MISSOULA — For the first time since September of 2019, professional baseball has made its way back into Missoula as the Missoula PaddleHeads have officially opened spring training.
The PaddleHeads held a media day on Monday to introduce their new coaches and roster who will be taking the field this summer.
It's the first time the team has suited up as the PaddleHeads since their rebranding from the Missoula Osprey in late 2019. The PaddleHeads never took the field in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic shutting the season down.
It's also the first time they'll suit up as an independent team rather than as a minor league affiliate.
Previously Missoula was part of the Arizona Diamondbacks organization, but now the Pioneer League is an MLB partner league, and the teams within it are independent clubs who build their own rosters of professional players.
"One of the things is we get to choose our own teams. We get to do things our way, build the culture," new PaddleHeads manager Michael Schlact said. "Honestly a lot of the guys on this roster are going to have played at a much higher level than the Pioneer League was previously. So the brand of baseball is going to be really good and really exciting as well, so in that way we’re looking forward to it because I think that the fans of Missoula are going to come out and see more experienced players. They’re going to see guys that know how to play the game and ultimately we’re playing to win, that’s what it’s about."
For players like outfielder Tristen Carranza, who was with the Osprey in 2019, and the rest of the team, they're just excited to finally be back on the diamond after the long layoff to showcase their brand of baseball to Missoulians.
"Man, when I heard I could come back to Missoula I was ecstatic," said Carranza, who hails from California and played college baseball at New Mexico State. "Couldn’t think of a better spot to be. I absolutely fell in love with this place my first year so I’m so happy to be back."
Capacity at Ogren Park at Allegiance Field will begin at 50% for those who wish to attend the games live.