Saturday, October 13, 2012

We have moved!

Our new home is the Victoria HarbourCats Baseball Blog.

Thank you for all of your support in the last four years and we look forward to seeing you at Royal Athletic Park for HarbourCats baseball!

Go Cats!

Friday, October 12, 2012

What's in a name?

There you have it - Victoria HarbourCats. I like it. I give it a solid "A". There is a "u" in HarbourCats making it uniquely Canadian, which I also like. The logo is pretty cool too - my first thought was that it looked like the Carolina Panther (mother) and Jacksonville Jaguar (father) mated and had a little HarbourKitty of their own - awww look, he has his mom's colours and his dad's whiskers! Yes, this is the type of insightful blogging you can look forward to all year as we rev ourselves up to a frenzy until opening day! 

This new team name and logo were introduced in an open team news conference today at the Shark Club by the team's GM, Holly "HoJo" Jones. John McLean (owner) and Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin were also on hand with their comments. There were over 600 names suggested by the public with the first 250 entries getting a pair of tickets to a HarbourCats' game next year. As has always been the case, community spirit was stressed with the logo being fierce enough for the players/fans, and soft enough for a non-kid-threatening mascot. And as a member of our community, I really do hope we get behind this new team so their tenancy is a long and fruitful one here in Vic-town.

Today's announcement was brief and to the point, with team logo T-shirts being handed out to a lucky few via a random draw. Rumours that Mayor Fortin will be on the bump for the season opener had the crowd on the edge of their seats, that is, until someone called out that he may not be NCAA eligible.

As we now convert our Seals blog site to a new HarbourCats one (goodbye Seymour, hello..."Kitty" - sorry, couldn't resist!), we look forward to more announcements in the future as the team formalizes its roster and also comes up with a new uniform design.

The more I hear about the league, the more I look forward to the youthful excitement to which I think we will be treated. Without having seen a game, I liken it to the WHL of the amateur baseball world and that fires me up.

No one has called "play ball" in Victoria just yet, but as Ed Grimley would say, "I'm so excited already, I must say".

Victoria HarbourCats!

Our new WCL team is called the HarbourCats.

Details to follow....

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Name and logo of Victoria's WCL team to be released Friday!

After much anticipation, we'll soon know the name and logo of our new West Coast League baseball franchise. The team is set to make the official announcement at 11:30 AM at the Shark Club. Our group of intrepid bloggers will be on hand to cover the event and you'll find news and commentary on this site afterwards. Members of the public are welcome to attend the unveiling, so feel free to come on down to the Shark Club and experience it yourself.

The team has been tight-lipped about their decision, but GM Holly Jones has been releasing names periodically on Twitter that were not selected. So far, the following have been ruled out:
  • Muffins. No shocker that it didn't make the cut, but if you're going to submit that name wouldn't you go with Stud Muffins instead?
  • Rogers. There are some obvious promotional opportunities with the chocolate company, but it didn't quite make the cut.
  • Vikings. Uh, that one's taken.
  • Cupcakes. Wow, there were a lot of food suggestions... and they all suffered the same fate.
  • Capital City Surf. Of course, we'd need the Capital City Goofball as our mascot.
  • Orcas. One of the most commonly suggested names, but this one fell short too. It would have been a good one though.
  • Brewers. Also taken.
  • Tide. Another one of the most common suggestions, but it's already used by a AAA team.
  • Mini Goldendoodles. Holly Jones sure has a cute dog, but there's not enough room on the front of a uniform for that one.
  • Smokies. Nope -- already used by a AA team.
  • Fighting Marmots. That was a great suggestion... OK, maybe I may have put it forward it in a previous blog post, but it was a good suggestion nonetheless. Of course, the Marmots haven't been ruled out yet, so there is always hope.
It's a bit of a long-shot to predict what name might be chosen, but given owner John McLean's knowledge and respect of Victoria's baseball tradition, I wouldn't be surprised to see a throwback name selected. Either that or the Stud Muffins.

Monday, October 8, 2012

2012 Stan Musial Award

The Victoria Seals Baseball Blog (VSBB) is a proud member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA). The VSBB once again has the honour of casting a ballot for the five awards given to players and managers in both the National and American Leagues. Today we reveal our ballots for the Stan Musial Award, which will be presented to the MVP in each league.

In 2010, Buster Posey had an outstanding rookie season and led the Giants to their first World Series title since they moved to San Francisco at the end of the 1957 season. Last year, a gruesome ankle injury left the Giants without their star catcher for most of the season and the team missed the playoffs. This season, Posey returned to form and the Giants easily cruised to the NL West title. When looking for the National League MVP, the search starts and stops with Buster Posey.

Posey won the NL batting title with a .336 average, the first catcher to do so in the senior circuit since 1942. He also slammed 24 homers and knocked in 103 runs and provided the Giants with excellent defense behind the plate.

Our National League ballot for the Stan Musial Award is:
  1. Buster Posey, San Franscisco Giants
  2. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
  3. David Wright, NY Mets
  4. Chase Headley, San Diego Padrees
  5. Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
  6. Jason Heyward, Atlanta Braves
  7. Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
  8. Aramis Ramirez, Milwaukee Brewers
  9. Michael Bourn, Atlanta Braves
  10. Aaron Hill, Arizona Diamondbacks
Choosing an MVP for the AL was even easier than in the NL, as Mike Trout had a spectacular season. We gave him the top spot on our Willie Mays Award ballot (rookie of the year) and I'm equally confident that he deserves the Stan Musial Award. Trout played unbelievable defense in centre field for the Angels in addition to being an offensive force. He hit .326 with 30 homers and 83 RBI, swiped 49 bases and scored an impressive 129 runs. It will be interesting to see how his career plays out, but the 21 year-old has future Hall of Famer written all over him.

