Ogden Raptors: Pitch clock to debut in 2022, promotions, and what’s new in Pioneer League
Following the Pioneer Baseball League’s inaugural independent season of 2021 that saw the debut of the first-ever professional home run knock-out derby to decide a tied game, the Ogden Raptors and the Pioneer League return for 2022 with another major rule change, two new teams and a summer full of baseball.
Here’s a rundown of things to know as the Raptors prepare to open their season at home, hosting the Grand Junction Rockies at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 25, to begin a six-game series.
Like several minor leagues across the country have used — with affiliated leagues seemingly testing trial runs for eventual use in Major League Baseball — the Pioneer League will debut a pitch clock this season in hopes of speeding up games and eliminating extended pauses of play.
The pitch clock will be 15 seconds long and bump up to 17 seconds if runners are on base. A penalty for violation of the clock can be issued to the pitcher or the batter; if delayed actions from either cause the expiration of the clock, a ball or strike will be called, respectively.
Fans may not see the pitch clock during the opening week, however. Raptors team president Dave Baggott says supply-chain issues have caused delays for all 10 PBL squads to receive their clock equipment. So, teams around the league will wait to debut the use of the clock until all 10 teams have them installed and operational.
TWO NEW TEAMS
Yes, those were references to 10 teams in the PBL, giving the league a look different than the eight-team configuration we’ve become accustomed to for decades.
The Northern Colorado Owlz rejoin the league, relocated from Orem after a year off to complete the construction of the team’s field and stadium that resides in a large, multisport complex in Windsor, Colorado. They’ll play at a new, 6,500-seat facility called TicketSmarter Stadium.
While the Owlz are back after a pause, the PBL also welcomes a brand-new team into the fold with the Glacier Range Riders located in the Flathead Valley of Montana. Branded with logos of a mountain goat and a bear in National Park-ranger garb, given the team’s proximity to Glacier National Park, the Range Riders will play at 2,500-seat Flathead Field, a brand-new stadium funded privately by the team’s owners.
Northern Colorado will compete in the South Division with the Ogden Raptors, Boise Hawks, Grand Junction Rockies and Rocky Mountain Vibes (Colorado Springs).
Glacier is in the North Division with the Billings Mustangs, Idaho Falls Chukars, Great Falls Voyagers and Missoula Paddleheads.
With the new teams, the Pioneer League seems to have corrected the scheduling format that saw large imbalances in series between teams, including teams from different divisions facing off more frequently than teams in the same division — for instance, Ogden against Missoula was the league’s most-played series in 2021.
In the 96-game schedule, Ogden will play its South division foes 75 times: Northern Colorado 24 times, Rocky Mountain and Grand Junction 18 each, and Boise 15 times. The Raptors will face North foes for 21 games: Idaho Falls nine times, Missoula and Billings six each, and Glacier and Great Falls zero times.
This format should allow for better travel situations and a more true set of league standings to set up playoff bids.
Speaking of schedules, the typical day off each week shifts to Mondays, though some games will still be played on Mondays. As it was in 2021, the schedule is mostly constructed to stage six-game series from Tuesday through Sunday, then a travel day is provided Monday to set up the next series.
SUNDAY TIME CHANGE
Sunday games at Lindquist Field have long started at 4 p.m. but that’s changing this season. Sunday games in Ogden will now start at 2 p.m.
In conjunction with that change, the Raptors are opening the O-Town Beach Club — the restaurant and bar nestled in the park’s confines down the first-base line — from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays for brunch at the park.
Notably, Ogden will also start its opening-series finale at 2 p.m. Monday, May 30, which is Memorial Day.
The Raptors will be offering the following daily promotions each week at Lindquist Field.
Tuesday: Bank of Utah Tuesdays — present a Bank of Utah debit or credit card at the ticket office and receive up to six reserved box seats for free, while supplies last.
Wednesday: Wells Fargo and Wishing Wednesdays — the same promotion as above, but for Wells Fargo customers. Also, submit a wish for someone you know and the Raptors will see if they can make that wish come true.
Thursday: America First and Thirsty Thursdays — the same ticket promotion as above, but for America First Credit Union customers. And Thirsty Thursday remains, featuring half-priced fountain drinks and $2 domestic beer.
Friday: Free T Friday — The first 300 fans through the gates will receive a free T-shirt made by Coleman Knitting Mills. Typically, the design on the shirt varies from week to week.
Saturday: Date Night — Buy one ticket, get one free.
Sunday: Brunch Sundays — The aforementioned brunch menu served at O-Town Beach Club from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. leading to the 2 p.m. first pitch.
PBL ROUNDUP SHOW
After last year’s launch of the PBL Network online at pblnetwork.com, which was home to a live video stream and an announcer’s call of every game across the league each night, the Pioneer League has announced it will add a weekly roundup show to its lineup.
Every Wednesday night on pblnetwork.com, the PBL Roundup Show will feature former, longtime MLB announcer Thom Brennaman, former MLB general manager Bill Bavasi and comedian Joe List, also with a weekly feature from satirist Will Durst.
PBL President Mike Shapiro says the league envisions it playing out like ESPN’s ManningCast for Monday Night Football but in a RedZone style with live check-ins, a “part podcast, part comedy show and part analysis from some very knowledgeable baseball insiders.”
The show will be part of the league’s partnership with Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications and its Falk School of Sport and Human Dynamics.