The Pioneer League team comes out to congratulate Missoula’s Luke Lowery after he handily won the home run derby during the Northwest League-Pioneer League all-star game on Aug. 4, 2015 at Avista Stadium. The Pioneer League lost affiliated status and was named as an MLB “partner league” on Monday, Nov. 30, 2020.

As part of Major League Baseball’s reorganization of the minor leagues after the expiration of the Professional Baseball Agreement earlier this fall, things will look a little different for the eight-team Pioneer League – headquartered in Spokane with teams in Idaho, Montana, Utah and Colorado – when baseball can safely resume during or after the pandemic.

The Pioneer League has been designated a “Partner League” of MLB, the league and MLB announced Monday. The move eliminates MLB affiliation from the clubs and will transform the former Rookie Advanced league into an independent summer amateur wood bat league.

MLB has eliminated the “Rookie Advanced” designation as part of its reorganization.

All eight Pioneer League teams – the Billings Mustangs, Grand Junction Rockies, Great Falls Voyagers, Idaho Falls Chukars, Missoula PaddleHeads, Ogden Raptors, Northern Colorado Owlz and Rocky Mountain Vibes – will transfer to the new format and maintain their current branding, though the Owlz will relocate from Orem, Utah, to Windsor, Colorado.

The league will play a 92-game regular-season schedule, beginning in late May and ending in early September.

MLB also announced that it will initially fund the Pioneer League’s operating expenses, provide scouting technology to all eight ballparks and create a procedure for player transfers to MLB organizations.

In addition, MLB announced Monday a wood-bat “Draft League” will launch with five teams, and possibly a sixth, mostly from the remains of the former short-season A New York/Penn League – which like the Pioneer League lost affiliate status. The teams will be comprised of top draft prospects.

The Spokane Indians, which reportedly will remain in a truncated, six-team Northwest League in Advanced Class A, should find out more information about their situation and affiliation in the near future.