BILLINGS — Former Billings Royals player Jayden Kay was back in a familiar setting on Saturday during the Goldsmith Gallery Jewelers Baseball Tournament.
But instead of being on the Dehler Park field and playing in the tourney as a member of the Royals, Kay was working at a concessions stand on the concourse, selling beverages to fans.
The 2018 Billings Senior graduate is back in Billings for the summer. He attends Coffeyville Community College (Kansas) and is an outfielder on the Red Ravens baseball team.
This year, the team played 19 games. In 67 at-bats, Kay hit .299 with five doubles, three triples and 16 RBIs. He also scored 16 runs.
Kay recalled the season ending early due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We had a third of a season and it got shut down,” said Kay. “Our coach came up to us in the third inning and said this could be our last game and it ended up being our last game.”
On Friday, Kay said former Royals teammate Brooks Zimmer was also working at the stand. Zimmer is right-handed pitcher for the Montana State Billings Yellowjackets.
“We had a lot of good conversations with some old faces,” Kay said.
Kay was enjoying his time at the ballpark on a bright and beautiful Saturday morning. And, being at Dehler brought back fond memories of past Goldsmith tournaments. The Royals went 6-0 at the tourney in 2018 and downed Northwest Premier (Idaho) 8-1 in the championship game. Kay had a key hit in that game, a run-scoring double in the bottom of the first that tied the score 1-1.
“The Goldsmith is always really fun,” Kay said. “We won it our senior year. It’s fun to see the competition they have here this year.”
To keep in baseball shape, Kay has been working out in the weight room and hitting and throwing at local baseball fields.
“I’m very excited to get back and start doing it,” he said of next season.
With the chance of rain showers on Sunday, the championship game of the tournament is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. at Dehler Park. It was originally scheduled for 3 p.m.
Volunteers are key to tourney
When the tourney started on Thursday, it marked the first time Billings American Legion Baseball hosted games at Dehler Park this season.
This year presented a few different challenges for tourney organizers as the Billings Mustangs, the primary tenant of Dehler Park, have not started their season due to the novel cornonavirus.
In the past, during the games, the Mustangs grounds crew would have handled the field preparations. The Mustangs would have also staffed the concessions stands, and cleaned the restrooms and emptied the trash, said BALB director of operations Brenda Sommerville.
This year, volunteers, coaches, parents of players, and current players handled many of those chores. At Dehler, concessionaires were hired for beverage sales and food, with a food truck present.
“In the past, we have not had to do that, because it was staffed by the Mustangs,” Sommerville said. “But for us to get to play here, that was one of the things we had to do.”
At Pirtz Field, where BALB is the primary tenant, there is a concessions stand.
Legion tourney workers normally would work the ticket admission ticket sales, run the 50-50 raffle, and announce and score the games.
Current BALB players helped with field maintenance, trash removal, cleaning restrooms and sanitizing.
“I feel it is really good for them to be invested in the program and see what goes into taking on a tournament,” Sommerville said. “We are lucky to sit in the stands and watch them, but it is good for them to take part in running the tournament. It is important they see what goes on to prepare that field.”
Sommerville said alumni of the program also helped in various capacities, including announcing and running the scoreboard.
“Volunteers are key to this tournament,” she said. “Thankfully, we’ve had some people really step up and do it for us. We’ve also had some people not even involved in the program that have stepped up and said they would help us out. We’ve had a lot of really good community support. Past players and siblings have helped.”
One of the most important things in running the tourney was to “make sure we are COVID-19 compliant,” said Sommerville.
“We always have someone at both fields making sure we are compliant with COVID-19 regulations,” she said.
Sommerville is very fond of the BALB program, as “I’m a former Red (Scarlets) mom. It’s close to my heart this program is.”
Her son, Elijah Sommerville, played for the Billings Cardinals and later the Scarlets and was a Cardinals assistant coach for two years, she said. Sommerville noted the whole family likes to get involved as her mom, daughter and father were also volunteering their time.