Our AL ballot is as follows:
  1. Mike Trout, LA Angels
  2. Robinson Cano, NY Yankees
  3. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
  4. Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
  5. Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers
  6. Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
  7. Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays
  8. Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals
  9. Austin Jackson, Detroit Tigers
  10. Torii Hunter, LA Angels

Sunday, October 7, 2012

2012 Walter Johnson Award

The Victoria Seals Baseball Blog (VSBB) is a proud member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA). Once again this year, the VSBB has the honour of casting ballots for the five BBA awards given to players and managers in both the National and American Leagues. Today we give you the VSBB ballot for the Walter Johnson Award, which is presented to the top pitcher (starter or reliever) in each league.

In my opinion, the most overrated pitching statistic is the won-loss record. Too many variables that are completely out of the control of a pitcher (e.g. run support) determine who is awarded the win in a ballgame. With that in mind, it's not really a shocker that R.A. Dickey wasn't at the top of our National League ballot. Although he won 20 games, we feel there are more deserving candidates.

In the NL, I'm giving the nod once again to Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Kershaw won both the Walter Johnson and the Cy Young awards for the NL in 2011 with a spectacular 21-5 record and a 2.28 ERA / 0.98 WHIP. Although his record fell to 14-9 in 2012, his numbers were still worthy of being the top-ranked pitcher in the National League. Kershaw posted a 2.53 ERA / 1.02 WHIP this season and struck out 9.1 hitters per nine innings while only walking 2.5 per nine.

Gio Gonzalez of the Washington Nationals came a close second in our voting. Gonzalez had a record of 21-8 and registered a 2.89 ERA and 1.13 WHIP.

Cliff Lee, Wade Miley and R.A. Dickey rounded out our ballot. Honourable mention goes to Johnny Cueto of the Cincinnati Reds.

Our NL ballot for the Walter Johnson Award stands at:
  1. Clayton Kershaw, LA Dodgers
  2. Gio Gonzalez, Washington Nationals
  3. Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies
  4. Wade Miley, Arizona Diamondbacks
  5. R.A. Dickey, NY Mets
In the junior circuit, Justin Verlander was the obvious choice for the first spot on our ballot. Verlander won both the Walter Johnson and Cy Young awards for the AL in 2011, and he had an equally-good campaign this season. Verlander notched a 17-8 record with a sparkling 2.64 ERA and 1.06 WHIP.

Felix Hernandez had an outstanding season for the anemic Seattle Mariners, posting a 13-9 record, 3.06 ERA and 1.14 WHIP.

David Price, Yu Darvish and Chris Sale snagged the last three votes that we cast.

Our AL ballot for the Walter Johnson Award is:
  1. Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
  2. Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
  3. David Price, Tampa Bay Rays
  4. Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers
  5. Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox

2012 Goose Gossage Award

The Victoria Seals Baseball Blog (VSBB) is a proud member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA). The VSBB once again has the honour of casting a ballot for the five awards given to players and managers in both the National and American Leagues. Today we reveal our ballots for the Goose Gossage Award, which will be presented to the each league's top relief pitcher.

For the second consecutive year, closer Craig Kimbrel of the Atlanta Braves gets our vote as the top reliever in the National League. Kimbrel saved 42 games in his sophomore season, tied with Jason Motte of the St. Louis Cardinals for the league lead. He also struck out a league-best 16.7 batters per nine innings pitched, while posting a stunning 1.01 ERA and 0.65 WHIP. In fact, Kimbrel's WHIP is the best for a reliever in baseball history.

Second on our ballot is flamethrower Aroldis Chapman of the Cincinnati Reds. Chapman notched 38 saves and posted a 1.51 ERA and 0.81 WHIP. He also struck out an impressive 15.3 hitters per nine innings.

Rounding out our NL ballot is David Hernandez of the Arizona Diamonbacks. While he only notched four saves on the year, Hernandez was rock-solid out of the pen for the D-backs. He appeared in 72 games and compiled a 2.50 ERA and 1.02 WHIP while striking out 12.9 per nine innings.

Our NL Goose Gossage Award ballot is:
  1. Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves
  2. Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds
  3. David Hernandez, Arizona Diamondbacks
In the American League, Rays closer Fernando Rodney gets our vote as the top reliever. Not only did Rodney notch a whopping 48 saves, but he had a sparkling 0.60 ERA and 0.78 WHIP. Over the entire 2012 season, Rodney only surrendered two homers (74 2/3 innings pitched).

Greg Holland quietly had an outstanding season for the Kansas City Royals. After taking over the closer's role with the trade of Jonathan Broxton to the Reds, Holland notched 16 saves and lowered his ERA for the season to 2.96.

While he may have been the forgotten man in an excellent Tampa Bay Rays bullpen, lefty Jake McGee provided solid late-inning relief as a bridge to Fernando Rodney. McGee posted a 1.95 ERA and 0.80 WHIP, while holding opponents to a paltry .165 batting average in his 69 appearances.

