Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Will the real Steven Wright please stand up?

When I first heard that the Victoria Seals signed Steven Wright, I thought “What, the comedian?” But no, the Seals did not sign the professional funny man with the deadpan delivery of wickedly ironic jokes. I recently did some web surfing to see if I could quickly dig up some information on the baseball player named Steven Wright who recently joined the Victoria squad. It wasn't as easy as these things normally are.

After a few moments, I wondered if our new recruit was the 25-year-old Steven Wright who has pitched in the Indians organization for the past few seasons. But no, the Steven Wright signed by the Seals plays outfield. Then I thought that the player in question must be the 34-year-old Steve Wright from North Carolina who played outfield in the Mariners organization in 1998. Uh, no. Not that Steve Wright either.

It turns out that the Steven Wright who is now a Victoria Seal is the 26-year-old native of Henderson, Nevada who has spent the past three seasons playing in three different independent leagues. The 6’1”, 205-pound outfielder wasn’t drafted by a major league team after he played baseball for Lyon College, a small school in Arkansas that is a member of the NAIA. Wright had two outstanding seasons at Lyon College and he still owns the all-time single-season school record for doubles (27) and runs scored (77). In 2006, he even received honourable mention as an NAIA All-American.

Wright is a speedy outfielder with some pop in his bat. He hit .288 for the Alexandria Aces of the Continental Baseball League last season and clubbed six homers and 23 RBI in only 118 at-bats. He also stole bases at an impressive clip last season -- 16 in only 35 games. Over the winter, he played with Chris Bodishbaugh for the Space Coast Surge in the ill-fated Florida Winter Baseball League. In only 41 at-bats with the Surge, he hit .195 with one homer and four RBIs – not great for a league that was slightly below the Golden Baseball League in calibre.

This won’t be Wright’s first stint in the Golden League though. In 2007, he suited up for St. George and hit .294 with two homers and 28 RBIs in 177 at-bats. He also stole 13 bases in 17 attempts. In 2008, he spent a week playing for Reno in the Golden League before moving over to the Laredo Broncos of the United League. Wright only hit .241 for the Broncos, but he still hit five homers in only 162 at-bats. 

Wright goes into spring training battling Terrence McClain for the final starting spot in the Seals outfield (along with Colin Moro and Chris VanRossum). McClain has more professional experience than Wright and has played at the higher levels of independent baseball, so he probably has the inside track on the job. But anything can happen over the next three weeks and Wright can clearly play the game. It’s something to keep an eye on as spring training progresses.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Bodishbaugh back with the Seals for 2010

We have been profiling some of the new Seals in the last few weeks, but it’s time to take a look at one of the returning players from last season, Chris Bodishbaugh.

Bodishbaugh is a 25-year-old right-handed pitcher who is entering his third professional season. He was a distinguished three-sport athlete in high school and he went on to accept a full football scholarship at San Jose State, a Division I school. As a freshman, he was named Hardest Working Athlete on the team. But in the spring of 2004, the football team refused his request to play baseball, so he withdrew from the university and gave up his full scholarship. Bodishbaugh went on to play baseball for Los Medanos College in 2004 and 2005 and was named team MVP both years. He eventually played Division II baseball at CSU Chico in 2007 and was then signed by the Florida Marlins. Bodishbaugh spent 2008 in the Marlins system and he was initially assigned to the Jamestown Jammers in the New York-Penn League (low A). He did well in 11 games with the Jammers, but struggled mightily after being promoted to the Greensboro Grasshoppers of the South Atlantic League (A). He was roughed up to the tune of a 10.29 ERA in 21 innings pitched and was promptly released by the Marlins.

Bodishbaugh was signed by the Victoria Seals in 2009 and he made 24 appearances for the team, six as a starter. He finished the season with a 4-1 record, a 5.91 ERA and two saves. However, if you throw out two dreadful appearances to start the season, his ERA was a respectable 4.67. Bodishbaugh improved as the year went on and he also had more success as a starter. In his last five appearances with the Seals, he had a 2.22 ERA and he struck out 21 batters in 24 2/3 innings.

