GREAT FALLS — The Great Falls Voyagers won the Pioneer League in 2018 - but a lot can happen in three years. They had always been affiliated with the Chicago White Sox until this year, when the Pioneer League went independent, putting a lot more responsibility on the Voyagers' staff, including making all roster moves and transactions, and it didn’t look promising at the beginning of the season, when the Voyagers started 0-9.
To make things worse, the losing streak was capped off by a 31-11 demolition at the hands of the Ogden Raptors. The second half of the season was a much different story and even though they missed the playoffs, everyone at Centene Stadium is expecting next year to be a big one for Great Falls.
There was a lot of uncertainty going into the year with added responsibilities, new additions to the game such as extra-inning home run derbies, and worries of Covid, but the season is almost completely in the rear-view mirror and management is looking to the future. Team president Scott Reasoner said they accomplished a lot this year despite the record and hope to build on it for next year and the goals they have set for themselves.
“We want to keep working on having better teams not just here but across the league,” Reasoner said. “Things were a little crazy at the start of the year with a lot of new things but if you came to a game, you saw baseball improve here and across the Pioneer League, especially in July and August.”
Being independent means a lot of the roster is younger and not as experienced as players sent down from the White Sox in years past, but manager Tommy Thompson says he saw big improvements from the team during the second half of the season and knows he’ll have most of them back next year to make a playoff push.
“Every day we got better, even after losing the nine games, we learned from mistakes and the team really came together. I like the nucleus of the guys we got and we’re bringing a lot of them back next year,” Thompson said.
Tavis Brunson is one of those returning players and says he was able to learn a lot in his first year in independent league. He says next year’s Voyagers are going to be dangerous because of the chemistry they were able to put together this year and how they finished the season.
“It was an adjustment for sure, being out in the west part of the country and playing independent but it was a great time playing with them. Chemistry is really good here and it helps a lot as well as having guys help you through the struggle,” Brunson said.
Next year seems way down the road for baseball fans, but the Voyagers are looking forward to it and will be ready for what the Pioneer League has to offer them.
The Voyagers finish their season later this week in Idaho Falls against the Chukars.