COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Pioneer League jointly announced Monday that the Pioneer League has been designated a “Partner League” of MLB.
Monday's announcement said that beginning 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."
The announcement means all eight members of the Pioneer League, including the Grand Junction Rockies and Colorado Springs' Rocky Mountain Vibes, will continue participating in the league and will maintain their existing team names and brands in 2021.
The Owlz, formerly of Orem, Utah, will be moving to Windsor, Colorado and will become the Northern Colorado Owlz in 2021.
"We look forward to serving the Northern Colorado community and providing high level competition and affordable family fun, alongside youth sports and entertainment," said Northern Colorado Owlz owner Jeff Katofsky. "This new MLB Partnership League lays a strong foundation for a revamped Pioneer League, and we look forward to competing with fellow teams — and hopefully winning a championship! — next season.”
In addition to the Rockies, Vibes and Owlz, the other members of the Pioneer League are the Billings Mustangs, the Great Falls Voyagers, the Idaho Falls Chukars, the Missoula PaddleHeads and the Ogden Raptors.
In the new partnership, the Pioneer League will collaborate with MLB to provide organized baseball to communities throughout the Western U.S. and Canada, according to a release.
“I couldn’t be more excited for Grand Junction to remain a home for Professional Baseball," said U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Colorado). "I wish the Rockies the best of luck this upcoming season and am excited for a bright future for baseball-loving fans in Western Colorado."
“I was so excited to hear of the partnership between the Pioneer League and Major League Baseball," said Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers. "The Rocky Mountain Vibes are an integral part of our community and we can’t wait to see the team back out at the ballpark next summer.”
“This is a proud moment for the Pioneer League and Grand Junction," said Grand Junction Mayor Duke Wortmann. "After a tough year economically, we couldn’t be happier to hear the news of the team staying here. We can’t wait to get out and support our local baseball team next summer."
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 leagues announced Monday.
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.
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