Minor League History: Mount Rainier Professional Baseball League, the league that wasn’t meant to be

It has been a while since the last episode. In today’s edition of Minor League History we pay attention to a very short lived professional baseball league that lasted less than two weeks. The Mount Rainier Professional Baseball League.

The Official Logo of the MRPBL.jpg

If you know the geography of the United States, you will know that this league operated in the American Northwest. The league fielded six teams, four from the State of Washington, one from Montana and one from Oregon.

Cities represented:

Ellensburg WA, Ellesburg Bulls
Hoquiam WA, Grays Harbor Gulls
Moses Lake WA, Moses Lake Rattlesnakes
Mount Vernon WA, Skagit Valley Lumberjacks
Oregon City OR, Oregon City Mud Turtles
Whitefish MT, Glacier Outlaws

The MRPBL was founded in 2014 and started to play at the end of May, 2015 but after less than two weeks, the competition ceased activities. From the beginning everything went wrong. Not only were some of the teams uniforms not ready before the start of the season, teams were having a hard time to find host families for the players.

On May 20, the Skagit Valley Lumberjacks were sitting on a bus waiting to make the nine-hour drive to Whitefish to play the Glacier Outlaws in one of the premiere games of the new Mount Rainier Professional Baseball League. But there was no driver available and after waiting for eight hours the players checked into a hotel room for the night.

When the players finally tracked down a driver the next day, the bus broke down. Eventually the team made it to Whitefish but the season opener was delayed by an hour. None of the teams had uniforms and they had to borrow balls from the local legion baseball team.

If those were the biggest problems the league had to deal with, it would not have been that bad. But commissioner/owner of the league, Mike Green admitted that he was unprepared for running a league like this. In the first few days, Green did not communicate or show his face at all due to a medical emergency.

While the Glacier Outlaws were able to play their first series against Skagit Valley, the second series of games against the Ellensburg Bulls, scheduled to start on Memorial Day, were delayed because the team did not have gas money to get to Whitefish. The following day, May 26, a father of one of the Bulls’ players was so kind to offer gas money for the entire team to carpool to Whitefish in their own vehicles. The Ellensburg team stayed in Whitefish for two of the scheduled four games before going home because of the uncertainty about the league’s future.

The Outlaws lost their first away game and things got worse when they went back to the hotel to clean up: they had been locked out of their rooms because the league’s credit card had been declined. The manager scraped together some money so that some players could get rooms, while others stayed with friends. One may wonder how the Outlaws still managed to play nine games, let alone the other teams.

A press release stated that the league needed at least 300 fans per game to stay financially alive. On June 1, another press release was published in which it was announced that the league would scale down from six to four teams. Players from the remaining teams would be granted release from their contracts upon request and players on eliminated teams would be reassigned to the remaining teams, which would potentially require expanding the roster sizes. But in the same press release, it was announced that the remaining teams would have 24 roster spots instead of the original 25.

Soon teams folded as the league fell apart amid reports of players not being paid and teams not having gas money to travel to games. Only eight to ten games per team were played during the failed season. The league officially disbanded on June 13, 2015 after its website shut down, its social media accounts were deleted and its commissioner, Mike Greene, could not be reached.

Ellensburg Bulls General Manager Keith Marshall stated in the Daily Record News, he believes Greene lost thousands trying to get the league started. Marshall never got his paycheck and money to pay his manager and players. Marshall basically decided to gamble his life savings on these kids to fulfill their dreams. “He (Greene) is a baseball man, but not a business guy, and that was his flaw,” Marshall said.


Final standings of the 2015 MRPBL

East Division
TeamWLPct.GB
Ellensburg Bulls63.667
Glacier Outlaws54.5561.0
Moses Lake Rattlesnakes37.3003.5
West Division
TeamWLPct.GB
Skagit Valley Lumberjacks54.556
Oregon City Mud Turtles44.5000.5
Grays Harbor Gulls45.4441.0

Sources: Wikipedia, ballpark-reference.com, Flathead Beacon, Daily Record News

4 Replies to “Minor League History: Mount Rainier Professional Baseball League, the league that wasn’t meant to be”

  1. I broadcast a handful of games on radio involving the original Western Baseball League’s Grays Harbor Gulls in the 1990s and well remember this league’s brief appearance. The MRPBL was a well-intended effort but lacked both adequate funding and coherent organization from the beginning and its eventual demise was clearly a case of “when,” not “if.” It was a mess from the get-go.

    I’m not comfortable criticizing Mike Greene because I’d gone through a similar experience organizing a hockey team a few years before this and learned the hard way that there were a million more things to making it work than I’d thought of. I did pay all the bills on time but ended up losing a few thousand dollars and a LOT of sleep by the end. It’s not easy forming a successful league in any sport, let alone a single team. I feel sympathy and a sense of kinship for failed ventures strewn along the sports landscape (as well as respect for those who’ve made it work).

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I was only calling one home game every two weeks on tape delay (eight games total) on a college station in Centralia. As meager as that was, it was the only “home” play-by-play the Gulls got in 1997. That’s a fairly decent tale itself because I was fulfilling a childhood dream of announcing professional baseball on radio. I didn’t get paid for it so the experience ended up costing me money, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything and all eight broadcasts are stashed on a thumb drive now. And, yes, I do have a few stories.

        Like

  2. Thanks for keeping alive these the positive efforts of the players and coaches of the various failed independent minor leagues. Since 1993 over 30 leagues took the field (not counting 2020’s temporary leagues due to COVID) – but over 25 leagues have ceased to exist as the actual league (either due to merger or folding). The same applies for the near-400 independent teams which actually played at least 1 official game since the 1993 inception of independent professional baseball. Please keep up the great work to highlight the positives which otherwise would be lost to history.

    Liked by 1 person

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