A Legacy Unmatched: The Story of the Billings Mustangs

July 1, 2024

by Hannah Olson | Photos by Renata Haidle

The Billings Mustangs have been an integral piece of the city since their inception in 1948, writing a history marked by triumphs, relationships, and resilience. Founded by Billings native Bob Cobb, the team garnered support from Hollywood luminaries and local residents, forging a legacy endured through affiliations with major league franchises like the Brooklyn Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates, and St. Louis Cardinals. Despite a temporary halt in operations after the 1963 season, the Mustangs rose again in 1969, serving as the Rookie-level affiliate of the Seattle Pilots and later establishing a fruitful partnership with the Cincinnati Reds. This bond spanned nearly five decades.

The Mustangs etched their name in baseball lore throughout their journey with numerous Pioneer League championships, notable player debuts, and record-breaking performances. The team's legacy is rich with moments of brilliance, from George Brett's auspicious beginnings to Jason Robbins' perfect game in 1994 and Chris Valaika's impressive hitting streak in 2006. Despite facing challenges, including the contraction of minor league franchises in 2021, the Mustangs persevered, transitioning to independent baseball and continuing to be a breeding ground for future stars. With a passionate fan base and a tradition of excellence, the Billings Mustangs remain a memorable part of the city's identity, embodying the resilience and spirit of their community.

“I love being able to play in front of a community that has supported this team for years on end. Everywhere in the city, people know who the Billings Mustangs are, and it brings pride to us players to represent such a supportive community.” 

Brendan Ryan

Redefining Home Base: From Cobb Field to Dehler Park

Dehler Park, the iconic home of the Billings Mustangs since 2008, stands as a testament to the city's commitment to modernity and community engagement. Built for $12.5 million, the park replaced the historic Cobb Field, marking a new chapter in the team's legacy. Funded by a bond issue passed by Billings voters in 2006, the transition from Cobb Field to Dehler Park began shortly after the conclusion of the 2007 season, with the old stadium being razed to make room for the state-of-the-art facility.

Named after local businessman Jon Dehler and his family, Dehler Park boasts modern amenities and spacious seating arrangements. With 2,571 individual stadium seats, 500 bleacher seats, and a grass berm, it offers a diverse range of seating options for fans. The park's design, featuring a recessed playing field eight feet below street level, allows for a full concourse encircling the field, enhancing accessibility and offering ample space for concessions and restrooms. Moreover, the park's amenities include the "Picnic Pavilion," the "329 Club" outdoor suite for large group gatherings, and a "Kid Zone" play area, ensuring an inclusive and enjoyable experience for fans of all ages.

Inside the Dugout

The Mustangs roster for the 2024 season features a diverse collection of players from various corners of the United States, each bringing their unique talents and perspectives to the team. Brendan Ryan, a Center Fielder from Leawood, Kansas, returns for his second season with the Mustangs, expressing his enthusiasm for being part of such a cohesive and supportive organization. Reflecting on the Billings community, Ryan emphasizes his pride in representing a team that garners widespread recognition and support throughout the city. Additionally, he assures fans of the team's unwavering commitment to leaving everything on the field every night, promising their effort and dedication to every game.

Luke Trueman, a pitcher and outfielder from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, also returned to Billings for his second season with the Mustangs, highlighting the pristine beauty of Dehler Park and the meticulous care the grounds crew takes to maintain its exceptional quality. Trueman's insights extend beyond the field, sharing quirky tidbits about his teammates, such as Ethan McRae's prowess in Hacky Sack and Pitching Coach Dennis Rasmussen's surprising dance moves. As the Mustangs gear up for the 2024 season, Trueman's comments offer fans a glimpse into the camaraderie and lighthearted spirit that makes the team that much easier to support and love.

In the coaching realm, the Mustangs are led by seasoned professionals dedicated to nurturing the talents of their players. Craig Maddox, returning as the Field Manager, expresses his gratitude for the opportunity to lead such a talented group of individuals while acknowledging the rich baseball tradition of Billings. With a wealth of experience both as a player and a coach, Maddox exudes confidence in the team's ability to deliver an exceptional season for their devoted fans. Alongside him, Pitching Coach Dennis Rasmussen and Hitting Coach Joel Hartman bring decades of expertise and passion for the game, ready to guide the Mustangs toward success on the field and beyond.

Building on Tradition

With the 2024 season of Mustangs baseball underway, fans are enthusiastic about the array of exciting updates and offerings that have enhanced the Dehler Park experience. Wednesday nights hold special significance this season as the team partners with the nonprofit organization Warrior Wishes, donning patriotic jerseys and offering $5 tickets for Veterans. These unique jerseys will be auctioned off at the end of the season, with all proceeds contributing to the organization’s cause. Families also look forward to the expanded entertainment options, as the Mustangs’ collaboration with Ka-Ko Jo's arcade provides a variety of inflatables for kids, surpassing previous years' offerings.

For those seeking a more intimate game-day experience, private table rentals priced at $100 have presented a brand-new opportunity for fans to enjoy the game. These high-top tables, accommodating four guests, come complete with tickets, a bucket of beers, a complimentary appetizer, and exclusive access to a specialty menu with full table service, promising memorable nights out for smaller groups. With reservations for these tables filling up fast even before the season commenced, it's clear that fans are enthusiastically embracing this new addition.

Longstanding traditions like "Pups in the Park" will return, allowing fans to bring their furry friends along for the game. The next opportunity is slated for August 15. And, of course, every Sunday, families can count on kids being able to run the bases following the games, a popular ritual they look forward to every season.

The 2024 season is shaping up to be one filled with excitement, particularly in July. This month boasts an impressive lineup of 26 games, with 17 hosted in Dehler Park. This jam-packed schedule ensures that fans will have ample opportunities to catch their favorite team in action on their home turf. As fans eagerly await exciting matchups, the 2024 season is poised to deliver unforgettable moments and cherished memories for Mustangs fans of all ages, solidifying the team's legacy as an enduring symbol of community pride and sporting excellence. SLM

Hannah has been in Billings over ten years and earned both a bachelor's in English and a master's in public relations from MSU Billings. She owns Narrator Creative Consulting and is a freelance writer. The greatest thing in her life is her 8-year-old daughter, Vienna. 

Originally printed in the July 2024 issue of Simply Local Magazine

Check this article out in the digital issue of Simply Local here!

related articles: 

Get local updates, events and special offers!

Local Events