Team Italy slugger and Cincinnati Reds prospect Leonardo Seminati ascended from the dusty Goodyear spring training complex fields of the Arizona League to the rocky mountain advanced rookie Pioneer League’s finest facility at Dehler Park as a member of the Billings Mustangs on August 20, 2018. In his first at-bat against Idaho Falls, Leonardo Seminati doubled to deep center field. In his last 10 games between the Arizona League and the Pioneer League, the promising and talented 19-year-old Italian first baseman is 12-for-40 (.300 batting average) with 2 home runs and 7 RBI. He has made the adjustment to the higher caliber of pitching and the bigger crowds found in the Pioneer League. Last year the Pioneer League drew more than 618,000 fans, an average of nearly 2,050 per game. It is one of only two advanced rookie leagues in the U.S. and is comprised of eight MLB affiliates in four nearby states. Pioneer League rules allow 35 players on each roster, with 30 players active for game days. No more than 17 of the 35 players may be older than 21 and none may have more than three years of prior minor league experience.
The short-season action began in mid-June and concludes with a four-team playoff between the first-half champions and the second-half champions in mid-September. The Pioneer League North Division includes four teams in Montana: Billings Mustangs, Great Falls Voyagers (first half champion), Helena Brewers and Missoula Osprey. The Orem Owlz, Ogden Raptors (first half champion), Idaho Falls Chukars and Grand Junction Rockies make up the Pioneer League South Division. With the Billings Mustangs currently in first place by two games and only two weeks remaining in the regular season, the Cincinnati Reds advanced rookie league affiliate summoned Leonardo Seminati to help the team secure the second half Pioneer League North Division championship title in order to qualify for the 2018 playoffs.
The Billings Mustangs have not won the Pioneer League championship since 2014. Since becoming the Cincinnati Reds rookie affiliate in 1974, the Mustangs have brought home nine Pioneer League championships to Billings, Montana. National Baseball Hall of Famers Trevor Hoffman and George Brett once wore the same Billings Mustangs jersey that Leonardo Seminati wears today. Other major league players who have left Montana to go on to have successful professional baseball careers include current Cincinnati Reds favorites Joey Votto, Tucker Barnhart, and Billy Hamilton as well as MLB standouts Jay Bruce, Todd Frazier, Didi Gregorius, Miguel Rojas, Edwin Encarnacion, Justin Turner, Tony Cingrani, and Ben Lively. May "Grande Leo" Seminati soon join this long list of former Mustangs who have made names for themselves in MLB. Forza #Italia! #LetsMakeItHappen
by Roberto Angotti