Pioneer League Adds Expansion Franchise in Northern California

By Matthew Tallarini
World Baseball Network

The Pioneer League announced a new expansion franchise on January 23. The Yolo High Wheelers that will begin play in the 2024 season. 

The Yolo High Wheelers will be based in Yolo County, Calif., and will be the 12th team in the Pioneer League. 

The Yolo High Wheelers are the second team in California in the Pioneer League, joining the Oakland Ballers. Oakland will also play its first season in 2024.  

Yolo County is located in Northern California and borders Sacramento County, where the city of Sacramento, the state capital, is located. 

The 2023 PL Manager Year of the Year Billy Horton will lead the Yolo High Rollers as their manager in 2024. Yolo County resident Gary Davenport will serve as the bench coach, and Jerome Williams will be the pitching coach. Troy Loparco will be the general manager for the High Wheelers’ inaugural season. 

Horton managed the Billings Mustangs in 2023, and his club was swept by the Ogden Raptors in the 2023 Pioneer League best-of-three championship series. 

The Yolo High Wheelers will play 48 home games on the campus of UC Davis at Phil Swimley Field at Dobbins Stadium. There will be a 96-game schedule for the 2024 Pioneer League regular season. 

“It’s an honor to be bringing the first professional sports team to Davis and the broader Yolo and Solano community. We believe that through strong community partnerships, professional baseball can provide a new model for sports teams dedicated to building a championship culture, developing players, and investing in the local community. We’re excited to be a part of Yolo County’s continued growth and look forward to seeing local families at our first home game on May 21, 2024,” Bryan Carmel, the co-founder of the Yolo High Wheelers said on the league’s website on Tuesday. 

The Pioneer League is an MLB partner league after being in affiliated Minor League Baseball from 1939 to 2019, when the minor leagues were reorganized with 40 fewer teams. All of the other Pioneer League teams are based in Montana, Utah, Idaho, and Colorado. 

The Pioneer League will be divided into the North Division, with the Billings Mustangs, Glacier Range Riders, Great Falls Voyagers, Idaho Falls Chukars, and the Missoula Paddleheads, and the South Division, with the Oakland Ballers, the Boise Hawks, Grand Junction Jackalopes, Northern Colorado Owlz, the Ogden Raptors, and the Rocky Mountain Vibes for the 2024 season.

The Yolo High Wheelers have not announced to which division they will be assigned for the 2024 Pioneer League season. 

The Oakland Ballers and Yolo High Wheelers will each play each other 36 times during the 2024 season. 

The Yolo High Wheelers will have to sign players prior to the 2024 Pioneer League regular season and include players who were previously in the minor leagues with MLB organizations along with scouting players that were not selected in the 20-round MLB draft.

“On behalf of the Pioneer Baseball League, we welcome the Yolo High Wheelers and the broader Yolo and Solano County baseball fans to the historic and innovative Pioneer League. We’re excited to bring professional baseball to more California fans while building a partnership with the local community that puts the fans first,” Michael Shapiro, President of the Pioneer League stated on the league website on Tuesday. 

The Yolo High Wheelers will play their first game of their inaugural season in 2024 at home against the Rocky Mountain Vibes on May 21 on the UC Davis baseball complex Phil Swimley Field at Dobbins Stadium in Davis, Calif.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Translate »