The Butte Muckers have made quite the rebound.
The American Legion baseball team left for dead a year ago has new life. Actually, the Muckers’ future looks to be brighter than ever as the team hosts the Butte Round Robin Friday through Sunday at Copper Mountain Park.
Not counting the few times the Miners and Muckers hosted a district or state tournament, this weekend will mark Butte’s first home tournament in recent memory.
When the teams played at Montana Tech’s Alumni Coliseum, weekend home games during the month of June were not an option with all the football camps Tech puts on. That isn’t an issue now that the Miners and Muckers have a temporary home at Copper Mountain.
“It’s kind of nice to be home for the weekend,” Butte coach Dan Thatcher said.
The Muckers enter the tournament on a roll. The team is 7-5 after going to Hamilton and completing a sweep against a team of older players last weekend.
“That was probably the best we played all year,” Thatcher said. “That was a good team. They were mostly 15 and 16 years old. We’re mostly 14 and 15.”
Coley Powers and Koby Doherty give the Muckers a solid one-two punch at the top of the pitching rotation. Tyler Ossello has been a viable option at No. 3, Thatcher said.
Zach Hart and Nate LeProwse, to 15 year olds who play for the Miners, also play occasionally for the Muckers.
The Muckers will be shorthanded this weekend with Bryce Gallagher, Blake Burton and Konner O’Neill all sitting out with injuries. Still, the team is full of hitters.
“We’re hitting the ball pretty well,” Thatcher said. “Dyllan Lane is our best hitter right now. Braxton Henningson is really hitting, too.”
The Muckers are also 5-0 while playing in Butte’s Senior Baseball League. Many of the team’s players will be on the Senior All-Star team.
That is a new approach that Miners coach Jeff LeProwse put in place as a way to revive Butte’s Legion baseball program, which saw players leave the last two years thanks, in part, to the stadium situation. Last year, the Muckers never even fielded a team.
That new approach is also helping blur the line between Senior Baseball and Legion ball, which LeProwse and Thatcher hope will mean more players will make the jump to Legion.
For years, Legion in Butte has struggled with losing players after Babe Ruth and, more recently, Senior Baseball.
“It’s going pretty well,” Thatcher said of playing against Senior Baseball teams. “These guys see the Muckers and they might like us. I know four or five kids who said they would have played. I know some kids who say they will play next year.
“This is a good start,” Thatcher said. “We’re getting them out and teaching them how to play.”
The Muckers open the Round Robin tournament at 6 p.m. Friday against a Butte Senior Baseball team. They’ll play the Great Falls Volts junior team at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.
On Sunday, the Muckers play the Great Falls Volts senior team at 10:15 a.m. before closing the tournament against the Missoula Bombers at 12:30 p.m.
The Muckers will play host to Hamilton next week before heading to Deer Lodge for a tournament June 20-23.
The season will conclude the following week with a tournament inBozeman that features the Bozeman Spikes, Billings Cardinals, Missoula Mavericks and other tough tests.
“It will be good to see where we stack up,” Thatcher said.