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PL president ‘very optimistic’ on Kalispell expansion club

by FRITZ NEIGHBOR
Daily Inter Lake | July 20, 2021 8:52 PM

What looked to be a fairly quick process for Kalispell getting the OK for a Pioneer League expansion team has dragged on some, but first-year league president Mike Shapiro remains confident.

“We’re just waiting on some final details,” Shapiro told the Daily Inter Lake by phone Monday. “That’s just going through the application procedure and making sure every document is ready for the league vote. Then we’ll have the league vote.”

In late June that vote seemed imminent: This time Shapiro wouldn’t give a time frame, though he allowed it would behoove the league to have a 10th team in place for 2022. By then Fort Collins/Windsor, Colo. — the former Orem Owlz are relocating there, but didn’t play this season while their stadium was completed — will return to what is now an 8-team circuit.

Businessman Marty Kelly is the prospective owner of the Kalispell franchise. He has declined comment pending the vote.

Billings, Missoula, Great Falls and Idaho Falls make up the PL’s Northern Division; Ogden, Grand Junction, Boise and Colorado Springs (the Rocky Mountain Vibe) make up the Southern.

Ten teams mean no franchise sits out a day of play. That’s encouraging for Kalispell’s expansion team, making it more of a ”when” than an “if.”

“I wouldn’t classify it as dragging out,” Shapiro said. “I’d call it part of the normal process. I’m very optimistic. I think it’s going to work out the way it’s supposed to and I’m sure we’ll be moving along very shortly.

“I think everybody needs to have a little bit of patience and these things will work out.”

After 57 seasons as an Major League Baseball-affiliated organization, the PL is now an MLB “Partner League,” getting some funding but more reliant on its own gate receipts and concession/store sales for payroll.

No players selected in the recent MLB draft are headed to the PL, but since it’s been shortened from 40 rounds to 20, many talented players are available for partner league franchises.

Since this season began several PL players have had their contracts purchased by MLB teams, helping the partner teams’ bottom lines. The Northern Division champion Missoula PaddleHeads — they scored 14 unanswered runs to take a playoff-clinching 16-8 win over Billings Friday — have had four players signed. Billings has had three.