Our AL Gossage Award ballot is:
  1. Fernando Rodney, Tampa Bay Rays
  2. Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals
  3. Jake McGee, Tampa Bay Rays

Saturday, October 6, 2012

2012 Willie Mays Award

The Victoria Seals Baseball Blog (VSBB) is a proud member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA). In this blog post, we present our ballot for the Willie Mays Award, which is given by the BBA to the top rookie in each league. Similar to the Baseball Writers' Association of America, the alliance is organized into different chapters. Gus, the founder of the VSBB, is President of the alliance's Other Baseball Chapter.

Choosing the top rookie for 2012 in the American League was a no-brainer, but the selections in the National League were quite a bit more difficult.

In the senior circuit, we decided to give the nod to pitching phenom Wade Miley of the Arizona Diamondbacks. The rookie southpaw went 16-11 with a 3.33 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. Although he doesn't strike out a ton of hitters (6.7 K/9), Miley walked a miserly 1.7 batters per nine innings and did a good job of keeping hitters in the park (0.7 HR/9).

Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals can do it all on the field. Hit, hit for power, run, field -- you name it, he does it well. Harper hit .270 with 22 HR and 59 RBI, while swiping 18 bases. One of the few blemishes on Harper's record occurred when the Nationals clinched a playoff spot and he was completely unaware of the significance of the win. The fireworks going off started to make sense to the 19-year-old when he was handed a playoff T-shirt. He's still a teenager, so one can only imagine how good he will become when he matures.

Reds' infielder Todd Frazier was one of the reasons why the team survived a serious injury to Joey Votto and breezed to the NL Central title. Frazier hit .273 with 19 homers and 67 RBI.
 
My National League ballot is:
  1. Wade Miley, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks
  2. Bryce Harper, CF, Washington Nationals
  3. Todd Frazier, 1B/3B, Cincinnati Reds
The decision in the American League couldn't have been any easier. Mike Trout of the Angels had the best rookie season in the live ball era (since 1920). That's right: better than Albert Pujol's 2001 breakout year, better than Mark Fidrych's dream season of 1976 and more impressive than Ted Williams' 1939 debut. Trout posted a .326 average with 30 homers and 83 RBI, but he also scored a phenomenal 129 runs and stole 49 bases. His defense, of course, was outstanding. The man is a human highlight reel.

A pair of Oakland A's round out the remainder of my ballot. Jarrod Parker went 13-8 with a 3.47 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. Cuban sensation Yoenis Cespedes also had a fine rookie year, hitting .292 with 23 homers and 82 RBI. He swiped 16 bases, but due to sub-par defense only merits a 3rd-place ranking.
 
My American League ballot is:
  1. Mike Trout, CF, Los Angeles Angels
  2. Jarrod Parker, SP, Oakland Athletics
  3. Yoenis Cespedes, LF/CF, Oakland Athletics

Friday, October 5, 2012

2012 Connie Mack Awards

The Victoria Seals Baseball Blog is a proud member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. As a member of the alliance, we have the honour of casting a ballot for each of the five awards given to players and managers in both the National and American Leagues. The first award for 2012 is the Connie Mack Award, presented to the top manager in each league.

National League

The Giants may have been favoured by many to win the NL West, but finishing eight games ahead of the second-place Dodgers is mighty impressive given the circumstances. Having to play the season without stud closer Brian Wilson, Bochy did a masterful job of managing his bullpen. He also had to contend with losing Melky Cabrera for the last 50 games of the season due to a suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs. On top of that, the Dodgers broke open the vault and loaded up with talent in an August trade with the Boston Red Sox.  None of this was a problem for the Giants and they easily pulled away from the Dodgers down the stretch.

Also warranting serious consideration was rookie manager Mike Matheny. Cardinals fans went into 2012 unsure of what to expect after losing slugger Albert Pujols, managing icon Tony Larussa and possibly the best pitching coach in the history of baseball: Dave Duncan. Serious injuries to Lance Berkman and Rafel Furcal added to Matheny's challenges. The ingredients were all there for a rough season in St. Louis, but Matheny found his managerial footing quickly and the Cardinals snagged a wild card spot with an 88-74 record. I wouldn't be surprised to see this team do some damage in the post-season once again.

The Washington Nationals are headed to the playoffs for the first time in their young history thanks to an incredible array of young talent. Manager Davey Johnson is the sentimental favourite in many circles to win the NL manager of the year award, but we're not much for sentimentality on this blog. He did a solid job of guiding his young club, but given the talent available to him and the lack of any serious adversity during the season we don't believe that merits winning manager of the year.

 
Accordingly, my NL ballot is:
  1. Bruce Bochy - San Fransisco Giants
  2. Mike Matheny - St. Louis Cardinals
  3. Davey Johnson - Washington Nationals
American League

There are two obvious choices for manager of the year in the AL and then there's a huge drop-off in quality candidates. Our choice for the award is Buck Showalter of the Baltimore Orioles. Many had tagged the Orioles for another last-place finish, but the team was baseball's biggest surprise of 2012. Baltimore's 93-69 record is downright stunning when you consider that they only scored seven (!!!) more runs than they gave up. Showalter deserves a good chunk of the credit for his team's perfect 16-0 record in extra innings and their 29-9 mark in one-run games. 

The other obvious choice in the AL for manager of the year is Bob Melvin of the Oakland A's. With a meagre $55 million payroll, the A's shocked the baseball world by winning the AL West over the heavily-favoured Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels. At the All Star break, Oakland had a meagre 41-41 record, but they went on a second-half tear and played .663 baseball the rest of the way. Given their collection of no-name players, Melvin did a wonderful job of getting this group of underdogs into the playoffs.

