watch it rain at the ballpark. And rain always seems to put baseball fans in a festive mood; there was literal dancing in the aisles, and girls with bare legs glistening from the raindrops running out from under cover for the sheer joy of getting wet.

But it went on and on. The groundskeepers would throw a couple of bags of dry dirt on a wet spot, then rake it around for a while, then go get some more. The umpires paced the field. The players danced to the music or told stories.

I understand why the Mustangs can’t afford to keep a massive grounds crew on staff for the rare occasion when it rains, but it did strike me as odd to see three people out there working their butts off while several hundred stood around and watched idly. Heck, I thought, give me a rake; I wouldn’t mind helping out.

At any rate, the field looked playable to me. But, of course, there was no way to tell for sure without going onto the field, and fans aren’t allowed on the field. The people who were allowed on the field weren’t saying anything.

Finally, after a delay of more than an hour, the public address announcer said the game would begin in about 30 minutes, at 11:15 p.m. What the hell, I thought, the evening’s shot anyway. Might as well hang around.

Sure enough, around 11 p.m., players started doing stretching exercises, and the Mustangs’ pitcher made a few warm-up throws.┬áBut by 11:10 p.m., it was obvious that the game wasn’t going to start on time. And by 11:20 p.m., the players were packing up the bags of balls and bats and heading for the clubhouse. The umpires were right behind.

I asked a Mustangs official what was up, and he had no idea. He said there would be an announcement, but I wasn’t willing to wait until the players, umpires and grounds keepers were all sound asleep to hear it. My guess is, the Mustangs never did announce that the game had been suspended.

Summary:

1. Calling for a delay in a crucial ninth-inning situation: Unfortunate, but perfectly understandable.

2. Refusing to keep fans informed of progress toward beginning the game again: Not so understandable but unfortunately typical.

3. Inaccurately announcing the game would be resumed: Quite unfortunate, and not really understandable at all, without some explanation. But if I’m going to complain about Point 2, I guess I can’t complain too much about Point 3.

4. Refusing to announce that the game would not be resumed: Not the least bit understandable and both unfortunate and inexcusable. People who are willing to wait through a rain delay for a couple of hours ought to get some appreciation. From the Mustangs they got nothing but contempt.

 

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