Major League Baseball is in danger of missing opening day on March 31 due to continued wrangling between the owners and the players association.

However, Minor League teams like the Pioneer Champion Missoula Paddleheads have no worries for their season.

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President of the Missoula Paddleheads Matt Ellis spoke to KGVO News recently about how his team is preparing for the upcoming season.

“From the Missoula Paddleheads perspective first of all, major league baseball is going to have the minor leagues regardless,” said Ellis. “In fact, minor league players are reporting next week on and we're independent now with the contraction of Major League Baseball. We're a partner league so we sign our own players and our team is signed In fact, we've got 37 guys under contract ready to come to spring training on May 15.”

Ellis said the new minor league model is ideal for a team like the Paddleheads who are the defending league champions.

“That's exciting,” he said. “It's been a fun process. We really love the independent model in place where the Pioneer League has put itself in terms of professional baseball. We've had two players signed by major league teams over the last two weeks so we're obviously bringing in quality talent.”

Ellis said the new model allows his team to recruit and sign older, more experienced players.

“Our play is better than it used to be as a Diamondback affiliate, mainly because our players are older,” he said. “A lot of them have played in professional baseball for years already, when in the past they were all rookies. Plus, we're able to control our own destiny with the players that we scout and sign. I've got an amazing coaching staff led by Michael Schlact, who's been heading our player signings, and he does an amazing job for us. We've been really successful and I think that shows in the fact that we had the best record in all professional baseball including the Major Leagues winning percentage last year.”

Ellis said there are other major advantages to the current minor league model.

“The nice thing about this new model is we don't lose everybody to the next level like we used to when they don't move up to the major league teams then we tend to be able to keep the ones that we want to keep and that's been the case this year,” he said. “Because of that our fans are going to see a lot more continuity, similar to what they see with Grizzly sports where players are coming back, and I think that creates better bonds with our community and with our fans to follow these guys and we're excited about that.”

The first home stand for the defending Pioneer League champion Paddleheads will be May 25th through the 27th as they host the Billings Mustangs at Ogren Park.

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