Honourable mention goes to veteran manager Jim Leyland. Although the Tigers underachieved for much of the season, Leyland rallied the troops for a late-season surge that brought them the AL Central title.

My ballot in the junior circuit is:
  1. Buck Showalter - Baltimore Orioles
  2. Bob Melvin - Oakland Athletics
  3. Jim Leyland - Detroit Tigers

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Pluta featured in Slate Magazine article on independent baseball

Well it isn't exactly Ball Four, but today's article in Slate Magazine by Rafi Kohan provides an interesting and unvarnished look into life in the independent leagues. Of special note is the fact that Anthony Pluta, former Victoria Seals pitcher and current Manager of the Victoria Eagles Premier Baseball League team, is featured prominently in the piece.

Local baseball fans can take solace in the fact that the business side of baseball in the West Coast League bears no resemblance to what is sadly commonplace in the independent leagues. The WCL has been incredibly stable over its eight-year history, so there's no worry about franchises folding mid-season or team jerseys being seized in legal battles -- just good old-fashioned hardball to occupy our thoughts.  It's less than nine months until opening day and it can't come soon enough!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Rogers and Miller to coach Victoria's WCL baseball team

Dennis Rogers
The owners of Victoria's yet-to-be-named West Coast League baseball team continue to show the Midas Touch. Two weeks after naming marketing whiz Holly Jones as the franchise's inaugural GM, John McLean and Dwight Willett tapped a pair of veteran baseball men to be the field managers of the team. Dennis Rogers was named the head coach and Bob Miller will serve as the "co-head" coach.

Both men are currently head coaches for college baseball teams in California and both have managed at a variety of levels. Dennis Rogers coaches at Riverside Community College, a junior college with an impressive list of alumni who have been drafted by MLB teams (including former Victoria Seal Brian Rios!). He has also managed teams in the affiliated minor leagues for seven seasons, compiling an impressive career winning percentage of .562. Rogers is also familiar with the Pacific Northwest, having managed both the Medford A's and the Vancouver Canadians in the Northwest League (Short Season "A" ball).  His new coaching partner, Bob Miller, has been the head coach at Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo for the past nine seasons. You can read more about Rogers and Miller in the official press release on the team's web site.

I would expect there to be number of Victoria baseball fans who will initially respond to the hiring of Rogers and Miller with a shrug. After seeing three high-profile managers of the Victoria Seals in 2009-10 (Darrell Evans, Bret Boone and arguably even Kip Gross), some local fans may have expected another ex-big leaguer with a household name to be hired to coach our squad. That didn't happen, but that's a good thing. It merely highlights some of the key differences between the independent leagues and college wood bat leagues. Independent league teams use big-name managers to help sell tickets and lend credibility to teams made up of players in their late 20's and early 30's who may have their best days behind them. Teams in college wood bat leagues hire head coaches who can recruit top talent and then teach their young players how to play the game at the next level. Rogers and Miller clearly have the credentials to do just that.

At the press conference this morning, Rogers said that recruiting efforts are well underway and that about 10 players are committed to playing in Victoria in 2013 (eventually 25-35 players will be signed). More importantly, he has a verbal commitment from eight baseball programs to supply players to our team. He also mentioned that the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos, a Division 1 NCAA team that plays in the Big West Conference, will be a key supplier of talent. Initially at least, it sounds like it will be a bit of an uphill battle to convince some programs to send us their top talent. Rogers said that a number of programs have told him they have already committed players to the Cape Cod League for 2013, but they will happily send us elite players in future years. I'd also expect that word about Victoria -- both the city and the baseball environment -- will get out by the end of the 2013 season and that recruiting will be much easier by this time next year.

Rogers intends to build a "diverse roster" of both well-known and unheralded players. He also hopes to have a number of Canadian players on the team. One obvious potential player is Toronto's Bryan Saucedo, a first baseman on the Canadian National Junior Team who will play for Rogers at Riverside Community College this season. Saucedo was drafted in June (but not signed) by the Milwaukee Brewers and he intends to re-enter the draft. He was recently quoted as saying "I’m going to Riverside City College in southern California. My goal is to play in the big leagues, and not (just) get drafted. RCC coach Dennis Rogers spent 10 years coaching pro ball. He is proven at preparing guys like the Atlanta Braves’ Tommy Hanson and the New York Yankees Chris Stewart." If that's not a ringing endorsement then I don't know what is. If players like Saucedo are lining up to play for Dennis Rogers, the Victoria "Watchamacallits" will give us plenty of reasons to cheer during our summer nights at Royal Athletic Park.

Watchamacallit Wedges (formerly "Seal Blubber Bits")
  • More than 500 submissions have been made by fans to the Name The Team Contest. The team name and logo could be announced as early as late September or early October. However, it's also possible  that a short-list of potential names could be released at that time.
  • The team will also be looking to add one or two assistant coaches prior to the start of the 2013 season.
  • In his only season playing professional baseball, Dennis Rogers played every infield position for the San Francisco Giants' Rookie League team and displayed a keen eye at the plate.  
  • Rogers warned fans not to expect too much of the team out of the gate next year, but he hopes the team can still finish the season at the .500 level.
  • Steve Garvey's son Ryan played for Dennis Rogers at Riverside Community College and was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in this year's amateur draft.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

More WCL news from the press conference...

