Bee Game: Dodgers and Diamondbacks delayed due to bee swarm

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A bee keeper removes a swarm of bees gathered on the net behind home plate delaying the start of a baseball game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks, Tuesday, April 30, 2024, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX – A swarm of bees created quite a baseball buzzkill in the desert — and gave Arizona Diamondbacks fans a new hero.

The start of Tuesday night's game between the Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers was delayed nearly two hours after a bee colony swarmed the top of the protective netting behind home plate.

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Matt Hilton turned into the star of the night for removing the bees, earning a brief slice of stardom and the nod to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

“Minor leagues to the big leagues now,” said Hilton, branch manager for Blue Sky Pest Control's Phoenix office. “It's pretty cool.”

The buzz started about five minutes before first pitch.

Mike Rock, the Diamondbacks vice president of baseball operations, got a call from the senior manager of events telling him a growing colony of bees was collecting atop the netting.

“She doesn’t usually call me about that time. I knew something was odd,” Rock said. “She said we have bees landing on the net right behind home plate. I said, How many? And she said, hundreds — no way, thousands. And I knew we had a problem.”

Bee swarms are common during the spring in Arizona and have caused numerous spring training delays through the years. A bee swarm also caused a lengthy delay in a match between Carlos Alcaraz and Alexander Zverev at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California, last month.

Chase Field has a retractable roof, but it was open for Tuesday’s game, so the bees had free reign.

Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts met with the umpires shortly after the delay began and the public address announcer told the crowd about the delay.

Rock and his team had already put the bee-removal wheels in motion.

Hilton was at his son Levi's final T-ball game of the season when he got the call. He lives in Surprise, nearly 45 minutes from downtown Phoenix, so he quickly grabbed his beekeeping gear and hit the road.

“There was zero traffic, thankfully,” Hilton said.

At the stadium, the fans started getting antsy — bee-sy? — while waiting for a beekeeper to arrive, cheering as a grounds crew member wheeled a scissor lift onto the field and positioned it just below the bees. The sections behind home plate were cleared for safety reasons and Rock consulted with Major League Baseball on whether to wait or postpone the game.

Hilton arrived about 70 minutes after the scheduled first pitch and pumped up the already-cheering crowd as he rode in on a cart from right field. Hilton suited up then rose toward the swarm, causing more cheers.

With another quick wave to pump up the crowd, he stunned the bees with spray and started sucking them up with a shop vac as Bonnie Tyler's “Holding Out for a Hero” blared through the loudspeakers. Hilton hit the last few stragglers with more spray before lowering back onto the field, pumping his fist as the crowd cheered again.

The delay lasted nearly 90 minutes and was extended another 30 to make sure all the bees were gone and so the players could loosen back up.

The Diamondbacks switched starting pitchers after the delay, from Jordan Montgomery to Brandon Hughes.

Hilton had to switch gears while making a stadium call, getting a tap from the “bee-pen” to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

“I thought I was just going to do my thing and cruise out, but it was fun because of the thousands of people cheering for you,” he said. “It was a little nerve-racking, I’m not going to lie — a lot of pressure to get this game going.”

Of course, he wore his beekeeper suit for the toss.



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