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Billings Public Schools trustees approve addition of baseball for spring of 2025

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Posted at 10:12 PM, Dec 18, 2023

BILLINGS — School District 2 in Billings approved the addition of baseball as a sanctioned high school varsity sport at a regularly scheduled board meeting Monday night.

The district — which includes Senior, Skyview and West high schools — will have the opportunity to offer baseball beginning in the spring of 2025.

According to the Board Chair's report posted on the BPS website, the SD2 activities department is proposing the implementation of self-funding its baseball teams for the first three seasons. According to the report, the startup costs and first-year expenses for baseball in 2025 will amount to roughly $244,000.

District activities director Mark Sulser told MTN Sports on Monday night that Billings Public Schools' participation in baseball will be contingent on its ability to raise enough funds.

"My recommendation is to create policy stating that new and emerging sports would be self-funded for the first three years, starting with baseball," Sulser said. "One of the biggest hurdles is funding, and this formula allows (us) to take that off the plate of the district and give the district time to develop a plan for funding in the future."

"The deadline for committing to baseball is Sept. 1, so there will be a lot of fundraising efforts between now and early July to assure that we can have startup costs and Year-1 funding in place."

Another question that has loomed over baseball's potential in Billings has concerned facilities. Sulser said the initial plan is for practices to be held at the Musburger fields off of 32nd Street West, at the fields on the corner of 8th Street West and Central Avenue, and at Clevenger Park off of Hilltop Road in The Heights.

For home games, Sulser said the hope is for SD2 to come to an agreement to share Pirtz Field with the Billings American Legion Baseball program, and to have funds in place to potentially use Dehler Park for crosstown matchups.

The Montana High School Association adopted baseball in January 2022 and the sport's inaugural varsity season was played last spring. Twenty-one teams from across the state competed in four divisions, with an all-class state tournament being held in May in Butte.

Polson defeated Whitefish to win the first all-class state baseball championship.

Only two Class AA schools — Belgrade and Butte — competed in baseball in its inaugural season last spring. Last month, Missoula County Public Schools voted to add baseball. With Billings' and Missoula's expected participation, Class AA would grow to eight teams for the 2025 season.

Billings Public Schools initially voted against implementing baseball within SD2 in the fall of 2022, noting at the time that it would not add the sport until at least 2025.

Sulser said Monday night's vote by SD2 trustees was unexpected.

"I was hoping that we would get the (funding) policy done for new and emerging sports, but I think what the board felt is that it was only a matter of time, so we might as well act and get started," he said.