In the fall of 2009, Bodishbaugh signed with the Space Coast Surge of the fledgling Florida Winter Baseball League (FWBL). Unfortunately, the league folded after only 15 games and the season was cut short. The FWBL was intended to be an American alternative to the Latin and Caribbean winter leagues, but the only players signed were from various (unaffiliated) independent leagues. Some estimated the calibre of play to be Advanced A, which is slightly lower than the Golden League. In 19 2/3 innings pitched for Space Coast, Bodishbaugh had a 4.58 ERA, but he held opponents to a meager .217 batting average. Most importantly, he cut down on his walks and only issued six free passes.

Looking forward, it’s quite possible that Bodishbaugh could have a break-out season in 2010. Given his age and relative inexperience at the professional level, he’ll benefit greatly from the tutelage of pitching coach Kip Gross and the three members of the pitching staff with big-league experience (Brandon Villafuerte, Jason Kershner and Phillip Barzilla). The key for Bodishbaugh will be to cut down on the walks (4.4 per nine innings in 2009) and the homers (1.4 per nine innings). If he can do that then he just might put together a nice little season.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Seal Blubber Bits - pre-spring training edition

Here are some tasty bits to gnaw on as we await the start of spring training:
  • There is no word yet on who will be the other starting middle infielder for the Victoria Seals this summer. If the team ends up signing another quality second baseman then GBL All Star Wilver Perez could shift over to shortstop. Perhaps a good middle infielder will show up at the local tryout camp on May 7th.
  • Ex-Seal Austin Bibens-Dirkx bounced back from his rough outing on April 16th with a good performance on Thursday evening for the Tennessee Smokies (AA). Bibens-Dirkx pitched five shutout innings against the Carolina Mudcats, giving up only two hits while walking two and striking out four. Although he left with a 2-0 lead, Bibens-Dirkx took a no-decision after the Smokies blew the lead and then came roaring back to win 7-3. His ERA now stands at a respectable 4.09.
  • Seals alumnus Isaac Hess continues to work out of the bullpen for the Diablos Rojos del Mexico (AAA). Since we last updated you on Hess’ progress, he’s had one good outing and one so-so performance. Although his record is 3-0, his ERA is 4.62 – only good enough for 13th best on the team. The biggest issue continues to be control, as Hess has walked 12 batters in 25 1/3 innings pitched. As a result, his WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) is an ugly 1.50.
  • The first day of spring training for the Seals is May 8th at Royal Athletic Park. All spring training sessions are open to the public and will run from roughly 9 AM to 3 PM each day. The team is also scheduled to hold workouts at RAP on May 10th and May 17th, 18th and 19th. 
  • The team will be in the interior from May 11th to the 14th and will play a pair of exhibition games in Kamloops against the Calgary Vipers on the 12th and 13th.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Seals pick up McClain from Amarillo Dillas

The Victoria Seals were blessed with a pretty good outfield in 2009, but there were two big holes to fill as the team began to assemble this year’s spring training roster. Centre fielder Chris VanRossum will be returning, but Sergio Pedroza and Jamar Hill have moved on to greener pastures (the Dodgers organization and the York Revolution, respectively).

The first hole in the outfield was plugged when the Seals made their big trade on April 15th to bring in the dynamic outfielder/first baseman Colin Moro from Calgary. Barring another impact trade or free-agent signing, the other starting outfield position may be filled by Terrence McClain. McClain was recently acquired from the Amarillo Dillas of the United League for a (you guessed it) player to be named later.

McClain is a 30-year-old native of Paris (Tennessee) who played college baseball at Trevecca Nazarene University, an NAIA school. He wasn’t drafted by a major-league organization, so he began his professional career in independent baseball in 2003 with the Evansville Otters of the Frontier League. McClain spent three consecutive years with the team and he improved each season, posting on-base percentages of .336, .343 and .377. His steady progress resulted in a 2005 trade to the Fullerton (now Orange County) Flyers of the fledgling Golden Baseball League. The GBL was obviously a step up for McClain as he only posted a .259 average and a .302 on-base percentage with Fullerton.

