The “independent” Pioneer League has released its first schedule as a not affiliated league. In November last year, it was announced the league would become a partner league of MLB but it would not be part of affiliated ball anymore.
The eight teams of the league will each play a 96-game schedule (20 more that the previous seasons), which will start on May 22nd, almost a month earlier than the league used to start. The Missoula Paddle Heads will be hosting Great Falls Voyagers, the Billings Mustangs will travel to Idaho Falls, to face the Chukars, the Ogden raptors will host newcomer Boise Hawks and Rocky Mountain Vibes (from Colorado Springs) will host Grand Junction Rockies. The schedule will finish on Sept. 10 and will be followed by playoffs.
The ninth team of the league, the Northern Colorado Owlz, will not play this season as their new ballpark in Windsor Co. is not ready yet. Pretty remarkable as the construction of the complex started in October 2017. The projected capacity of the new ballpark neared 10,000, so it would be a good fit for AAA ball but according to Wikipedia, the capacity will be only 2,800, a much better fit for a league that used to play short season rookie ball.
The Northern Colorado Owlz, coming from Orem, made an announcement last week regarding sitting out the 2021 season: “Our priority is the health of our team, supporters and community,” Casey Katofsky, Owlz co-owner and Future Legends director of operations, said in the release. “The Northern Colorado community deserves its first professional baseball game to be an unforgettable experience surrounded by friends, family and other fans. As an ownership group, given the restrictions of the pandemic, we didn’t see that happening in 2021.”
Surprising feat: The Rocky Mountain Vibes will not travel to the Boise Hawks during the upcoming season.
The league will feature games Wednesdays-Mondays, with Tuesday as an off-day. Teams will either play six-game series or three-game series. But the majority of teams opts for six-game series.