GREAT FALLS — With the Pioneer League baseball season set to begin in a little more than a month, teams have been busy filling out rosters on their own now that the league is no longer affiliated with Major League Baseball.
Manager Tommy Thompson and the Great Falls Voyagers announced their first signing in late March with the addition of infielder Chris Caffrey, and now the roster is officially up to 10 players. The full roster will have anywhere from 22 to 26 players, but Thompson expects more deals to be done soon.
"It's amazing how many young men want to play professional baseball," Thompson said. "And the videos I've been getting, the emails, the texts, the phone calls ... it's been overwhelming."
Going mostly off of videos and references from scouts and coaches around baseball, Thompson said the process is a far cry from getting players assigned by the Chicago White Sox. But Thompson has done this before, in 2009 when he managed Windy City Thunderbolts of the independent Frontier League.
The key is getting guys who are versatile. Caffrey plays the corner infield spots, outfielder Jason Nall will bring a power bat into the lineup, and Bronx, New York, middle infielder Mike Howard brings speed. Thompson said the team has five pitchers, all right-handers, at the moment.
"We got the nucleus of a little infield. And what a lot of these guys are, it's a good thing too, are utility (players)," he said. "Some can play first base, some can play outfield, second and short, short and third. So there's some versatility I think you need to have with a smaller roster."
Building a roster isn’t the only thing Thompson is doing to prepare for the season. He’s also started a licensed peanut brittle business, which will be available at Centene Stadium concession stands this summer.
"My mom had a great recipe. And you know what, I shared it with some people always around Thanksgiving, Christmas and I met a lady here. She said this, 'I've been in business 30 years, this is the best peanut brittle ever, you need to sell it,'" Thompson said.
The Voyagers' home opener is on May 26 against the Ogden Raptors.