A major announcement from the owners and management of the Missoula Paddleheads Professional Baseball Team revealed that they have signed a new agreement with Major League Baseball.

Vice President of Operations Matt Ellis said on Monday that they have agreed to become a member of the Major League Baseball Partner League.

“What started this whole thing is an announcement that they’re changing the way baseball is set up,” said Ellis. “They're going to reduce the number of affiliate teams within each major league organization by two, which was basically to eliminate short season baseball,  so we knew that there was an opportunity there from an independent standpoint where there's going to be a lot of players who formerly were signed in Major League organizations that weren't going to be employed anymore, so we've been talking to MLB about filling that gap, and that's how we came to being as the partner league.”

Ellis said the Paddleheads will no longer be affiliated with any one Major League franchise.

“We're not going to necessarily have a direct affiliation,” he said. “We're still working on the details, but we're going to have three ways to get the undrafted players. The draft has been reduced in size. So there's going to be players that were formerly drafted who are not going to be drafted, so we'll be have that pool to sign from. We also have players that have been released from major league organizations so we can find them and then the major league team can send us players under this agreement, however the details on how that would work has not been fleshed out.”

Ellis said the Missoula team will have more and better players and an expanded baseball schedule come this summer.

“It gives us a lot more flexibility in terms of player acquisition development,” he said I think our product is going to be better because I think our players are going to be for the most part a few years older and more experienced than what they were in the Pioneer League original format, so I think the quality of play is going to be better. We're going to play 92 games instead of 76, so we're going to see another eight home games added to our schedule which is exciting for us as well.”

Ellis said the Paddleheads organization worked hard over the past summer to keep the community focused, knowing that a new agreement would eventually be reached with Major League Baseball.

“The exciting thing about this last summer is that we reinvented ourselves a little bit in terms of being an event organization,” he said. “We're going to go from us being used 50 to 60 times a year to 100 times a year, and that's pretty exciting for us.”

The Paddleheads, formerly the Missoula Osprey, were affiliated with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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