Nov. 17 – CHEYENNE – Summer varsity baseball could return to Cheyenne as soon as next summer.
An existing Independence League Baseball franchise is considering moving to the capital. Current ownership would remain in place, but Matt Snyder would oversee day-to-day operations and act as local general manager.
The ILB enters its second season after breaking away from the Expedition League. It currently has a franchise in Laramie, one in Idaho, one in North Dakota, two in South Dakota and three in Nebraska.
Snyder was tasked with laying the groundwork for the local move. He spent decades working in baseball, from independent minor leagues to collegiate summer leagues, and also had a stint in the NHL. Snyder moved to Wyoming to work with the Casper Horseheads, who had previously been members of the Expedition League and the ILB.
Snyder met his wife, Johanna, while working in Casper, and they have since moved to Cheyenne to be closer to Johanna’s family.
Health issues forced Snyder to step away from baseball, but taking his family to watch the ILB’s Gem City Bison game at Wyoming’s Laramie Territorial Jail sparked something in him.
“I thought I got rid of the virus and put baseball behind me, but watching this game and seeing my son enjoy it reminded me of what I love about this level of the game,” said Snyder. “I’ve spent a lot of time in this business. Now I’ve seen it through the eyes of a father.”
Snyder began talking with the Bison’s former owners about how a Cheyenne franchise might fit into the ILB. He now hopes to use his expertise to bring high quality family sports entertainment to Cheyenne.
“It’s all fan-friendly and fan-oriented,” Snyder said. “I had a mentor who said minor league baseball was all about cleanliness, friendliness, food, music and promotion.
“You can really connect a team to a community at this level. There are things that we can be particularly good at in the community.”
The ILB recently announced it is expanding to Pierre, South Dakota, which was one of the original members of the Expedition League. Most ILB teams are entering their fifth or sixth season in existence.
Snyder has launched franchises in the past, but Cheyenne would be different for him because he’s not moving into a team-furnished apartment on his own. He settled there in recent years.
“I live and work here, I go to church here, I raise a family here,” he said.
A Cheyenne team would give the ILB five teams along the Interstate 80 corridor.
“It makes sense for the league and its footprint,” Snyder said. “When you have a team that is much further away, it makes it harder for the owner. This is a league that is smart about expansion because they want to stay viable and affordable.
“The number of recreational and competitive youth teams in Cheyenne shows me that this is a baseball town. I have an almost awe-inspiring respect for what (Cheyenne American Legion Post 6 baseball) has done here. It’s a incredible organization… Cheyenne is ready for something like this.”
Snyder has had preliminary discussions with the city of Cheyenne, which operates all of the baseball diamonds in the city. He also spoke to a few local business owners about sponsorship opportunities and civic organizations about community partnerships.
Snyder said he’s hopeful the pieces will fall into place to allow the franchise to move on for the 2023 season, but knows he’s working on a short time frame. He doesn’t want to rush things and put an inferior product in front of the fans. The property doesn’t want to scare off its existing fan base if a move doesn’t happen until 2024.
“We’re in the very early stages, but I know people I’ve spoken to in town are intrigued and interested,” he said. “I’ve had some good questions from the city. It’s always a good thing. If it’s going to be done, it needs to be done right and in partnership with everyone. I don’t want to do anything that’s not going to live up to it. to its full potential.
“It’s a really unique partnership, unlike anything that’s ever been here. I think we can really get the community to embrace us if we’re lucky enough to bring this team here.”
Jason Sanchez, director of recreation and community events for the city, spoke with a handful of suitors who would like to have a collegiate summer league team in Cheyenne. The biggest hurdle preventing a team from setting up shop here is finding 32 open dates in the summer at Powers Field or Pioneer Park, he said.
“Our clubs already have a number of tournaments on the schedule, not to mention other games and training,” Sanchez said. “The number of kids playing baseball in our city is growing and the demand (for fields) is outstripping the supply right now.
“…We are working on it. There are a lot of conversations going on, but there are a lot of moving parts and several clubs with the same demand.”
Sanchez said he was actively working to find solutions that would make the city attractive to leagues like the ILB, while keeping Cheyenne athletes top of mind.
“We’ll keep trying and see what we can do,” Sanchez said. “It’s a good thing for Cheyenne and these clubs. It’s just a matter of who can work for our schedule.”
Jeremiah Johnke is the editor of WyoSports. He can be reached at [email protected] or 307-633-3137. Follow him on Twitter at @jjohnke.