Apart from introducing Holly Jones to Victoria baseball fans, John McLean took a few minutes to talk about the last couple of months worth of work he and his ownership team have been doing.

First off, he once again praised the city and Mayor Fortin for the efforts being put forth from Victoria's side to make this work.It seems like the WCL's relationship with the city is already in much better shape than the Seals were able to get to.

Talk centered around the naming of Victoria's team, and the naming of the on-field boss.

The team has started a contest on their website where the first 250 people to offer suggestions receive tickets to an upcoming game. No word on what the selection process entails past collecting the 250 entries... Check out the fledgling site here: http://www.victoriabaseballclub.com/

On the Manager position, McLean was tight lipped. He made a point of stressing that the key to a good Manager at this level, is one with good communication skills, teaching skills, and superb recruiting skills. You need someone who can pick up the phone and talk to NCAA schools and convince them to send players to Victoria. He's a mentor, but also a marketer for the on-field team. McLean was quick to say he isn't  a recently retired major league player, and when asked if it was a name from baseball that we would know, his answer was a mysterious "It depends on how well you know your baseball history".

Look for an announcement within the next couple of weeks on the Manager, and by the end of September on the team name.

Jones touched on the player makeup of the team, stating that they were trying to find BC boys for the roster to give the team a more local feel. With similar timelines, the team should start to take shape in the September time frame.

On the state of Royal Athletic, McLean spoke of improvements in the works for opening day, and mentioned ideas in flight like moving home plate closer to the backstop to create a more intimate feel. He also spoke of moving the corporate BBQ area up onto the concrete deck just past the stands along the third base line (it used to live beyond the bag down third base), again to keep people closer to the game.

Jones also talked about how integral the scoreboard would be to the fan experience at the ball park. The scoreboard is still privately owned by the Parker Family, but it is on her radar to secure.

So lots going on under the covers! Lets hope the goodwill between the team and the city continues, and RAP starts to look like a ball yard again!

Seal Blubber Bits
  • Earlier this week, former Victoria Seals pitcher Anthony Pluta was named Manager of the Victoria Eagles Premier Baseball League team. You can read all about it on the ISN website. Pluta will be a great addition to the Victoria baseball scene and I’m sure he’ll positively influence a significant number of young ballplayers in this city. Welcome back, Anthony! 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Victoria's WCL team names its first GM

Sometimes you can tell right away that a good decision has been made. You don’t need to wait to see what happens, hear what others have to say about it... you just get that feeling. Tuesday morning at RAP was one of those moments. John McLean stood before the Victoria sports scene and announced that the position of General Manager for Victoria’s new WCL team has be filled by... Holly Jones.

Who?

Not a big-name sports celebrity, not a famous washed-out ex-jock with a taste for the social scene, but a marketing professional. A proven successful veteran of not only the WCL where she was instrumental in establishing the Corvallis Knights - a team near the top of the league in both skill and attendance, but with a resume that includes the likes of the NBA front office, and JetBlue Airways.

She lists volleyball and tennis as her favourite sports growing up, not baseball. And really, does it matter? On most minor league teams, and absolutely in the WCL, the on-field management is done by the bench boss, not the front office. Holly’s job here in Victoria is not managing players, but it's her sweet spot. It’s marketing. It’s community attachment. It’s promotions and getting fans in the door. It’s getting the team out into the community and making them part of the city. It's growing a team from the ground up, building solid relationships with the business and fan base of Victoria, and establishing a brand name.
Ho Jo, Victoria. Victoria, Ho Jo.

And that brings me back to that feeling of it just being right.  She’s not Holly Jones - big city marketing suit from New York, landed here to sell fridges to the northerners. She’s Ho Jo. She’s an Oregon Duck. She’s a West Coast girl you would swear you grew up with. She’s down home, has family in Langford, bought a house in Oak Bay. She's already made Victoria her home and she's here to stay.

She has a bubbly personality that makes you smile, makes you want to be part of the team. Listening to her go through the media scrum, she’s practiced, she knows her stuff, but she presents herself as someone you want to see succeed because she’s one of us. She doesn’t have to fit in, it's like she’s already here.

And that my friends, is what sells here in Victoria. It’s clear that the ownership team of John McLean and Dwight Willett have done their homework again, and my guess is Victoria is going to fall in love with Holly Jones faster than you can say “Play Ball”!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Seal Blubber Bits - West Coast League edition

Regular readers of the Victoria Seals Baseball blog will remember the section of miscellaneous tidbits that we used to tack on to the end of blog posts called "Seal Blubber Bits". Once our new West Coast League team finds a name we'll have to come up with a new moniker, but until then here is a resurrected version of Seal Blubber Bits:
  • Our new West Coast League franchise will kick off the "Name the Team" contest very soon. Fans will be asked to select from a pre-defined list of options, much like the Victoria WHL hockey franchise did just over a year ago. Stay tuned for more details.
  • The West Coast League has conditionally awarded an expansion franchise to Medford, Oregon. The team could begin play as soon as 2013 provided a lease agreement can be reached for Harry & David Field and the community can raise $250,000 for ballpark improvements. Funds raised by the community will be matched by the team's owner, Consolidated Sports Holding International. Consolidated Sports Holdings also owns four junior hockey teams: the Everett Silvertips of the WHL, the Amarillo Bulls and Texas Tornado of the North American Hockey League and the North Iowa Bulls of the North American 3 Hockey League. Medford used to host an affiliated baseball team in the Northwest League (Short Season A), but the team moved to Vancouver in 2000 when the AAA Vancouver Canadians were relocated to Sacramento, California. 
  • The awarding of the Medford franchise brings the West Coast League to 11 teams and it would not be surprising if a 12th team was awarded to Chico, California in the near future. Fans of the Victoria Seals will remember that the Chico Outlaws were part of the defunct Golden Baseball League. In fact, Eri Yoshida was wearing an Outlaws uniform when she pitched in one of the most unforgettable nights in Seals history. The Chico Outlaws folded in February 2012.
  • The Victoria WCL team is also getting close to naming their GM and field boss. Rumour has it a former Victoria Seal is in the running for the manager's job.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

