By Bruce Sayler
Butte will be looking at the first pitch Wednesday, taking a good look at what kind of stuff the pitcher has to offer.
A college summer baseball league executive is due in town to meet with Butte-Silver Bow Parks and Recreation Director J.P. Gallagher and probably other local officials about bringing a league franchise to The Mining City.
Rapid City, South Dakota, businessman Steve Wagner is launching the Expedition League this summer with eight Great Plains region teams. It will be a wood bat league. He is eyeing fast expansion with Bute among the target cities for beginning play in 2019, Gallagher said.
The team would play at 3 Legends Stadium in Copper Mountain Youth Sports Park.
“We would have to make some additions,” Gallagher said at the January meeting of Advantage Butte held Tuesday at the Butte Plaza Inn. “We would have to add seating. They require 1,000, but we built the stadium with possible expansion in mind.”
The ballpark opened last May and seats about 550 persons.for American Legion baseball games.
The Expedition League is described as a future collegiate summer baseball league. Players would be amateurs in college programs, unpaid and not yet draft eligible, or looking to enhance their skills. It organizned last May and has set a schedule for beginning play this summer.
Current members are the Badlands Big Sticks of Dickinson, North Dakota; Hub City Hotshots of Aberdeen, South Dakota; Pierre (South Dakota) Trappers; Souris Valley Sabre Dogs of Minot, North Dakota; Casper (Wyoming) Horseheads; Hastings (Nebraska) Sodbusters; Spearfish (South Dakota) Sasquatch; and the Western Nebraska Pioneers of Gehring.
Gallagher said Wagner is looking to expand into former Pioneer League cities. Butte was a member of the professional Class A rookie league 1978-2000 before the franchise moved first to Casper, and since to Grand Junction, Colorado. Helena will lose its Pioneer League team this year with the decision already made to move the Brewers to Colorado Springs, Colorado, in 2019. Colorado Springs’ Triple-A franchise is headed to San Antonio, Texas, after this summer, giving the Helena team the spot.
Butte has long enjoyed American Legion baseball summers, but no adult baseball since the Pioneer League Copper Kings vacated the premises. They had played a since removed Alumni Coliseum ballpark on the Montana Tech campus.
Gallagher said Wagner is looking at Helena as a potential location for Expedition League play as well as Kalispell, and eastern Idaho.
The Expedition League Website lists Rapid City as a 2019 potential franchise start as well as possible expansion also to Brandon, Manitoba, Canada; Gillette, Wyoming; Grand Forks, North Dakota; Kearney, Nebraska; and Williston, North Dakota.
The site lists Wagner as league president, Connie Wagner as director and Mitch Messer as vice president of operations.
Each team is to play a 64-game schedule that begins in May and ends in mid-August.