FARGO — While Jim Bennett is a seasoned veteran when it comes to professional baseball, as a player and coach, the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks manager experienced a first Monday night at Newman Outdoor Field.
When he was introduced over the public-address system pregame, Bennett walked onto the field and took a spot on the third-base line near home plate. It marked the first time during his pro career he has been a team manager for an home-opening game.
"It's the first time in front of a home crowd I have ever technically been a manager," Bennett said. "So that is fun."
The Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks played their home opener against the Milwaukee Milkmen in American Association play. The Milkmen scored three unearned runs in the sixth inning to fuel a 5-3 road victory before 2,623 fans.
"We'll rebound and try to clean up some things," said RedHawks right fielder Tim Colwell, who went 1-for-5. "It's early, but we've got to string some things together a little bit better. I feel good with the approach that we're all bringing to the table. We're going to keep working."
Bennett didn't finish his first home opener as manager on the bench. He was ejected in the seventh inning for arguing a safe call at first base that allowed a run to score and gave the Milkmen a 4-2 lead. Milwaukee is in its first season in the American Association. The RedHawks have a 1-3 record through four games.
Bennett pitched in the minor leagues for 13 years before starting his coaching career in 1992. He coached professionally until 2007 before taking off seven years for family reasons. He returned to coach pro baseball in 2014.
"Until the day I day, the home opener is always an exciting day," Bennett said. "Home openers, there's nothing like it. You're out there on the green grass. You're out there in front of your own fans. There's excitement in the air and you just want to put on a good show for your fans."
Early in Monday's game, RedHawks right-handed starter Michael Tamburino put on a good show for the home fans.
Tamburino cruised through the first five innings, retiring the first 15 batters he faced. Milkmen left fielder Adam Walker broke up Tamburino's perfect game and no-hitter, leading off the sixth inning with a ground-ball single into left field.
"Tambo was awesome," RedHawks right fielder Tim Colwell said. "He really gave us a good chance to win. He was really on fire there for awhile. ... We'll take that start every time."
Tamburino struck out seven batters over the first five innings before he ran into trouble in the sixth. The Milkmen loaded the bases with no outs after Sam Dexter's bunt single. Milwaukee scored three runs in the inning, all of which were unearned.
The Milkmen took a 3-2 lead in the sixth inning after Dexter scored from third base after RedHawks reliever Joe Filomeno threw the ball away on a pick-off attempt at first base.
Tamburino allowed two hits in 5 2/3 innings. He allowed three runs, all of which were unearned, while striking out eight batters and walking one.
The RedHawks led early. They took a 2-0 lead in the fifth inning after Brennan Metzger scored from third base on a double play ball. In the first inning, F-M built a 1-0 lead after a Leo Pina run-scoring single with two outs.
F-M added a run in the bottom of the seventh inning. Metzger scored after center fielder Devan Ahart drew a bases-loaded walk, cutting the Milwaukee lead to 4-3. The Milkmen added a run in the ninth inning for the final margin.
RedHawks opening-day starter Bradin Hagens had his contract purchased by the Arizona Diamondbacks. A right-hander Hagens is expected to be assigned to Arizona's Triple-A affiliate in Reno.
The RedHawks play Milwaukee at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 21, in the second game of a four-game series.
"I hope that what (the fans) do is see, is they're going to see guys that are going to play hard and play hard to win," Bennett said. "That's the atmosphere I think this clubhouse is creating."