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I can remember the game like it was yesterday.

It was the summer of 2000. Our first trip to Missoula, Montana. I was in my first season of professional baseball with the Helena Brewers. On the mountainous bus ride from Helena to Missoula, by way of MacDonald Pass, the coaching staff had prepared us for the rowdy crowds that fill Lindborg-Cregg Field to cheer on their local team. The stands would be filled with college students, from the nearby University of Montana, who turned overindulgence of adult beverages into verbal abuse towards opposing players.

It’s a Friday night, game one of a three-game series with the Missoula Osprey. It’s hot and 5,000 fans fill the stadium to capacity. Ash is falling from the sky as wildfires have broken out in western Montana and continue to burn around the college town. My uniform features a mix of blue pinstripes and smothered ash marks.

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