BUTTE — The nondescript, aging Quonset hut located behind St. Ann's Church is sure easy to miss. But inside, Jim LeProwse is in the process of forging what he hopes will be a championship caliber team.
With the fields around town still thawing, Butte High's first-ever baseball teams (a JV and varsity squad) are practicing indoors in preparation for their scheduled season openers at 3 Legends Stadium against Belgrade on March 30. Weather permitting, of course.
The indoor facility has a pair of batting cages, three pitching mounds and plenty of adjustable turf to work on corralling ground balls.
"It's a great facility," said LeProwse, Butte's head coach. "We're able to do everything but outfield drills. Obviously the best situation is to be outside. But you couldn't ask for much better than what we have here."
The Bulldogs, along with the other 20 teams that comprise this inaugural Montana high school baseball season, are heading into uncharted waters. But a majority of its players, as well its coach, are plenty familiar with winning.
LeProwse took over the Butte Miners last season, a program that a few years ago was compelled to drop from Class AA to A due to dwindling participation numbers and a lack of success at the higher level.
Even in the Class A ranks, the Miners continued to struggle. But LeProwse turned things around in a hurry, helping guide his team to a district championship, its first state title since 1953 and then its first ever regional crown.
With 11 players from that championship squad now on Butte High's varsity roster, LeProwse is eager to see what the Bulldogs can do in their first season as they set their sights on locking up a berth to a state tournament that will unfold on their home field.
"I think it's gonna be a great season," said LeProwse. "We've got a lot of the kids that I've coached in the past, some that were part of the Legion program, and then some new guys that are really good. I'm excited to see where this program can go."
LeProwse has full confidence in his players, and that feeling is mutual, especially for the Legion players who were part of last summer's magical run to a regional championship.
"You gotta follow what (LeProwse) says," said senior designated hitter Zach Tierney. "If you follow what he says, we win."
For players who are accustomed to beginning their baseball season after the school year ends, it's going to be an adjustment to take the field on what could very well be a frigid March afternoon. But the excitement of being part of history will more than make up for the cold.
"I feel like it'll be really cold," said freshman Cayde Stajcar. "But with adrenaline you won't feel anything. I'm just excited to play."