Butte Miners coach Jeff LeProwse has a new nickname.
It is not a very nice one, but his friends cannot stop laughing about it.
The new handle originated during a recent doubleheader in Helena. During the second game, while sitting on a chair outside the dugout, LeProwse heard the words “Hey (bleep) face,” coming from behind him.
Figuring it was one of his buddies, LeProwse turned around. Instead of a friendly face, the coach saw a mother of a now former player. She was an angry elf.
“Hey (bleep) face,” she said again before reading LeProwse the proverbial riot act.
The mom really let LeProwse have it. Unfortunately, none of the witnesses could remember what she said. They were too hung up on what she called the coach.
It was so forceful and so shocking that the name is going to stick.
Assistant coach Matt Esquibel is one of the many who will make sure of that. The following morning, Esquibel called LeProwse to say, “Good morning, (Bleep) Face.”
While the dissatisfied mother will certainly disagree, LeProwse does not deserve such a nickname. For the most part, LeProwse is a soft-spoken, mild-mannered guy who is hard to dislike.
His friends call him Frenchy, and how can you not like a guy called Frenchy?
Now, he is “(Bleep) Face.”
Aside from being a nice guy, LeProwse has been possibly the most important coach in the Mining City for his sport over the past decade. It is safe to say that nobody has done more for any sports team than LeProwse has done for the Butte Miners.
The Miners might not exist if it was not for LeProwse.
LeProwse took over the program in 2012. The Butte American Legion Baseball program was so down in numbers that season that they dropped the lower-level Muckers. They barely fielded one team.
Things got even worse the next year when the Miners lost their home. They had to leave Montana Tech’s Alumni Coliseum because the Orediggers were putting in an artificial turf at Alumni Coliseum.
In 2013, the Miners were a team without a league, too. Butte had 16 too many students in 10th through 12th grade to play in Class A. They did not have the players to compete in the Class AA.
So, Butte played all the teams in the Southern A Division, but their games did not count in the standings. Also, the Miners were not allowed to play in the district tournament.
Not one to let his team end the season in such an unceremonious fashion, LeProwse instead took the Miners to play as “Team Montana” in the 2013 Western Region Big League Baseball Tournament in Bremerton, Washington.
The Miners did not win the tournament, but that trip — and the effort put into it — just might have been enough to make a few players come back the next year.
That was the first of four seasons that the Miners and Muckers played on a field without lights or grandstands at Copper Mountain. That meant no night games and a lot of snickering from opponents once the team returned to Class AA play.
While the baseball was good, the atmosphere at the Miners home away from home did not live up to that of a Little League game.
When he wasn’t focused on the team, LeProwse, who has burned all of his vacation time on coaching the Miners the last nine season, was working to find a new home for the Miners.
On May 26, 2017, the Miners opened Miners Field at 3 Legends Stadium with a 12-5 win over the Dillon Cubs.
One day, LeProwse, who helped send a handful of players to college baseball in his years with the Miners, will be mentioned in the same breath as the three Butte Legion legends — Jack Cavanaugh, Jim “Fonz” Hanley and Judge Jack Whelan — for the work put in to save the program.
He certainly did not get the stadium built by himself, but it sure would not have been complete without him. Actually, the program might have gone away if it was not for the fact that LeProwse simply refused to quit.
In 2013, when the Miners had their field yanked out from beneath them, nobody would have blamed LeProwse and the players if they would have just bagged it.
Who knows if the Miners would have ever come back if it was not for those players and coaches who loved the game too much to let it go away?
Not only did they not go away, the Miners built themselves into bona fide contenders.
Butte will end a 10-day break Wednesday night when they play at home against the Dillon Cubs. The Miners are 7-3 in conference and 8-8 overall after winning seven of their last eight games.
It is too early to declare the Miners favorites to win their first state title since the great Jim Kello led Butte to the 1953 crown, but the Miners’ exciting play has already helped make the summer of the pandemic somewhat bearable.
The Miners have the hitting, pitching and defense to make a nice run. They are also well coached thanks to LeProwse, Esquibel and Luke Stajcar.
With coaches Brad Rutherford and Dyllan “Kruk” Lane leading the way, the younger Muckers are doing pretty good, too, at 7-2.
Since LeProwse is the president of Butte’s Legion program, he deserves praise for the Muckers’ success as well. Instead, he is called (bleep) face.
That, as they say, is the way it goes for coaches. Even if you are in a championship run, you will be ridiculed and second guessed by parents who do not understand what all goes into running a program.
One coach I know used to lose sleep when it came time to cut players. It really hurt him to go through with what he saw as the toughest part of the job
He would meet personally with each player he cut and explain to him why he was cut and what he could work on to have a better chance of making the team the next year.
One year, the school received a letter from an angry mom threatening to sue the coach and the school if there was not a resignation, firing, suspension or all three. The crime, the mom said, was that the coach did not have grief counselors on hand when informing the players of the cuts.
I can tell you from experience what it is like to be cut from a basketball team. I am one of the very few players to be cut by both the Butte Central Maroons and Butte High Bulldogs, and there was no grief counselor to be seen.
No coach lost sleep about cutting me. Not one time did I get an explanation or advice from a coach. Neither time did I get any kind of acknowledgement of my effort or a “better luck next year.”
Instead, I found out I was cut from the team when my name did not appear on a list posted outside the coach’s office.
Actually, I did not even get that at Butte Central.
Brian Doherty saw the list before I did. As I was walking down the sophomore hall at BC, I ran into Brian, who did his best impression of Nelson from the Simpsons.
“Ha, ha,” Brian said. “You got cut.”
Unfortunately, I did not think fast enough to call him (bleep) face.
— For more stories and columns from Bill Foley, go to ButteSports.com, where you can also find Bruce Sayler and up-to-the-minute news on the Bulldogs, Maroons, Orediggers and more. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.