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Beekeeper ends the Dodgers-Diamondbacks delay and throws the first pitch


PHOENIX — It could have been the first standing ovation for a beekeeper in history.

Certainly there has never been a beekeeper who has basked in the spotlight, waving to the crowd while the loudspeakers blared from public speeches, “I need a hero.”

And after an hour and 55 minute delay on Tuesday night due to a bee colony that formed on top of the protective mesh over home plate, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks played a baseball game.

Of course, the person who threw out the ceremonial first pitch was Matt Hilton, the branch manager of the Blue Sky Pest Control office in Phoenix.

The entire pregame scene was surreal with the national anthem already playing, the players getting ready to play and a bee colony forming faster than Diamondbacks starter Jordan Montgomery's warm-up throws.

“I got a call from our senior events manager about five minutes before the game,” said Mike Rock, D-backs vice president of baseball operations. “She usually doesn't call me then, I knew something strange was going on. She said, 'Bees are landing on the net, right above home plate.'”

Rock asked, “How much?”

Kat McDonald, the senior manager, said: “Hundreds. No, wait, thousands. ''

Rock: “I knew we had a problem.”

Rock immediately alerted the referee crew, who informed D-backs manager Torey Lovullo and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts of the problem. There were serious safety concerns over fears that players and fans would be stung, with MLB officials saying the game could not start until the bee colony was removed.

The announcer asked fans to “be patient” and then began playing The Beatles' “Let It Be,” much to the crowd's delight.

The players from each team first stood in amusement in front of the dugouts and then retreated to the clubhouse, wondering whether the game would even be played.

The problem is that no one was immediately available.

Rock called Hilton, who has worked for the company for 15 years, but he was at his 6-year-old son's T-ball game in Surprise, Arizona, 45 minutes away.

Rock then called the competitor's company. They were even further away, in Buckeye, Arizona.

Rock begged Hilton to come as soon as possible. Hilton apologized to his family, jumped in his truck and raced to Chase Field where a golf cart was waiting for him.

“It was the longest 45 minutes of my life,” Rock said.

Hilton donned his beekeeping suit, climbed to the top of the net using a hydraulic scissor lift, vacuumed the colony and received a rousing standing ovation when it was completed, throwing his hands in the air to encourage more cheers.

“I thought I would just do my thing and go out,” Hilton said, “but it was fine.”

Before he knew it, he was asked to throw out the first pitch, and was suddenly a hero, with his face all over the TV sets and the scoreboard.

“It was a little nerve-wracking, I'm not going to lie,” Hilton said. “There was a lot of pressure to get this game going, you know, but I was happy to come and take care of it.”

The Dodgers and Diamondbacks will play their final game of the series on Wednesday, and with gusty winds expected, no one would be surprised if they decide to play it with the roof closed.

“I think we'll probably put the scissor lift there just to be safe,” Rock said. “We will ask Blue Sky what we can best do to ensure they don't come back to the same place. They're here at 6am every day, so we'll have some of their top people here tomorrow morning.”

The match finally started at 11:35 PM ET. The Diamondbacks scratched Montgomery, who had already warmed up, and he was replaced by left-handed reliever Brandon Hughes, who was making his first career start.

But at least there was a baseball game where Matt Hilton became America's most famous beekeeper.

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