American League All Star Ballot

Yesterday, I cast my National League ballot as part of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance's All Star voting. Today, I give you my ballot for the junior circuit:
  • Catcher - Joe Mauer MIN - 34 R, 3 HR, 34 RBI, 3 SB, .323 BA, .859 OPS
  • 1st Base - Paul Konerko CHI - 36 R, 13 HR, 39 RBI, 0 SB, .337 BA, .971 OPS
  • 2nd Base - Robinson Cano NY - 51 R, 17 HR, 39 RBI, 1 SB, .302 BA, .941 OPS
  • Third Base - Mike Moustakas KC - 35 R, 12 HR, 37 RBI, 2 SB, .280 BA, .837 OPS
  • Shortstop - Elvis Andrus TEX - 44 R, 1 HR, 29 RBI, 13 SB, .300 BA, .782 OPS
  • Outfielder - Mike Trout LA, 43 R, 7 HR, 29 RBI, 21 SB, .338 BA, .930 OPS
  • Outfielder - Josh Hamilton TEX, 47 R, 23 HR, 66 RBI, 6 SB, .318 BA, 1.031 OPS
  • Outfielder - Adam Jones BAL, 49 R, 19 HR, 40 RBI, 9 SB, .300 BA, .907 OPS
  • Designated Hitter - Adam Dunn CHI, 42 R, 23 HR, 53 RBI, 0 SB, .212 BA, .880 OPS
  • Starting Pitcher - Justin Verlander DET, 8-4, 2.52 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 8.64 K/9, 4.04 K/BB
Compared to what I would have guessed in the preseason, my AL ballot is full of surprises, including a number of players who have enjoyed breakout years. Mike Moustakas is having a wonderful sophomore season and he earned my vote at third base. I'm always happy to see players from the much-maligned Kansas City Royals organization get their props. In the outfield, I took the youngster Mike Trout with one of my votes even though he doesn't actually appear on the AL ballot. Trout will likely cruise to AL Rookie of the Year honours this season. Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles was another one of my selections in the outfield and the 26-year-old slugger is headed for his best season (so far) in his young career.

The other unexpected player on my ballot is Adam Dunn of the Chicago White Sox. After suffering through a miserable 2011 season in which he only hit .159 with 11 home runs, Dunn has bounced back with 23 homers and a .358 on-base percentage going into today's action.

This year's All Star Game is set for Tuesday July 10th in Kansas City.


Monday, June 25, 2012

National League All Star Ballot

As a proud member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA) and President of the alliance's Other Baseball chapter, it is my pleasure to cast a ballot for the BBA's 2012 National League All-Star team.

This year I tried to find a balance between voting for the established stars and the newcomers who are having a stellar first half. With that in mind, here is my National League ballot:
  • Catcher - Yadier Molina STL - 31 R, 10 HR, 39 RBI, 7 SB, .318 BA, .875 OPS
  • 1st Base - Joey Votto CIN - 47 R, 14 HR, 47 RBI, 4 SB, .359 BA, , 1.137 OPS
  • 2nd Base - Brandon Phillips CIN - 39 R, 10 HR, 44 RBI, 2 SB, .283 BA, .775 OPS
  • Third Base - David Wright NY - 47 R, 8 HR, 41 RBI, 8 SB, .360 BA, 1.020 OPS
  • Shortstop - Jimmy Rollins PHI - 42 R, 7 HR, 24 RBI, 12 SB, .266 BA, .720 OPS
  • Outfielder - Michael Bourn ATL, 48 R, 6 HR, 24 RBI, 20 SB, .311 BA, .796 OPS
  • Outfielder - Martin Prado ATL, 42 R, 5 HR, 28 RBI, 8 SB, .315 BA, .838 OPS
  • Outfielder - Jason Heyward ATL, 39 R, 11 HR, 35 RBI, 10 SB, .278 BA, .861 OPS
  • Starting Pitcher - Zack Greinke MIL, 8-2, 2.81 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 9.28 K/9, 4.71 K/BB
The easiest selection on the ballot was Joey Votto at first base. Votto is simply the best hitter in baseball right now and he looks like he just might have one of the best offensive seasons of all time. It was a much tougher call at catcher with Yadier Molina and Carlos Ruiz both having great seasons. In the end, I went with Molina due to his longer history of superior play and his outstanding defense. At second base, I went with Brandon Phillips over Dan Uggla and Aaran Hill largely because of Phillips' Gold Glove defense. Shortstop was a very difficult decision as well, but I went with the veteran Jimmy Rollins over breakout sensation Jed Lowrie and the inconsistent Starlin Castro.

