By Doug Hare EBS Staff

BIG SKY – On May 7, the Big Sky Community Park was abuzz with activity: frisbee golfers, skateboarders, soccer and basketball players, runners, dogwalkers, and sunbathers all enjoying a warm spring evening. But the biggest crowds were in the stands of the ballpark, where the Big Sky Royals Minors, a U-10 Belgrade Youth Baseball League team, were set to take on the Belgrade Nationals.

The Big Sky Royals are only in their second year as a program, and one that likely would have never formed if not for a chance-encounter between Ray Bartoszek and Matt Morris at Music in the Mountains in Big Sky Town Center Park. Bartoszek and Morris had America’s past-time—baseball— in common.

Bartoszek had watched baseball with his grandfather since he was 4 and played college baseball at U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. After a successful career as an oil trader for two decades at Texaco and Glencore Ltd., he retired in 2011 to spend more time with family.

That same year, the New York Yankees approached Bartoszek and asked if he wanted to be a limited partner, and within 15 minutes a deal had been inked. He moved to Big Sky full-time in the summer of 2016 for the skiing, the summers, and because “it’s a good place to raise a family.”

Matt Morris was a two-time all-star pitcher for Major League Baseball’s St. Louis Cardinals and pitched in the 2004 World Series. He and his wife Heather have owned property in Big Sky since the early 2000s. Morris and Bartoszek realized they had even more in common: namely, 8-year-old sons who shared their passion for the game.
Two years ago, the inaugural Big Sky Royals U-8 Little League team coached by Morris and Bartoszek went undefeated. This year, the Royals are sporting three separate teams with 45 players on their rosters.

Rookies: Ages 7-8, head coach Bart Mitchell, assistant coaches Al Malinowski, Jeremy Harder.
Minors: Ages 9-11, co-coaches: Matt Morris, Ray Bartoszek
Majors: Ages 10-12, head coach Mark Gale. Assistant coaches: Walker Bagby, Marc Perdue.

As the sun was setting, Ebe Grabow had pitched six strong innings, going 3-for-3 from the plate. Owen Bartoszek went 3-for-3 with 3 runs scored, and Mac Bertelsen was 3-for-3 with 3 RBIs. The Royals ended up beating the Nationals 11-4, garnering their fifth consecutive win.

“Currently, the rookies are undefeated, the minors’ team is 8-3, the majors’ team has less experience on the field but are competing with all their heart,” said Bartoszek, adding that he hopes to get more Big Sky youth to face Morris on the mound in the future.

Visit belgradebaseball.org for a schedule of upcoming little league games.