Minor league baseball in Montana will continue on, after a recent agreement between Major League Baseball and the Pioneer League became official.
U.S. Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines both fought for the Pioneer League, which includes three teams in Montana, to stay affiliated in some way with the MLB.
“Big Sky Country is professional baseball country, which is why I am pleased to announce that I successfully worked with MLB and our minor league teams to keep America’s favorite pastime in Montana,” said Tester. “The roots of our Pioneer League clubs run deep, and I’m going to keep working to strengthen MLB’s relationship with our state so that baseball will continue to thrive in our communities and across rural America.”
“Professional baseball in Montana helps bring our communities together and drive our local economies,” Daines said. “I’m very glad that after months of negotiations, MLB and Montana’s minor league teams have come to an agreement to allow Great Falls, Missoula, and Billings to continue playing professional baseball in their communities. It was my privilege to fight for the future of Montana’s minor league teams, and I look forward to seeing the success of the league.”
Starting in 2021, the Pioneer League will transition from affiliated status to an independent professional MLB Partner League with teams in Montana, Idaho, Utah and Colorado, according to a press release from Tester’s office.
All eight members of the Pioneer League — including the Billings Mustangs, the Great Falls Voyagers, and the Missoula Paddleheads — will continue participating in the league and will maintain their existing team names and brands.
As a Partner League, the Pioneer League will collaborate with MLB on initiatives to provide organized baseball to communities throughout the Western U.S. and Canada.
MLB will provide initial funding for the league’s operating expenses, as well as install scouting technology in Pioneer League ballparks to provide MLB Clubs with first-class scouting information on Pioneer League players, according to the press release.
The agreement will also include a procedure for player transfers to MLB Clubs. The Leagues also will explore joint marketing, ticketing and fan engagement opportunities, according to the release.
Montana is one of only two states that does not have a single major league professional sports team, nor does it border a state that has a major league professional sports team.