Major league pressed to preserve Pioneer League
News from the office of Senator Tester
BIG SANDY — As the agreement that has kept professional baseball in play across Montana reaches its expiration date, U.S. Senator Jon Tester is pressing Major League Baseball officials to step up to the plate and commit to preserving the Pioneer League.
In a letter to MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred, Tester is urging MLB to negotiate a new contract with Minor League Baseball that maintains and expands the Pioneer League in Montana, outlining the positive impact of Montana’s minor league teams on their communities and local economies.
“I hear from local officials in my state about the heartbreak the absence of the Pioneer League could have on their communities’ fans and businesses,” Tester wrote. “I strongly believe the future of MLB will also be harmed by pulling out of rural states like Montana. A baseball fan pays the same amount for an MLB.TV subscription whether they live in Manhattan, Montana or Manhattan, New York. MLB should not walk away from its rural fans.”
The Professional Baseball Agreement between MLB and minor league teams expires Sept. 30, 2020, potentially signaling the end of professional baseball in Montana. Last fall, MLB stated their intention to restructure the minor league system, leading to a proposal that would eliminate more than 40 MiLB teams, including the Billings Mustangs, Great Falls Voyagers, Missoula Osprey, and the remainder of the Pioneer League.
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.