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Minor League Baseball Is Changing In Spokane, The Inland West

Courtesy of the Pioneer League

Professional baseball in Spokane and the Inland West is undergoing some change. It may lead to a longer season in Spokane and a change in status for an 80-year-old league with a presence in Idaho and Montana.

Talks are underway that could change the status of the Northwest League, where the Spokane Indians have played since 1983. It has long been a league whose season began in June and whose teams play about 70 games a summer. The proposal would lengthen the season to more than 130 games and draw players whose skills are more advanced. Indians President Chris Duff says the team is still waiting to hear details, including the team's new major league affiliate. The Indians have been part of the Texas Ranger organization for the last 18 seasons.

One change announced on Monday involves the Pioneer League, whose president, Jim McCurdy, lives in Spokane. It will become what is known as an independent Partner League to Major League Baseball. Its teams, which include the Missoula Paddleheads and the Idaho Falls Chukars, would no longer be affiliated with major league teams. McCurdy says talks are ongoing to determine operational details, such as how the teams will procure players.

“For the fan that comes for the family fun at the ballpark and doesn’t keep up with the subtle nuances of the minor league system and looking at the quality of the players we think we have, there’s likely going to be very little difference," he said.

The Pioneer League has operated since 1939, the Northwest League since 1955.