Major League Baseball and the Pioneer League jointly announced today that 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 Idaho, Montana, Utah and Colorado. All eight members of the Pioneer League – the Billings Mustangs, the Grand Junction Rockies, the Great Falls Voyagers, the Idaho Falls Chukars, the Missoula Paddleheads, the Ogden Raptors, the Northern Colorado Owlz and the Rocky Mountain Vibes – 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 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.
Today’s announcement follows the late September announcement of the Appalachian League’s evolution into the premier college wood bat league for the nation’s top rising freshmen and sophomores, as well as today’s unveiling of the new MLB Draft League in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, West Virginia and Ohio. These are both part of MLB’s broader efforts to modernize player development while preserving baseball in the local communities in which it is currently played.
Morgan Sword, MLB’s Executive Vice President, Baseball Economics & Operations, said: “Over the past year, we have worked closely with Pioneer League owners and elected officials to ensure the continued success of baseball in the Mountain West. We’re excited to support this new initiative and look forward to Pioneer League baseball returning in 2021.”
The Pioneer League joins the Atlantic League, the American Association and the Frontier League as an MLB Partner League. Each Partner League covers a different geographic area in the United States and Canada and attracts players of varying levels of experience. All Partner Leagues provide communities with high-quality professional baseball and share MLB’s goal of growing participation and engagement with baseball and softball.