A new era is dawning on Missoula Osprey minor league baseball, but it’ll look a lot like the old one.
The big difference: Mike and Judy Ellis, majority stakeholders since they moved the Lethbridge Black Diamonds to Missoula 20 years ago, announced Friday they’re selling the club to another baseball-crazy couple, Peter Davis and Susan Crampton Davis of Seattle.
Peter Davis was managing director of the Intiman Theater in Seattle for 10 years before taking over Gaco Western, a manufacturing firm his father founded in 1955. The Davises sold Gaco Western last year after 22 years. He’s held Seattle Mariners season tickets for 26 years and said he scores every game in a scorebook he designed, including speed and location of every pitch, “which admittedly is a little bit crazy.”
Susan Crampton Davis has a background in human resources and business, including nearly three years with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation before opening a successful coaching and spiritual practice in 2008.
“The perfect couple for the Osprey and Missoula,” Mike Ellis said at an afternoon press conference at Ogren Park-Allegiance Field. “They are so very impressive.”
“I’ve been looking for a franchise such as this for over 20 years — a distant dream, a wish, a hope that I never knew would get here,” Peter Davis said. “To be on the cusp of making this dream a reality, in the good city of Missoula, is absolutely thrilling for me.”
The sale, for an undisclosed price, from the Ellis’ Mountain Baseball LLC to the Davises’ Big Sky Professional Baseball LLC is pending approval by the Pioneer League, Minor League Baseball and the commissioner’s office, said Matt Ellis, the current owners’ son and longtime executive vice president of the Osprey.
“We’ve been told by the parties in charge that the Davises are a perfect match for minor league baseball and we expect no problems going forward, which is why we’re announcing this today,” Ellis said. “In fact we’ve got everyone’s blessing to officially announce. That’s a good sign.”
Pretty much everything else will remain status quo:
- The Osprey stay in the Pioneer League, an eight-team rookie short-season circuit.
- They retain their affiliation with the Arizona Diamondbacks, something they’ve had since the team was in Lethbridge and before the Diamondbacks even fielded a major league team.
- Current front office personnel will remain intact. Matt Ellis leads a staff that includes Taylor Rush, director of stadium operations; Kim Johns, retail manager, and office manager/bookkeeper Nola Hunter.
Peter Davis said improvements are in the works, including an increase in the size of the staff, improvements to the ballpark, a new scoreboard, a new Fun Zone for families and an all-you-can eat zone.
The Ellises lived in Southern California when they bought the franchise that became the Osprey in 1994. They moved to Missoula years ago and will remain here.
“Judy and I are not going anywhere, and we will be proud to attend the Osprey games as fans and watch as they bring to Missoula an even more exciting and fun experience,” Mike Ellis said. “I know you will all accept them and support them as you have us.”
Peter Davis said he’s convinced the city-owned ballpark is a gem among minor league stadiums. He and Susan fell in love with it when they first walked into it this summer.
“So much is just so right about this team and this city,” he said. “It’s really exciting to see.”