Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan will always resonate in my maritime brain for two reasons: the first being the iconic line from the movie Slapshot and the second being that the Moose Jaw Miller Express play home to one of the finest visiting bullpen set-ups in all of the Western Major Baseball League.
As a pitcher — especially in a relief position — a significant amount of time is devoted to sitting around and doing basically nothing. Having a luxurious, spacious, or just plain cool bullpen certainly increases morale and makes the first to fifth innings a lot more enjoyable.
Some innings can seem to drag on for hours as relievers quibble over how many ibuprofens to take and rehearse their various pitches on stray baseballs.
Moose Jaw’s visiting bullpen is delicately tucked diagonally back and down the first base line from the visitors’ dugout.
The unique fenced-in plateau bullpen adheres to the archaic nature of Ross Wells Park and provokes an old-time baseball feel from the restless bullpen pitchers who can be found demolishing sunflower seeds and gazing into the stands during games.
The convenient positioning of this bullpen allows for close proximity to the rest of the team while also remaining out of the range of angrily-hurled bats and helmets.
Not to be distracted by the lavish bullpen seating, Moose Jaw is not a place that ought to be deemed pitcher-friendly. A field where balls soar up and over the outfield fence and ERA’s seem to commit some sort of baseball-ritual suicide, the park has tended to be unkind to pitchers in the past. Batted balls appear to leave the park frequently with significant force, disappearing into the backdrop of tall trees and initiating debates regarding the distance of said homeruns.
Very few old-school Canadian baseball fields remain in operation today and Ross Wells Park can definitely be considered in this category. While the possibility of having some of your pitches lofted into the usual jet stream always looms, at least the view from the bullpen is nice.
(Alex Tufts is a pitcher with Swift Current Indians of the Western Major Baseball League. His column will run every week during baseball season.)