BILLINGS — When sanctioned high school baseball in Billings was approved Monday night by the School District 2 Board on a 7-1 vote, the rapidness came as a surprise to some. That said, logistics are now on the table for where, when and how Billings Senior, Billings Skyview and Billings West may wind up playing by the spring of 2025.
“This is all based on the ability to raise funds for a high school program. It’s on them to decide if we continue," SD2 activities director Mark Sulser told MTN Sports, reiterating what the school board made clear — a proposal for teams to self-fund their first three years.
Estimated funding is a little under $250,000 for start-up costs and first-year expenses.
Growing up in Billings, Billings American Legion Baseball chairman Jeff Ballard has seen (and played) it all from Little League to his Major League pitching career.
“The more we can promote baseball in Billings, the better it is for everybody involved,” Ballard told MTN Sports.
One big question is how a high school season will impact the Legion season in Billings.
When the statewide push for high school baseball started a couple years ago, the idea was to create opportunities for kids who may not be able to afford travel ball or couldn't find roster spots on Legion teams. Ultimately, what it may turn into for Billings is a preseason league for Legion players.
“I believe that high school rosters will just be a subset of Legion baseball players for the most part," Ballard said. "And being I do think they’re the best players I believe they’ll garner most of the playing time.”
That would likely be at the varsity level. JV teams would raise each school’s combined roster to an estimated 36 players, according to Sulser.
“It gives those kids an opportunity to be a season player versus a full-time player where a kid is playing six months out of the year,” he said.
“They all have school pride, they all have school spirit," Ballard said. "You get a chance to go win a state championship for Skyview, Senior or West, it’s attractive.”
Right now, there’s limited space at Musburger Field, Central Park and Clevenger Field as travel squads and Senior League teams also compete for field time.
But in the coming months, approval for high school teams to spring out of dugouts still hinges on the biggest hurdle: self-funding.
“When the rubber meets the road, if the funding is not there then baseball is not here,” Sulser said.