By Jeff Griffin
The crack of the white ash is accompanied by the sounds of joy and, of course, the chants of "PEANUTS!"
Kids and adults are brought to smiles, whether it’s watching a feathered bird lose a race he has no chance of winning, or as one of the Feathered on the field delivering a clutch hit.
As the Missoula Osprey gear up for their 14th season of action in the Garden City, the club prepares to welcome its closest friends in for an
Opening Weekend to remember at Ogren Park Allegiance Field. Where else can you have fireworks, mascot races, two opening games, a chance to win season tickets, fun and prizes … and, of course, America’s pastime, baseball.
That Missoula ritual of venturing out to the ballpark begins anew this month, and while the players who will wear the black, royal blue and white of the Osprey have yet to be determined, the Osprey front office staff has spent the off-season prepping for 2012, including many new promotions, some twists on old standbys, and per usual making everything easy on the wallets for folks in the Five Valleys area.
The home opener for the Osprey is June 22 and the first 2,000 fans will receive a 2012 Osprey magnetic schedule. In addition to the traditional Opening Night and the Fireworks celebration on June 23, Opening Weekend will be capped by a Kids’ Opening Day on the first Sunday, June 24.
Another interesting twist to the first weekend of professional baseball in Missoula for the 2012 season will be the presence of one of the more popular in-between inning activities offered by the Osprey. Game Show Night, which has been a staple on Wednesdays, now joins the famous Launch-A-Ball event on Saturday nights.
However, besides the fact that it is opening weekend, the Osprey add to the fun with the first of two Fireworks Extravaganzas of the season.
"We are excited to deliver our low-level fireworks show to our fans once again this year," said Osprey Vice President/General Manager Jeff Griffin. "They are always one of our most popular nights at the ballpark."
And if that wasn’t enough, a night at the ballpark is one of the more affordable evenings out for a family or a group of friends.
"We want to make Osprey baseball one of the most economical entertainment options in Western Montana," added Griffin.
The Opening Weekend will be followed by a seven game home stretch June 27-July 3 that will include a Smokejumper Bobblehead giveaway to the first 750 fans (June 29), the club’s 2nd annual Brewfest (June 30) and their Independence Day Fireworks Show (July 3).
"Our promotional schedule is stronger than ever," said Griffin. "It will be a fun year both on the field and in the stands."
And, of course, there’s also baseball to watch too.
wo of the past three seasons have proven to be quite exciting for Osprey Nation, including a trip to the Pioneer League Championship Series in 2009 and a return to the playoffs in 2011. It’s only the second time in club history that the Osprey made two playoff trips in a three-season span.
While the bulk of the Osprey roster won’t be determined until after the 2012 MLB Draft, which will be held June 4-6, there are signs that the Osprey could be getting talented players back in the fold for 2012, including pitcher Conrad Flynn and outfielder Justin Bianco. Flynn had a solid 2011 season for Missoula, while Bianco was named the best defensive outfielder in the Pioneer League last season.
It’s also looking like the Osprey may get Michael Perez, the fifth-round draft pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2011 MLB Draft. Perez, a catcher, would be the latest in a list of talented backstops to play in Missoula.
The O’s will be managed by former Osprey infielder Andy Green, who will be the first former Missoula player to manage the Garden City squad. Gil Heredia will return as the club’s pitching coach for the third straight season, while the hitting coach duties will fall to first-year coach J. R. House.
Tickets are on sale now at the MSO Hub Box Office located at 140 N. Higgins Ave. in downtown Missoula, by phone at 543-3300 and online at MissoulaOsprey.com
Gate opening times are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday and Saturday, 5:30 on Friday and 4:30 on Sunday.