Perhaps most surprisingly (even to me!), I went with three Atlanta Braves in the outfield. In the post-steroid era, it's fitting that all three outfielders have above average defense skills and speed. Sorry, Ryan Braun -- you don't get my vote this year. 'Nuff said.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Victoria's WCL team needs a name

With just under a year to go before Victoria sees the return of baseball to RAP, there is bound to be a flurry of activity surrounding the new WCL team as it builds itself a head office, on-field staff, and the rest of a baseball operations team.

It shouldn’t be too long before we start to see some fan-building activities as well, as a promotions team comes on board and starts to build interest. The first order of business is likely a team naming activity, with input from Victoria baseball fans to help pick the name. As Gus mentioned in his post, not sure if that means fans will be invited to submit their ideas, or if we will only get to vote on a shortlist.

We here at the blog are never ones to wait for instructions, we like to jump the gun and make our own path and this time is no exception! Come along with us and submit your own opinions on team names. 

There have been a few suggestions made on Gus’s post. Marmots, Islanders, Tide, Thunder, and more. Those are perfectly fine suggestions, they just aren’t mine. Here’s my take on the team name: Please welcome to town, the Victoria Gulls!

Yes the Gulls! What better to represent our city that the water fowl that is everywhere. You can’t spend a day in Victoria without at least once looking upward fearing the gull’s wrath (even if it’s good luck to be targeted). Yes the mighty gull is a force to be reckoned with.

The Gulls name in baseball is fairly unique. There was once a PCL team in Salt Lake City called the Gulls, it’s been defunct since 1984. There are the Newport, RI Gulls who do play in the New England Collegiate Baseball League. Still, Victoria’s Gulls would be the only Gulls team within 4000km.

So the Gulls in my world follow the colour scheme of the ChiSox. White, black, and grey – just like a Gull. Check out their uni below:


You see – the "V" in Victoria is a Gull in flight! Nice tie-in, I know. And for the team logo, incorporate a sight seen on the top of every light post and telephone pole in town. The mighty gull at rest:


So that’s my take on it. I can see the souvenir t-shirts and hats already - the ones with the fake poop on the brim and sleeve... The game-day posters with the visitor’s logos plastered with a white mess... The on-field promotions where two lucky fans toss eggs back and forth until someone gets plastered with one... Yes, the Victoria Gulls are a full on and off field experience!

Okay so it’s not like we need more suggestions after all that, but what the heck - take your best shot! Add your comments. Team names, jersey ideas, mascots, promo ideas... Let’s have them all! Who knows, maybe one will be so good, we can make choosing the name only a formality...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

City of Victoria signs three-year deal with WCL team

Ken Wilson, John McLean, Dwight Willett & Dean Fortin
The City of Victoria held a press conference late this morning to announce that it has entered into a three-year agreement with a (yet unnamed) West Coast League baseball team.

The new team will be the anchor tenant at Royal Athletic Park beginning in June of 2013, but the park will remain a multi-purpose facility. In order to allow that to happen, a new home run fence will be purchased that can be installed at the beginning of a home-stand and removed when the team goes out on the road. This will allow for non-baseball use of RAP for roughly half of the WCL season, which runs from June to August. As part of the new agreement, the city will continue to run the concession stands at RAP and there will be a similar sharing of revenue as per the previous arrangement with the Victoria Seals.

Mayor Dean Fortin
The West Coast League has been trying to setup shop in Victoria since 2008 and those efforts quickly ramped back up hours after the demise of the Victoria Seals in November of 2010. Mayor Dean Fortin deserves much of the credit for bringing a WCL team to our fair city and he spoke passionately about the game of baseball at today's press conference. Hats off to the mayor for all of his efforts.

For over a year now, we have known about the existence of an anonymous Vancouver-based businessman who was trying to bring an expansion WCL team to Victoria. Today we found out that there are actually two businessmen in the team's ownership group: John McLean and his partner Dwight Willett. McLean is a Managing Partner at Ansera Capital Partners and Willett is a semi-retired executive who has worked at Bruce Power and Enbridge. Although Ansera is a private equity / venture capital firm, McLean is quick to point out that his personal ownership of the team is completely unrelated to the venture capital business. McLean also went out of his way to praise Mayor Fortin, saying that he and the entire staff at the city's Parks and Recreation department were "tremendous to work with".
John McLean

After spending some time with the new owners, I was impressed with both of these gentlemen. Not only do these guys have impeccable business credentials, but they also appear to be quite fond of the game of baseball. Twice during the press conference, McLean referred to baseball as a "magical sport" and he was clearly well-versed in Victoria's lengthy baseball tradition. He pointed out that Victoria was once home to a minor-league affiliate of the New York Yankees and that Yankees star Gil McDougald played the 1949 season at Royal Athletic Park. Two years after hitting .344 for the Victoria Athletics, McDougald won the 1951 American League Rookie of the Year Award with the Yankees.

WCL President Ken Wilson was on hand at today's press conference and he also deserves a great deal of credit for bringing baseball back to Victoria. Not only does Wilson have an incredibly impressive background as a sportscaster, but he has done a outstanding job of steadily growing the West Coast League since he took over as president in 2008. Although the league has been operating with an odd number of teams in recent years, the WCL waited until the right opportunity presented itself before expanding to ten teams. With Victoria now in the fold, the league is looking to add two more teams for 2013 -- likely Medford (Oregon) and Chico (California). If that were to happen then the league would switch from an East-West to a North-South divisional alignment. The nine current WCL teams are the Kelowna Falcons, Bellingham (WA) Bells, Bend (OR) Elks, Corvallis (OR) Knights, Cowlitz (Kelso / Longview, WA) Black Bears, Kitsap (Bremerton, WA) BlueJackets, Klamath Falls (OR) Gems, Walla Walla (WA) Sweets and the Wenatchee (WA) AppleSox.

