Pioneer League Baseball to Stay in Montana, Tester Announces

Senator worked with MLB and ball clubs in Billings, Great Falls, and Missoula to reach agreement

U.S. Senator Jon Tester today announced an agreement between Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Pioneer League to keep Montana’s baseball clubs in Billings, Great Falls, and Missoula in Montana.

“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.”

Under the agreement, the Pioneer League has been designated a “Partner League” of MLB. Starting in 2021, the Pioneer League will transition from affiliated status to an independent professional MLB Partner League that continues to provide high-quality baseball to the states of Montana, Idaho, Utah and Colorado. 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. 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.

Tester has fought hard to keep baseball in Montana, and he was slated to host a meeting with MLB executives in Montana before the COVID-19 outbreak. Recently, he urged MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred to maintain and expand the Pioneer League in Montana, outlining the positive impact of Montana’s Minor League teams have on their communities and local economies. He also urged MLB not to abandon Montana and met with Deputy MLB Commissioner of Baseball Administration Dan Halem to discuss the League’s proposal. Tester, a Montreal Expos—and later, Washington Nationals—fan since the 1980s, would watch games broadcast from Canada after long days working on his farm in Big Sandy.

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. Montana’s Pioneer League ball clubs build connections between Treasure State communities and baseball, and dozens of small businesses invest in marketing with Montana’s teams to support the franchises and grow their customer bases.