Butte Copper Kings

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Butte Copper Kings
Team name:  Butte Copper Kings
(1978-85, 1987-2000)
Affiliation:  Co-Op (1978)
Milwaukee (1979-81)
Kansas City (1982-83)
Seattle (1984)
Co-Op (1985, 1987)
Texas (1988-92)
Co-Op (1993-95)
Tampa Bay (1996)
Anaheim (1997-2000)
Location:  Butte, MT (1978-2000)
Class:  Advanced-Rookie
League:  Pioneer League
Ballpark:  Alumni Field (1978-2000)
First organizational game
June 19, 1996 vs. Idaho Falls
Last organizational game
September 5, 1996 vs. Ogden

The Butte Copper Kings were Tampa Bay's first minor league affiliate at the Advanced-Rookie level. They played in the Pioneer League which, at the time, included teams in Montana, Idaho, Utah, and Alberta.

Franchise History

The Copper Kings, named for the once-powerful owners of the copper mines around Butte, MT, began play in the Advanced-Rookie Pioneer League in 1978 as a co-op team with players from the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers organizations.[1]

Since 1987, the franchise had been operated by Silverbow Baseball Corp. It was sold in 1996 to the Goldklang Group in a move necessitated to stem conflict-of-interest issues when Silverbow head Jim McCurdy assumed the league's presidency in 1994.[2] Silverbow had attempted to sell the franchise in 1994 to investors from California, but the deal fell through when it was discovered that the would-be owners had lied about their personal financial backgrounds.[3]

Following the 2000 season, the team relocated to Casper, WY as the Casper Rockies (renamed to the Ghosts before the 2008 season[4]) and affiliated with Colorado.[5] In October, 2011, the team announced that it would move again before the 2012 season to Grand Junction, CO as the Grand Junction Rockies.[6]

Affiliation with Tampa Bay

Butte's affiliation with Tampa Bay was announced on August 26, 1995,[7] and lasted for only the 1996 season. The following year, the Devil Rays moved their Advanced-Rookie affiliation to Princeton in the Appalachian League. The Copper Kings subsequently announced a PDC with Anaheim.[8][9]

Tampa Bay's expansion mate, Arizona, was also reported to be considering an affiliation with Butte and were similarly connected to the Pioneer League's Ogden and Lethbridge clubs before ultimately signing on with Lethbridge.[10]


During their entire history in Butte, the Copper Kings played their home games at Alumni Field on the campus of Montana Tech.

Rays Connections

Two players from Tampa Bay's brief affiliation with Butte would eventually play in the Major Leagues: Mickey Callaway (who first reached the show in 1999 with the Devil Rays) and Trevor Enders (who had a brief stint with Tampa Bay in 2000).[11]

Julio Franco, a veteran of parts of 23 Major League seasons who spent 1999 and 2001 in the Devil Rays system (with a single at-bat for the Major League club at the end of 1999), was Butte's shortstop in their inaugural 1978 season after being drafted by Philadelphia.[12] Rey Sanchez, Tampa Bay's primary second baseman in 2004, played shortstop for the Copper Kings in 1987 as a member of the Texas Rangers organization.[13] Terrell Lowery, a member of the Devil Rays' 1999 team, began his professional career with Butte in 1991.[14] Joel Peralta, who signed with the Rays before the 2011 season, was a member of the Copper Kings during their final season in 2000.[15]

Billy Gardner, manager of the Rays' Double-A Southern League affiliate in Montgomery, began his managerial career guiding Butte's 1995 team.[16] 1996 Copper Kings manager Tom Foley joined the Devil Rays' Major League coaching staff before the 2002 season as the third base coach following stints as the Devil Rays' minor league field coordinator and director of minor league operations.


  1. "Pioneer Adds Butte". The Sporting News: p. 63. February 25, 1978. 
  2. "Copper Kings Have New Owners, Affiliation". bozemandailychronicle.com. Bozeman Daily Chronicle. June 18, 1996. http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/article_d97c6814-a876-5517-958a-3f587ea3a2cb.html. Retrieved June 9, 2011. 
  3. "Jury Rules in Favor of Former Cooper Kings Team Owner". bozemandailychronicle.com. Bozeman Daily Chronicle. October 12, 1996. http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/article_5ce46ec0-5031-57b1-a4d3-68b50a09de64.html. Retrieved June 9, 2011. 
  4. "Casper Ghosts Launch Glow-in-the-Dark Identity". ghostsbaseball.com. Casper Ghosts. October 31, 2007. http://web.minorleaguebaseball.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20071031&content_id=319205&vkey=pr_t539&fext=.jsp&sid=t539. Retrieved June 9, 2011. 
  5. "Affiliations: Pioneer League". The Official Site of the Pioneer League. Pioneer Baseball League. http://web.minorleaguebaseball.com/league3/page.jsp?ymd=20070314&content_id=191585&vkey=league3_l128&fext=.jsp&sid=l128. Retrieved May 9, 2011. 
  6. "Grand Junction officials OK Casper Ghosts' move to Colorado". trib.com. Casper Tribune. October 17, 2011. http://trib.com/sports/baseball/grand-junction-officials-ok-casper-ghosts-move-to-colorado/article_ff8a6a66-bcce-50ff-95d8-6e4d85ff8e63.html. Retrieved December 27, 2011. 
  7. "Transactions - Baseball". Eugene Register-Guard: p. 6E. August 27, 1995. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=3kZWAAAAIBAJ&sjid=GOsDAAAAIBAJ&pg=4814,6996423. 
  8. "Area sports briefs". bozemandailychronicle.com. Bozeman Daily Chronicle. September 19, 1996. http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/article_edd3c855-535c-5507-8028-39f999b1dc28.html. Retrieved June 9, 2011. 
  9. "Transactions - Baseball - Pioneer League". Lewiston Morning Tribune: p. 2B. September 19, 1996. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=ULReAAAAIBAJ&sjid=ADAMAAAAIBAJpg=4055%2C825603. 
  10. Associated Press (August 6, 1995). "Arizona Considers Affiliates". Lakeland Ledger: p. 5D. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=XMJOAAAAIBAJ&sjid=B_0DAAAAIBAJ&pg=3161,2654151&hl=en. Retrieved May 22, 2011. 
  11. "1996 Butte Copper Kings Statistics". Baseball-Reference.com. Sports Reference. http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/team.cgi?id=6cec5869. Retrieved March 20, 2012. 
  12. "Julio Franco Minor League Statistics & History". Baseball-Reference.com. Sports Reference. http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=franco001jul. Retrieved March 20, 2012. 
  13. "Rey Sanchez Minor League Statistics & History". Baseball-Reference.com. Sports Reference. http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=sanche001rey. Retrieved March 20, 2012. 
  14. "Terrell Lowery Minor League Statistics & History". Baseball-Reference.com. Sports Reference. http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=lowery001qun. Retrieved March 20, 2012. 
  15. "Joel Peralta Minor League Statistics & History". Baseball-Reference.com. Sports Reference. http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=peralt001joe. Retrieved March 20, 2012. 
  16. "Billy Gardner Minor League Statistics & History". Baseball-Reference.com. Sports Reference. http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=gardne002wil. Retrieved March 20, 2012. 

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