MISSOULA — After everything that has happened over the past 18 months, the Missoula Paddleheads have to be one of the best Rebound stories in Western Montana.
They are enjoying an amazing start to their inaugural season with a 16-2 record after Thursday night’s victory in Billings.
We recently talked with Paddleheads' Vice President Matt Ellis about how the franchise has been navigating numerous changes, on and off the field.
“It’s been a phenomenal start. We have a really good team. Our coaches have been amazing. Our players have been amazing, and we have a great culture in the clubhouse. Just a great vibe here at the ballpark," Ellis said.
"It’s been a really good start [to the season]. We’re still capped at 2,000 [fans] and we sold out two of the games," he continued. "So, it’s been as good as we can expect. I mean, it’s an early start for us. The first time we’ve started in May. School’s still in and we’re still drawing good crowds so we’re really excited."
"The new look has been an amazing reception," Ellis said about the new team name logo and merchandise. "The fans have really loved it and given us great feedback. It’s been one of the best things we’ve done as a franchise and we’re just real excited for the season."
COVID-19 restrictions in Missoula County have limited the number of fans in the seats at Ogren Park, but that is expected to change in the near future, according to Ellis.
"We expect to be at full capacity by July and we’re just doing this for safety and everybody’s comfort. You know, we realize the events are – some people are still uncomfortable to come to events. People are still getting vaccinated so by July we’ll be at full capacity.”
Ellis added that they are still looking for families willing to host the ballplayers.
“That’s been a tough thing because of COVID. You know, people are a little uncomfortable. Our players are vaccinated so that’s been a real plus. We’ve got enough host families for most of the team, but we have about eight guys in apartments,” he explained.
“So, we’re always looking for people who are interested in taking a player in. It’s something we’re going to be doing going forward as part of our commitment to our team, helping the, to adapt to Missoula when they come here,” Ellis continued.
"They’re home for half the time during the summer because the other half they are on the road. It’s basically providing them with a bed and [they] can set the rules with the players, how food works and all that kind of stuff. We encourage the player to pay $200 a month to the host family to just help cover some expenses and stuff."
“It’s always a great experience for both the family and the player, they get to know each other. And you know, we have a couple of guys in the big leagues now that have had host families in the past and they are still in touch on a daily basis which is a pretty cool thing," Ellis told MTN News.
Ellis has been pleased with how the season in Missoula has unfolded so far. “So far, so good. No complaints. We’ve got a really great team. I encourage the fans to come out and see this team play really hard and it’s a great product. We’re excited."
The Paddleheads return home Saturday night to play Billings. Ticket information can be found here.