Ken Wilson
Our new team will be running a "select a name" contest in the coming months. It's unclear if the team will propose a small number of names from which to choose (like the Victoria Royals hockey team did last year) or if fans will be free to suggest any name. My personal preference is to call the team the Victoria Marmots (or better yet the Fighting Marmots) after the endangered (yet tenacious) species found on Vancouver Island. Another option is to revert back to the Victoria Seals. Feel free to kick-start the brainstorming by leaving a comment to this blog post.

The West Coast League prides itself in providing affordable family entertainment and the new team projects average ticket prices to be under $10. By comparison, the Kelowna Falcons charge $10-$12 for adult tickets and $5-$7 for children and seniors. That's considerably cheaper than what the Victoria Seals were charging, but the new team will be operating under an entirely different cost structure. Not only are the (NCAA) players not paid, but the cities in the league are close enough to allow teams to travel entirely by bus. Unlike in the Golden Baseball League, WCL team owners aren't burdened with the cost of flying to Maui, Texas or Mexico.

The media "throng"
Looking back on what happened to the Seals and the Victoria Capitals, it's easy to be skeptical about this new venture. But given the strong ownership, viable business model and the stable nature of the West Coast League, there is good reason to believe that this new, yet-to-be-named baseball team will be here in Victoria for a long, long time. Now it's up to the city's baseball fans to come out and support it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The boys are back in town!!

Well, it's official. This evening, the Times-Colonist confirmed our suspicions in their online edition and CTV Vancouver Island also reported the news. Break out the bubbly, because elite baseball is set to return to Victoria's Royal Athletic Park in June of 2013.

Our team of intrepid bloggers will be attending the press conference tomorrow and we'll have all of the details on this blog afterward.

Let's celebrate with a little Thin Lizzy...

Special announcement at RAP tomorrow!

Is baseball coming back to Victoria in 2013? Invitations have been sent out for a "special announcement" at Royal Athletic Park tomorrow. It's very likely that the announcement will be that the City of Victoria has reached an agreement with an unnamed Vancouver businessman to bring baseball back to the City of Gardens.

The city has been negotiating a Memorandum of Understanding with the mystery owner of an expansion West Coast League (WCL) franchise since February. The WCL features elite NCAA players playing a 54-game schedule from June to mid-August. League alumni include Jeff Francis of the Colorado Rockies, Jacoby Ellsbury of the Boston Red Sox, Nyjer Morgan of the Milwaukee Brewers and Tommy Hanson of the Atlanta Braves. In the 2012 Major League First Year Player Draft conducted last week, 53 players from the West Coast League were drafted by Major League clubs.

Stay tuned to this blog for more details as they become available!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Former Seals players in independent baseball

Yesterday, we gave you an update on two former Victoria Seals who are still pitching in affiliated baseball (Austin Bibens-Dirkx and Dane De La Rosa). Today we check up on some ex-Seals who are playing in independent baseball leagues this season.

Since he sported a nasty 7.44 ERA in 2008, Anthony Pluta has improved on his indy numbers each year. This year, Pluta is pitching out of the pen for the Newark Bears of the Can Am League and he currently has a nifty 1.00 ERA.

After being released by the Leones de Yucatan of the Mexican League, Jeff Duda signed with the Can Am League's Quebec Capitales. Although he was originally rumoured to be the Quebec closer this season, Duda has pitched in middle relief and has made a couple of spot starts recently.

After a solid 2011 season with the now defunct Calgary Vipers, Chris Bodishbaugh signed with the Sioux City Explorers of the American Association. Bodi was named the team's closer and so far he's posted two saves in eight appearances for the Central Division cellar dwellers.

Former Seals ace Isaac Hess was traded by the Winnipeg Goldeyes to the Bridgeport Bluefish of the Atlantic League in April. Unfortunately, Hess has fallen on hard times with the Bluefish and has given up at least four earned runs in his last six starts.

Here is a statistical summary of these four former Seals:

Player
Team
League
Record
ERA
SV
G
IP
K
BB
WHIP
Anthony Pluta
Newark Bears
Can Am
2-1
1.00
0
9
9
12
5
1.00
Jeff Duda
Qu├ębec Capitales
Can Am
2-0
4.40
0
4
14 2/3
10
7
1.30
Chris Bodishbaugh
Sioux City Explorers
American Association
0-1
4.50
2
8
10
8
3
1.60
Isaac Hess
Bridgeport Bluefish
Atlantic
2-3
6.35
0
7
39 2/3
33
15
1.66

Ex-Seal Brett Flowers had a successful 2011 campaign with Bodishbaugh's current team, the Sioux City Explorers, hitting .329 with 4 homers and 38 RBI. He is now playing baseball in Japan for the Ehime Mandarin Pirates of the Shikoku Island League. Click below for an interesting "highlight" video of one of the Mandarin Pirate's recent games. Brett appears at both the 1:57 and 2:22 mark of the video. Flowers is wearing jersey number 88 with the name "BRETT" on the back.



Apparently, Wilver Perez is also playing in Japan this season, but I was unable to confirm this. If you are aware of any other former Seals playing professional baseball this season, please don't hesitate to leave a comment to this blog post.