Opinion: Toast To The Williston State Tetons
What a beautiful, exhilarating, heartbreaking thing that the game of baseball is.
This baseball season, more than any that I have covered for Williston State has been a wild ride. Catching up with the team at the halfway point of the season as they began spring ball, it was obvious this wasn't a normal year for baseball.
Instead of being able to enjoy some home cooking at Rabon Field in Williston, it was frequent trips down to Glendive and Miles City to get multiple weekend double headers in the books when all of North Dakota was still too wet, making fields unplayable.
However, at some point something happened without anyone realizing it. Things started clicking, the balls bounced the Tetons way, and they started playing better and better ball as the season wound to a close.
Coming into the post season, a two game sweep of Dawson at Aafedt field in Williston propelled them into the Region XIII tournament as the number 4 seed tournament. Waiting for them was the number 1 seed in Miles.
That first game of the tournament, which was pushed back a couple of days, didn't go our way... Now, you'll notice a narrative change. As is with all of the teams this season, I come into the games as an outsider, a third party observer who just calls the games on the radio. However as it has happened with every team that I have been along for the ride with, and I expect everyone that I will have the privilege of calling games for, I become emotionally invested.
The phrase "emotionally invested" means a lot to me when calling games. It's my goal to make anyone who tunes in, even if they have no ties to the teams playing, to be on the edge of their seats living and dying on every play just like I am.
A big credit for that investment to all the coaches and players at Williston State, and all the teams in Williston as a whole, they welcome me in with open arms. Maybe it's just due to prolonged proximity becoming familiarity, but I think that it is much more likely the quality of the people involved in the athletic department.
Asides aside, back to what is actually important in this story.
The second game of the tournament was against Dakota County Technical College in a loser out game. Williston State found themselves down late, but in heroic fashion, found a way to come from behind in the ninth inning to win.
That gave this team something that is very dangerous in sports, hope.
Bismarck State was up next, after the Mystics lost a semi-final game to Miles. This game was all Tetons, all the time to advance into the challenge game.
Now the 'tons would need to beat Miles twice in a row, in Miles City, on short rest, and emotionally exhausted.
Well after the sun had set in Miles City, after their 5 game journey that was the Region XIII tournament, the trophy was lifted on the field... by the good guys.
We did it.
Then in less than 36 hours we were on our way to Iowa, two wins away from the World Series.
Coming up against the number 10 team in the nation, expectations were limited to say the least. "Put in a good showing." went out the window after Williston State pulled out a gutsy game 1 win.
Unfortunately, this is a Cinderella story where the glass slipper never found its rightful place. A few bad bounces and Southeastern Community College earned the right to celebrate on their home field in West Burlington, Iowa.
That brings to the present.
In the front half of a two day journey back home to Williston. Everyone has had a chance for their tears to dry, including yours truly. The pit in all of our stomachs will slowly start to fade and the jokes will start. Coach Pryzbilla will start peppering myself and Coach Hartman with obscure baseball trivia, and will in turn fire them right back.
While this may seem like a long and meandering recap of the season that is interjected with a perspective from a sports broadcasters first person experience... It is much more than that. It is a love letter. A love letter to baseball, this team, all of the teams that I have had the pleasure to call this year at Williston State, as well as to sports in general.
Where the ball bounces next is yet to be seen. I genuinely hope that I get the opportunity to be back on the Teton Express for long trips, late nights, fast food, more celebrations and more heart ache.
It's worth it.
Short story long, thank you:
To all of the coaches for making me feel like I'm a part of the program and not just along for the ride.
To all of the players who I have come to care for and know as great people, a couple of whom have even watched my dog while I call a game.
To all the parents and fans who have let me bring you the games for these wonderful student athletes.
To the college and athletic department for allowing me to be on this adventure.
To my family and most importantly to my wife for putting up with all the late nights, early mornings, frustrations, celebrations, and missed moments.
Hopefully, desperately.... Until next time sports fans.