Nov. 17 — CHEYENNE — Summer college baseball could return to Cheyenne as early as this summer.
An existing Independence League baseball franchise is considering a move to the capital. Current ownership would remain, but Matt Snyder would oversee day-to-day operations and serve as on-site general manager.
After separating from the Expedition League, the ILB is entering its second season. It currently has one 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 move on site. He has worked in baseball for decades, from the independent minor leagues to the college summer leagues, and has also served in the NHL. Snyder relocated to Wyoming to work with the Casper Horseheads, previously members of the Expedition League and the ILB.
Snyder met his wife, Johanna, while he was working at Casper, and they have since moved to Cheyenne to be closer to Johanna’s family.
Health issues forced Snyder to retire from baseball, but watching the ILB’s Gem City Bison play with his family at Wyoming Territorial Prison in Laramie sparked something in him.
“I thought I fixed the bug and put baseball behind me, but watching this game and seeing my son enjoy it was a reminder of what I love about this level of the game,” Snyder said. “I’ve worked in this business for a long time. Now I’ve seen it through the eyes of a father.”
Snyder began talking to the Bison’s former owners about how a Cheyenne franchise could fit into the ILB. He now hopes to use his expertise to bring Cheyenne quality sports entertainment for the family.
“Everything is fan-friendly and fan-focused,” Snyder said. “I had a mentor who said minor league baseball is all about cleanliness, friendliness, food, music and publicity.
“It’s at that level that you can really connect a team to a community. There are things that we can be uniquely positioned to do in the community.”
The ILB recently announced that it is expanding into Pierre, South Dakota, which was one of the original members of the Expedition League. Most ILB teams are entering their fifth or sixth season.
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. This is where he has put down roots 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 their footprint,” Snyder said. “When you have a team that is much further away, it becomes difficult for the owner’s wallet. This is a league that is being smart with expansion because it wants to remain viable and affordable.
“The number of youth recreational and competitive teams in Cheyenne tells me this is a baseball town. I’m almost in awe of what (Cheyenne American Legion Post 6 Baseball) accomplished here. You are an incredible organization. .. . Cheyenne is primed for something like that.”
Snyder has held preliminary discussions with the City of Cheyenne, which administers all of the city’s baseball fields. He has also spoken to some local business owners about sponsorship opportunities and to community organizations about community partnerships.
Snyder said he hoped the pieces would fit together for the franchise to move for the 2023 season, but he knew he was working on a tight schedule. He doesn’t want to rush things and present fans with an inferior product. Ownership doesn’t want to scare off its existing fanbase if a move doesn’t happen by 2024.
“We’re still in the very early stages here, but I know the people I’ve spoken to around town are intrigued and interested,” he said. “I got good questions back from the city. That’s always a good thing. If this is to be done, it must be done correctly and in partnership with everyone else. I don’t want to do anything that won’t live to its fullest potential.
“This is a truly unique partnership, unlike anything that has ever existed here. I think we can really get the community to embrace us if we’re lucky enough to bring this team here.”
Jason Sanchez, the city’s director of recreation and events, spoke to a handful of applicants who would like to have a collegiate summer league team in Cheyenne. The biggest obstacle stopping a team from settling here is finding 32 open dates at Powers Field or Pioneer Park in the summer, he said.
“Our clubs already have a number of tournaments scheduled, not to mention the other games and practices,” said Sanchez. “The number of kids playing baseball in our city is growing, and demand (for fields) right now is outstripping supply.
“…We are working on it. There is a lot of talk, but there are many moving pieces and several clubs with the same request.”
Sanchez said he’s actively working to find solutions that will make the city attractive to leagues like the ILB while keeping an eye on Cheyenne athletes.
“We’re going to keep trying and see what we can do,” Sanchez said. “It’s a good thing for Cheyenne and these clubs. It’s all about who can work for our planning.”
Jeremiah Johnke is WyoSports Editor. He can be reached at [email protected] or 307-633-3137. Follow him on Twitter at @jjohnke.