GREAT FALLS — A new chapter in Great Falls Voyagers history starts this summer as the Pioneer League begins its time as an independent league. Luckily for the Voyagers, that new chapter will start with a familiar face.
The club announced on Wednesday that Tommy Thompson will return as manager after signing a three-year contract. Thompson previously managed the team in 2016, when he led them to a 47-28 regular-season record, the top in the league that year.
"I'm extremely excited, and so is my wife, on coming back to Great Falls," Thompson told MTN Sports via Zoom on Wednesday. "We had a tremendous time. The booster club, the fans, the ownership, the team was great. We had a real nice experience."
Thompson’s second stint in the Electric City won’t be without its challenges. Since the Pioneer League is now called an MLB Partner League and no longer affiliated with MLB, teams like Great Falls will largely have to build from scratch. Thompson will play a pivotal role in compiling rosters, but he has numerous connections in baseball after more than three decades in various roles with the Chicago White Sox organization.
"We're going to have to field our own players from released professional players, other independent players, or quality college players that didn't have a chance to get drafted or didn't get signed. So it's going to be a mix and match," he said.
Once the season starts, Voyager fans will once again get to enjoy Thompson for his fiery on-field personality and antics with umpires.
"Well, I'm going to have to work out a deal with (president Scott Reasoner) and (owner and CEO Vinney Purpura) to make sure they pay for my fines," Thompson joked. "If they do that, at times, I could be entertaining. But also I got to respect the game, you know what, I'm going to respect the players, I'm going to fight for them."
Great Falls will open its 96-game schedule on the road against the Missoula Paddleheads on May 22. The first home game is May 26 against the Ogden Raptors.