LANDER – For nearly a decade now, a team down in Georgia has turned the baseball world on it’s heels with their fan-centric, fun-filled games. The Savannah Bananas suddenly made America’s pastime more exciting to watch and created new love for the game in younger generations. 

Fast forward to today and it’s obvious that teams like the Bananas have had their impact on the culture of the sport, mainly because everybody is trying to make their own version of the interesting new take on the game. That was more true than ever during Sunday night’s first-ever Lander Rodeo Baseball game, featuring players from both the Lander American Legion team and the Lander Babe Ruth Baseball League team. 

Lander Valley soccer and basketball player Georgia Chance reveled in the chance to be a cow in the calf scramble (p/c Robert Stover)

Both the Lobos and the Legends put some of their best players on the diamond in Lander City Park, surrounded by over 200 people in the bleachers and on the sides of the fences. Not only did the masses come out to watch a fun game, they came out to try and play an impact on the matchup as well as win some prizes. 

Gift cards to places like Muse, WyoGlass, Valley Lumber and Mr. D’s Grocery were handed out along with a free recliner from Gamble’s, a paddleboard donated by Rocky Mountain Discount Sports and a BBQ gift basket courtesy of Porter’s. All this was done in between innings and batters as the rodeo clowns umpired the game between the Red Cowboys and the Blue Cowboys. 

London Higginbotham became the first-ever Lander Rodeo Baseball Rodeo Queen and threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the first-ever Lander Rodeo Baseball game (p/c Robert Stover)

The game, which was originally planned for three innings, started with a random draft putting Legends and Lobos players of all ages on teams coached by Legends’ coach Eric Baker and Lobos’ coach Ryan Carey. Rodeo queens presented the flags while the Lobos’ Will Bush sang the National Anthem, afterwards the newest little rodeo queen, London Higginbotham (above), threw out the first pitch as confetti and water balloons flew. 

Both teams had specific rules that were far away from the strict rules of regular baseball. Off-the-wall rules like “no bunting allowed” were easy to remember, but many Red and Blue Cowboys got caught in their pre-batting routine when they stepped out of the batter’s box, resulting in a strike. Not only were there harder rules to follow while batting, but both teams were allotted two decoy pitchers on the mound at least once in the game which gave the batter a form of double vision and anxiety. 

On top of that, fans catching foul balls resulted in an out and there were a handful of tough tasks that the players had to play through. Tasks like having the outfielders only play with big baskets instead of gloves and catchers having to sit behind home plate catching pitches in a beanbag chair. 

Everybody from the fans to the infielders were participating in the fun and games throughout the entire night at Lander City Park (p/c Robert Stover)

The game moved quickly, especially with every walk resulting in the entire field of players needing to touch the ball before the batter was able to stop on a base. This rule resulted in 90% of the runs scored in each inning, but not every run scored stuck on the scoreboard due to more fun changes to the game. In between innings there were also fan-centric activities like a calf scramble and barrel racing, featuring kids of all ages chasing after high schoolers in cow outfits and rodeo clowns in barrels. The winners of these events were all able to give a point to the team of their choice, leading to some ties and some leads that would not have been there without them. 

For instance, at the end of the second inning the Blue Cowboys were up 3-2 but the winners of the events all selected the Red Cowboys, meaning the third inning started with a 5-3 score in favor of the red team. Little tidbits like that made the game much more fun, and enjoyable, than a typical baseball game and created smiles and lasting memories for everyone involved. J

Every batboy and girl was gifted a batman mask which they wore in the mid-inning events (p/c Robert Stover)

During the entirety of the game money was raised for the newly-founded David Rees Memorial Scholarship Fund, honoring the late Lobos head coach who passed away earlier this month. 

When it was all said and done, the Blue Cowboys won by a score of 7-6 thanks to an amazing on-the-run catch in left field with a large red basket. Thousands of dollars in prizes and free food later and every organizer and player was able to say they were part of a massive success in the game’s first year, sparking hope for a second Rodeo Baseball game recurring next year. 

If you missed any of the action or would like to see some of the hilarious antics on the field and in the bleachers, you can watch the full game on WyoToday’s Youtube page. 

BY: Shawn O’Brate

Below, enjoy some photos taken from Ranger Printers’ Robert Stover:

2022 State Champion pitcher for the Lander Lobos played with a bubble machine during the first inning
Kids were ruthless during the calf scrambles in between first and second inning
Former Lobos pitcher and infielder Keegan Stephenson threw a few heaters between innings
The Rodeo Baseball clowns got into the fun too
Rodeo Baseball umps leaned into the fun more than anybody else
Rodeo Queens from around Lander presented the colors during the National Anthem at Lander’s first-ever Rodeo Baseball game
WyoToday’s Shawn O’Brate announced the first-ever Lander Rodeo Baseball game, handing out gift cards, free recliners and candy throughout the entire night