I am sitting in Missoula, Montana at a Barnes and Noble. I will be going to another Pioneer League game tonight with Brian Roberts, who is in Missoula for the summer. If Brian’s name is familiar to my regular readers of this blog, it is because he lives in Orlando, Florida most of the year and I stayed with him for a night back three months ago. Brian has a motorcycle shop here, and in Orlando. He also has a love for baseball and is the doting father for his nine year old, Hana. In addition, he is from my hometown of Ashland!
I was in Helena yesterday for a Brewers game and got to talk with Donnie Hissa who is a pitcher for Helena, is a recent graduate of Notre Dame and he was drafted by Milwaukee. Donnie grew up in Iron River, Wisconsin which is 30 miles west of Ashland. I have been paying attention to his career the last couple of years since Jerry, my brother-in-law, pointed him out. Last year he played for the Lakeshore Chinooks of the Northwoods League and Eric, my nephew, and Johnny Seechon went to see him play. Donnie stands 6’7″ and he told me that his fastball is where it was when he was a sophomore in college and he is feeling good.
Helena got beat 11-7 by Grand Junction. Grand Junction, Colorado, which is also the home of the Colorado Mesa University and “The Pit”. If you haven’t read that story please take the time, “Day 58”, it was one of my favorite experiences. When I was trying to find out how I could talk with Donnie, from the General Manager of the team, an intern came over to me and said that a couple of people would like to meet me. I had been featured in the local newspaper a few days before and they wanted to donate some money to me since I was sleeping in my car.
The intern introduced me to Kevin Horner, an usher, who told me that a couple other baseball travelers were in Helena within the last week. Kevin told me that a guy from Evansville, Indiana was doing the same thing I was doing and had over 20,000 miles on his car! I will be honest, I initially was skeptical and didn’t want it to be true. All of the sudden I felt threatened because I wanted this to be my thing; besides, I had over 30,000 on my car. After I processed what he was telling me, I had to laugh at my own thought process. It was my ego getting the best of me. Kevin gave me the guy’s name and email. Also, he told me of another guy that was recently in Helena and had been to baseball games all over the world, I got his information, too. I am now excited to talk to these guys.
I was introduced to Monique and Kevin Damuth who were at the game with Helen. I assumed that she was the mother of one of them, I should have asked. Anyway, they said they enjoyed the story written about me in the paper. I explained more of what I was doing, they didn’t realize I wrote a blog post about the experience everyday. I was humbled, yet again, when they gave some money. Why it surprises me, I will never know. The goodness of strangers is such a wonderful thing and it happens everyday. However, when it happens to me I am blown away each and every time. The TV reporter came back and she got some shots of me talking to the Damuth’s.
I loved Helena’s stadium, it was old but well maintained. The ushers and interns were cordial and there was a lot going on for all the kids. The site lines were incredible with the mountains in the background. Foul balls were plentiful and I had a desire to chase a few down since I wanted one for my collection. I did talk to a few kids and said I would give them a couple of bucks if they got me one. A few tried passing some batting practice balls off on me but I wasn’t going along with their idea. I chuckled when young boy came up with a ball that was signed by all the players. He said, “It’s a Pioneer Ball and the ink will probably wash off.” An usher got me a game ball and I was very thankful. I was offered to give him a few dollars but he refused. Right after I was given the ball, a young girl walked over with a perfect game ball and she smiled. I almost bought it since she was so cute when she approached me. I showed her that I had already had one. She looked at me a bit perturbed and said, “Well, mine is cleaner.” And, she walked away, kinda of mad at me.