McClain went on to spend two seasons with the ill-named Edmonton Cracker-Cats of the Northern League in 2006 and 2007. In his second season in Edmonton, he hit a career-high 11 homers in 91 games. McClain had a break-out season last year in the United League, where he hit an impressive .341 and swiped a dozen bases for the Dillas. He also hit four round-trippers and knocked in 52 runs in only 267 at-bats.

Given that the Golden League is a step up from the United League, it will be interesting to see how McClain performs this year. Spring training begins in just over two weeks, so he’ll have to impress manager Bret Boone to secure that final starting outfield position.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

New road uniforms for Orange County Flyers

The Orange County Flyers will be showing off their brand-new road uniforms when they pay a visit to Royal Athletic Park from May 27th to May 30th. The team recently announced that they are ditching the old orange jerseys in favour of the traditional greys for road games.

Take a look below to see the difference between the old and new jerseys.

New OC jerseys

Old OC jerseys

May is turning out to be new uniform month at Royal Athletic Park. The expansion Na Ikaika Koa Maui (Strong Warriors of Maui) will be showing off their Rastafarian-inspired colours during their inaugural visit to Victoria from May 21st to the 25th.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Seals sign southpaw starter Zach Cline

We continue to profile some of the players recently signed by the Victoria Seals. Today, the focus is on pitcher Zach Cline.

Cline is a 26-year-old left-handed starter who was a 15th-round selection of the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2004 draft. His professional career got off to a strong start as he posted sub-3.00 ERAs in both the New York-Penn League (A-) and South Atlantic League (A) in 2004. At the time, he threw in the low 90’s and was considered a bona fide prospect. But an injury forced him to miss the entire 2005 season and he was not as impressive upon his return. After posting an ERA over 5.00 in 2006, he was quickly released by the Phillies at the age of 22. The Phillies may have been a bit premature in giving up on Cline, as his walk and strikeout numbers were still reasonable and the high ERA in 2006 (in only 86 innings) could have been chalked up to a run of bad luck.

Not ready to give up the dream, Cline has spent the last three seasons playing independent ball and he’s had some success. He compiled a 10-6 record and a 3.09 ERA for the Slippery Rock Sliders in the Frontier League in 2007. Cline went on to post a 3.97 ERA for the Pensacola Pelicans of the American Association in 2008 and a 4.36 ERA last season for the Lincoln Saltdogs in the same league. With some help from pitching coach Kip Gross, it looks like Cline just might become a solid member of the Seals pitching rotation. Given how he has battled back from a serious injury, that’s something that I’d love to see play out at Royal Athletic Park in 2010.

Seal Blubber Bits
  • Ex-Seal Austin Bibens-Dirkx was rocked in he second start of the year for the Tennessee Smokies. He lasted only one inning and gave up three runs on three hits and a walk. The debacle left his ERA at 7.50, but the season is still young.
  • The independent United League Baseball, which has six teams in Texas, has been in financial difficulties for the last year and some question whether the league will survive the 2010 season. If it folds, expect to see a bunch of players looking for a job in the GBL. The domain address for the league's official web site was not renewed, so stay tuned.  The United League's regular season is slated to kick off on May 27th.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Ex-Blue Jay joins Seals pitching staff

Let’s take a closer look at the third pitcher with big-league experience signed by the Seals recently, Jason Kershner.

Kershner spent parts of three seasons in the majors, including a stint from 2002 to 2004 with the Toronto Blue Jays. His best season in the bigs was in 2003 when he gave up only 43 hits in 54 innings pitched and had a solid 3.17 ERA (incidentally, you can buy one of his game-worn Jays jerseys from 2003 right now on eBay). In 89 career big-league appearances, he sported a respectable 4.22 ERA.

