MISSOULA — Never in the 21-year history of the Missoula Osprey has there been a lost weekend quite like this.
Because of poor outfield conditions, the O's had to postpone their scheduled doubleheader against the Great Falls Voyagers on Sunday, marking the third night in a row Allegiance Field was deemed unplayable. In addition, Missoula's Monday doubleheader against the Voyagers has been moved to Great Falls.
An area in right-center field suffered considerable damage during the Mumford & Sons concert, held on soggy grounds, on Aug. 11. The O's tried to rectify the situation by adding topsoil in the middle of last week. The dirt on the surface of the troubled area has dried but there's moisture caught underneath.
Matt Ellis, Osprey vice president, voiced his disappointment to a crowd of roughly 250 fans who had entered Ogren-Allegiance Park on Sunday in hopes of watching baseball.
"This concert has really put a burden on our center field," he said of the Mumford & Sons performance. "It's really chewed up. Our grounds crew has been working almost 24-7 for the last week to try to get this center field playable.
"Unfortunately, we cannot get a buy-off from both the Diamondbacks (Osprey) and the White Sox (Voyagers) to play. There's safety issues and we acknowledge that and respect that. We thought we were going to get it in today but there's a couple of spots where we just can't guarantee no injuries if a player is running on it."
At the root of the problem is an area where the Mumford & Sons concert stage was set up. The amount of weight placed on that area of the outfield condensed the sod and dirt, then the water from almost two inches of rain on the afternoon of Aug. 11 seeped in.
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"Then as it was pressed, it really acted like a sealant," Osprey marketing director Taylor Rush explained. "It's trapping the water underneath. We have spots where there's an inch or two of relatively dry dirt or sod and the second we get underneath that it's a muddy mess."
Osprey officials are hoping to play Tuesday and Wednesday's scheduled games against the Idaho Falls Chukars in Missoula. A final decision will probably not be made until Tuesday as the grounds crew continues to work on the outfield.
"This has been a very trying week for our franchise," Ellis said to the fans on hand Sunday. "We care about you all for coming and we're sorry we opened the gates. We actually thought we were going to play tonight."
Rush, like Ellis, is optimistic Missoula will be able to play at home Tuesday.
"The field is better tonight than it was this morning," Rush said of an outfield that smells like a soggy river bottom. "With sun in the forecast and all the help we're getting in town from local landscaping and sod experts and from our ops team, really they're giving it all they can at this point."
With the postponement of Friday, Saturday and Sunday home games, the O's schedule for the remaining three weeks of the regular season has been condensed. That places an added burden on the pitching staff.
Consequently, it's going to be even tougher for the second-place Osprey to catch Pioneer League North Division frontrunner Billings. The Mustangs lead the second-place O's by 3 1/2 games in the second-half race.