After taking in a couple of more games at the new ballpark, here's a somewhat more generous view. I'm not flip-flopping, mind you, I'm just revising and extending my perceptions based on new evidence and insights. Here are three things that made me like the park better:
1. Two excellent and close games on Saturday and Sunday. Technically, that has nothing to do with the park, of course, but good ball improves its surroundings.
2. We spent a couple of late innings Sunday just walking around the park. One thing the new park does is move much of the socializing aspect of minor league baseball out of the stands and back into the wide concourse. That's not a bad trade-off. You can still watch the game pretty well, and we ran into a half-dozen people we knew and were able to talk to. I spent the Mustangs' crucial eighth-inning rally far down the right-field line, which was a fine place from which to view the key hits. There aren't many places to sit in the concourse, though. I ran into one of my former students who seemed perfectly happy to stand and roam for the duration. Not sure I'm up to that.
3. I ran into Alan Rice, who gave the park a good review. His opinion matters because he has seen more minor league parks than any human I have ever known. In fact, he was just back from a tour of Texas and Southern league cities. Alan says Dehler Park stacks up well against most of the parks he sees, except maybe in size. The cramped seating, he said, is typical in the minor leagues. And Billings is far better off than Missoula, in his view, whose new park retains a cobbled-together look as it has struggled to finish the park as funds are raised.
OK. I'm happier now.