BILLINGS - Who doesn't love a long ball on the baseball diamond? Besides pitchers.
Gabe Wurtz can play almost anywhere on defense for the Billings Mustangs but leads the Pioneer League in home runs on offense with six this early season. Wurtz may be the most understated player on this year's roster... unless he's at the plate with a bat in his hand.
One has to wonder if pitches look more like beach balls thrown to him at the plate.
"No, there's some days it definitely doesn't feel like it," Wurtz admitted to MTN Sports before a recent game. "The elevation (here) got me for a while."
Montana's elevation is noticeable for Wurtz who grew up an Atlanta Braves fans in Marbury, Alabama, a small town only 522 feet above see level.
"I'm just now getting over being sick. That drop and the weather and the elevation kind of got me a little bit. I'm on the come-up from it now, but I still sound a little bad."
It's okay. That crack of the bat drowns out everything else.
Wurtz has jumped on six home runs this season including a string of five straight games on the Mustangs' recent home stand. But he says plate power didn't really show up until late in his college career.
"Last year was my first year in pro ball, played in the Pecos League and did really well there," he said. "Finished up in the American Association, had a little success there."
His success here - including a recent walk-off homer - has helped the Mustangs (7-3) win seven straight. That streak is hottest in the Pioneer League this early season. The Mustangs open a fresh road swing Wednesday in Missoula at 7:05 p.m.
Wurtz calls himself a late bloomer, saying he "was skinny as rail in high school."
Ask him where all this power is coming from now and he reverts to that understated honesty.
"No idea," he deadpans with a smile.
What's on deck if Wurtz eventually runs out of power?
"I've got a biology degree. I don't really love biology, but I'm planning to go to chiropractic school."
Perfect. That could help ease the strain for Pioneer League pitchers snapping their necks to watch Wurtz's long drives leave the yard.