Montana is one of three states that doesn’t offer high school baseball to high school boys. Wyoming and South Dakota are the other two states.
However, there is a push this year to get high school baseball sanctioned. Lucas McCormick of Stevensville is the man behind this movement. He is a coach, a baseball dad, and longtime fan of the sport. While serving on the Stevensville school board, McCormick had asked how to go about getting high school baseball as a recognized sport. After leaving the school board, he began working to make boys high school baseball a reality.
One of the reasons driving this idea is the fact that across the state, as the young baseball players get older, they quit playing baseball. There are many factors that cause this. Among the reasons: it’s too costly to continue with a club team or American Legion, other high school sports want their players to go to camps and clinics, and lack of opportunity because there are fewer and fewer teams.
McCormick said he is by no means unhappy with the American Legion baseball program but for many families, a season that runs from early April to late July is too long. By the time participation cost, travel costs, and meals and lodging are factored in, the cost is just too much for many families. According to McCormick, the cost of playing American Legion ball in the Missoula area is around $3500 for a year per player. Factor in a summer job, or doing other sports and there simply isn’t time for anything.
If high school baseball were offered, the season would run from late March to the first week of June at the latest. Then, if a player wanted to continue to play, he would move over to the American Legion program. This is the way most of the American Legion programs throughout the nation operate.
According to McCormick, there are currently about 60 players on the Bitterroot Bucs and Bitterroot Red Sox rosters. There are probably another 25 playing club ball. He said that is 85 plus players to fill three, maybe four teams in the valley, and that would include both varsity and junior varsity. He feels that having high school baseball would compliment the American Legion program.
Other Legion coaches throughout Montana agree with McCormick. The Legion baseball organization in Sidney shut that town’s baseball down in 2018. Others such as the Butte Miners went from being AA to A and no longer have to travel as far.
If high school baseball is approved, the cost would be similar to softball. There would be travel expenses and initially, equipment expenses. As for the fields, McCormick points out that when softball first became a high school sport, those early games were played on county fields until regular softball fields could be built. Because baseball requires a pitchers mound, schools would either have to have two full size fields or a portable pitcher’s mound. According to McCormick, Corvallis, Hamilton, Stevensville, Florence, and possibly Victor all have regulation size fields and are either owned by the county or the school.
So what is the next step? McCormick is currently circulating a petition in favor of high school baseball. He’s been talking to a lot of Legion coaches, community college coaches, and baseball fans.
“We’re trying to stir up as much awareness as possible.”
In order for baseball to become a sanctioned sport through the Montana High School Association, several steps must be done. The first has already happened.
Stevensville High School athletic director Chance Edman has written a proposal and will be bringing it to the MHSA meeting in January. (A formal request must be presented by a school and not an individual.) The hope is that MHSA will form a committee to study the feasibility of the new sport. They will look at several factors over the next year including how to keep equality in the sports that are offered to high school boys and girls. There has to be at least five MHSA member schools on the committee.
Right now, there is one more girls’ sport than there is a boy’s sport. This winter, girls wrestling will begin and will be on a two-year pilot plan to see how much interest there is in the sport. Initially, power lifting was to be the boys’ sport to match for equality but there was not much interest in it.
Both McCormick and Edman feels that this is the perfect time for boys baseball to be implemented. “School sports exist to provide a student opportunity, not only in that sport, but in academics and life,” concluded McCormick.
If you wish to sign the petition, you will find it online at www.change.org/montanahsbaseball . McCormick can be reached at [email protected] .