MISSOULA, Mont. - For most local athletes in Montana, Legion baseball programs are the only way to improve and pursue playing on the diamond at the next level. However, in Missoula a new non-Legion program is in town to help players get noticed.
Last fall the Missoula Prospects started up with their very first season as a baseball squad, but this is not a typical high school level baseball program.
"We thought, why not provide another opportunity?" explained Prospects head coach Greg Shawgo. "We travel a lot. We see other areas with the same amount of people that have 15 to 20 high school teams in the area. So we saw it as a huge opportunity to come out, help kids get better and move on if they want to."
"The Missoula Prospects are just another way to play at an elite level in Missoula and get college exposure," said pitcher Bridger Dauenhauer. "That's what we're mainly about is just getting kids off to the next level."
"I mean it starts with the name I think, Prospects," said outfielder Easton Packard. "We're kind of working towards getting to the next level like playing college ball. It's just another route to go to get to the next level and not having to end our careers quite yet."
In the short time the Prospects have been a team, they have already helped several players achieve their dreams of playing college baseball. That includes Dauenhauer, who signed his National Letter of Intent to play baseball at Dakota Wesleyan University in South Dakota.
"I met Bridger last summer, saw him working, saw his level of commitment and his ability. And if you had told me a year ago he would play college baseball I would have told you absolutely no way he could have done it, but he's been working hard and he wanted it," said Shawgo. "In the off-season, every day I talked to him he was always in his garage throwing baseballs and doing something trying to get himself better. He knew what he wanted and he went and got it."
"I'm excited I don't have to hang up the cleats for another four years. It was nice that I didn't let anyone tell me I couldn't play baseball at a higher level," said Dauenhauer. "I kept working, kept my head down and just loved the game and that's what I want to say to everyone else that got discouraged at a younger age, that there's other opportunities for them."
For the players who are part of the Missoula Prospects, they said there is no greater feeling than being able to continue playing the game they love.
"It's pretty much a second life to myself. I mean, being able to play more years and not having to hang up the cleats," said Packard.
"It's awesome to see these guys excel, to succeed at baseball," said Shawgo. "A lot of them think they're done at maybe 15 or 16 years old, and now to see another option come up and to see guys excelling and going on to the next level, I think is encouraging for the guys that aren't even in the program yet."
The Prospects are already looking at expanding the program in 2015 and starting a 13 and under team to get younger kids involved in playing travel baseball.
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