Pest control hero saves Dodgers-D-backs game from bees

May 1st, 2024

PHOENIX -- A few hours before ’s second homer of the game gave the D-backs a 4-3 walk-off win over the Dodgers in the 10th inning, a crucial series of events was about to start unfolding at a different type of ballgame on the Westside of the Valley.

A tee ball game was just getting started at Surprise Stadium, spring home of the Rangers and Royals, and Matt Hilton was settling in to watch his 6-year-old son, Levi, play the final game of the season.

Meanwhile, 23 miles away in downtown Phoenix, there was a problem at Chase Field. With five minutes to go before the start of the D-backs-Dodgers game, a swarm of bees had descended upon the top of the protective netting behind home plate.

D-backs vice president of operations Mike Rock was alerted to the problem, and he told both managers that there would be a delay. The danger was that a foul ball that hit near that area would disturb the bees and cause them to move down toward fans or players.

While discussions were going on between Major League Baseball and the two organizations, Rock placed a desperate phone call to Blue Sky Pest Control.

Did they have someone who could come to safely and humanely remove the bees?

Hilton got the phone call as the tee ball game was getting underway. He immediately hopped into his truck and started for Chase Field.

"Well, we know that this was really important to get these games going, and so when we hear that there's bee issues out at [the] Diamondbacks’ stadium, we [snaps fingers] tried to get at it right away,” said Hilton. “We were happy to deploy really quickly and come get this game going."

It took Hilton 30 minutes to get to Chase Field. While en route, he talked D-backs personnel through what he would need so they could get the scissor lift and other equipment ready for him. He also told them they would have to allow another 30 or so minutes after he removed the bees for everything to calm down before they could start the game.

Umpires met with both managers, and Rock said there was talk about postponing the game when they learned how long it would take, but it was decided they would play.

Once Hilton arrived at the ballpark, he was ushered into a cart and driven onto the field, where he received a standing ovation from the crowd.

"I wasn't [expecting that],” Hilton said. “I thought I was just going to do my thing and cruise out. But it was fun."

Indeed, he played to the crowd, waving his arms for them to make more noise. As the scissor lift took him up toward where the bees were gathered, Bonnie Tyler's “Holding Out for a Hero” blared over the public address system.

Hilton sprayed the bees with a non-pesticide and removed them into a vacuum for later release.

After he did that and the scissor lift lowered him down, the crowd began to chant, “M-V-P! M-V-P!”

"It was a little nerve-wracking, I'm not going to lie,” Hilton said. “Lot of pressure to get this game going. But I was happy to come and take care of it."

Hilton’s work, though, was not done for the evening, as he was asked to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. He then did media interviews and appeared on multiple broadcasts. His phone began to blow up as he heard from family and friends who saw him on TV.

"I think he was probably a little bummed that I left a little early,” Hilton said of his son. “But I think he's OK with it now."

The game started at 8:35 p.m. MST, one hour and 55 minutes after its scheduled start time. The Dodgers made a slight change in their starting lineup but still had Landon Knack start.

“I've never seen something like that, but I'm happy we got the game in,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “... It was a crazy situation, but I thought that the Diamondbacks and that [bee keeper] did a nice job of taking care of the situation in a timely manner.”

The D-backs, meanwhile, left their lineup the same, but since scheduled starter Jordan Montgomery had already completed his warmups before the delay, they moved Montgomery to Wednesday and switched to a bullpen game, with lefty Brandon Hughes pitching the first inning.

The train of relievers did their part keeping a potent Dodgers lineup relatively at bay, biding time for Walker to deliver the first walk-off home run of his career and even this series.

D-backs manager Torey Lovullo had a message for Walker before he went to the plate in the 10th.

"It's one of those fun baseball moments," Lovullo said. "I told him to hit one to the [expletive] moon. I said you're locked in, nobody's a better hitter on this field at this point in time."