High School Baseball is Coming to Missoula
In a tight 5-4 decision on Tuesday night, the board of trustees for Missoula County Public Schools reached an agreement to initiate baseball programs at Big Sky, Sentinel, and Hellgate high schools starting in the spring of 2025.
Throughout the two-hour public comment period during the MCPS meeting, students and parents praised the positive aspects of baseball, emphasizing its role in character development, academic success, and scholarship opportunities. Meanwhile, opponents raised concerns about the financial strain on an already budget-constrained district, pointing out the potential need for difficult budget cuts to accommodate the new programs.
Superintendent Micah Hill informed the trustees that he estimated an initial cost of $50,000 for each of the three teams in the first year, excluding additional expenses such as field rentals and maintenance fees. Addressing the concerns, Hill stated, "I don't think anyone in the room is opposed to baseball. They just have concerns as we move forward. This is $150,000 that we would potentially be contributing to where previously we haven't, so what isn't going to get funded?"
Trustee Jeff Avgeris, also a youth baseball coach, shared his perspective, noting that many kids who love the sport end up quitting due to the financial barriers posed by private leagues. Montana currently offers American Legion Baseball as an alternative in the spring or summer.
"Engagement with baseball in this town is through the roof, yet, we're cutting off kids at the end of middle school," Avgeris remarked. "There is no path there."
Ultimately, the board approved the introduction of baseball, though not as swiftly as some members of the public had hoped. With only four months remaining until the 2024 season, district administrators faced challenges in assembling three baseball programs. The trustees also decided that the funding for the 2025 season would depend on private fundraising efforts.
For the 2026 season, costs will be covered by the MCPS general fund, but the program must be "budget neutral." This means that any funding allocated for baseball will need to come from the budgets of other boys' sports.
Notably, the Montana High School Association sanctioned the addition of baseball in 2022, and the inaugural season occurred this past spring, featuring 21 teams across the state, with Butte and Belgrade as the only other Class AA schools participating.
With this vote, MCPS now stands as the largest school district in the state to embrace high school baseball. Additionally, Seeley-Swan High School has the opportunity to propose a baseball program, and to ensure Title IX compliance, MCPS will need to invest equally in girls' sports.