Where Do Things Stand With the Pioneer League and the PaddleHeads?
What a bummer for the Missoula PaddleHeads when they went through all the time and effort of rebranding just to see the 2020 season canceled. They didn't even get to play a game to officially show off the new uniforms. The one positive of not having a summer full of baseball is the team has been able to provide a bunch of events for the community to enjoy at Ogren park. Hopefully you've been able to check out a trivia night, movie night, or Friday Happy Hour.
Unfortunately, the pandemic wiping out the season was just one of the issues the PaddleHeads have faced. That pesky little detail of Major League Baseball and Minor League baseball reaching an agreement has popped up and then settled down multiple times. If you remember, the threat has been that the Pioneer League could lose its affiliation with MLB if a deal isn't reached. It all comes from MLB hoping to cut about 40 teams from the the minor leagues when the 30-year agreement expires at the end of September.
MLB has been a bit busy as they're in the middle of their shortened 60-game season that has included plenty of setbacks with players and team personnel contacting the coronavirus. So I guess we can't blame them for not having an answer to the issue that affects us yet. The good news is MLB and MiLB reportedly started conversations after a hiatus of more than four months. Hey, you have to start somewhere, right?
Ownership from multiple Pioneer League teams, including the PaddleHeads, have expressed beliefs that their teams will be playing baseball when the 2021 season rolls around - with or without a connection to Major League Baseball.
It sounds like the waters are still pretty murky when it comes to what will happen with Pioneer League baseball next season. But the important part seems to be that discussions have kicked up again between the two sides. There's much more information on the baseball battle in this Missoulian article, including the following thoughts from MLB commissioner Rob Manfred last week:
“We intend to play baseball in the communities where it exists, and we intend to play baseball in a way that it continues to grow the sport,” Manfred told the Times. “In a lot of ways, I think pro prospect leagues would be every bit as good, if not better and more interesting, than what exists there now.”
Those words from the commissioner sound somewhat promising. We'll see if the actions back up the talk before the start of baseball season in 2021.