Kershner was originally drafted out of high school by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 12th round of the 1995 amateur draft. The 6’2” southpaw started out in the low minors as a starter, but was eventually converted into a reliever. He went on to amass a 4.16 ERA and 25 saves in 517 career minor-league appearances.

Prior to the 2008 season, Kershner re-signed with the Phillies but he was released in June of that year after posting a 5.02 ERA in 19 appearances in the Eastern League (AA). He was signed by the Seattle Mariners a couple of weeks later, but he failed to impress during the remainder of 2008 and was not re-signed by the M’s.

Kershner spent last season with the York Revolution in the independent Atlantic League, so he’s well acquainted with the starting catcher and player/coach of the Seals, Josh Arhart. Kershner had a 3-3 record and a 5.40 ERA in 55 relief appearances for the Revolution.

His most impressive pitching statistic is the number of walks given up: a stingy 2.5 walks per nine innings in his 15-year minor-league career. Batters have to earn their way on with “Kersh”, an attribute that will no doubt please Seals pitching coach Kip Gross. I wouldn’t describe Kershner as a power pitcher though. Kershner has averaged 6.7 strikeouts per nine innings in the minors, but that number dropped off to only 5.1 with the York Revolution.

Given the success that he has achieved in the higher levels of the minors and the big leagues, we can expect the 33-year-old Kershner to play a large part in the Seals' emergence as contenders in the GBL's North Division.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Seal(s) in the community

With spring training set to begin in just a couple of weeks, you can expect to see more (or Seamore!) of the Seals around town participating in local events and giving back to the community. There are plenty of community-friendly events planned in and around the park this year, with a special focus on the baseball and fastball associations that help grow the fans of tomorrow.

Case in point, Saturday morning the Cordova Bay Fastball association opened it's 2010 Fastball season in style, bringing children aged 5 and up together for a ceremony that included none other that Seamore Seal!

Seamore and the Cordova Bay Mariners Mites Fastball Team

After being chased around the field by the youngsters and hamming it up for a few photos, Seamore was behind the plate to accept the opening pitch of the season.

Seamore Calling for the Inside Heat

This was Seamore's first community appearance in what will be a busy second year as the huggable mascot of the Seals.

Friday, April 16, 2010

2010 predictions

I think it’s high time we laid out some pre-season predictions. Our crack research team has been working around the clock running different heuristics on our server bank of super computers, and we’ve finally come up with the ultimate algorithm for picking the GBL champs for the 2010 season. The NHL has Maggie the Monkey and Cecil the Hamster, but we have a new slant on making our picks. Our research team has scientifically simulated battles between the teams based on their nicknames. Since the GBL format of first and second half winners limits my fun, I have invented my own playoff format (arbitrarily assuming an “alphabetical” finish). But you can still go to Vegas with this prediction, I can promise you that!

Calgary Vipers
Chico Outlaws
Edmonton Capitals
St George Roadrunners
Victoria Seals

Round 1 – Roadrunners vs. Seals to get down to 4 teams. A roadrunner is fast but small while a seal is big but slow, so it is tough to get them to engage. When they do, the roadrunner pecks at the seal but with one bite, Seymour takes the roadrunner. Seals win.

Round 2 – Vipers vs. Seals. While the seal tries to repeat Round 1, the viper’s bite has a bit more kick that the roadrunner. After several successful strikes, Seymour’s vision blurs from the venom and he slumps to the ground. Vipers win

Outlaws vs. Capitals. What is a “Capital”? Going by the logo, it is an Edmonton Superhero. So recalling Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Arc, the superhero flies around with some flashy moves but when he lands, the outlaw simply draws his gun and shoots him. Being from Canada, the na├»ve superhero lacks bulletproof attire. Outlaws win.

North Final – Outlaws vs. Vipers. Initially, the outlaw tries to shoot the viper but he proves to be an elusive target, biding his time to strike a lethal bite. It is a tough battle but in the end, the outlaw runs out of bullets and the viper’s patience eventually pays off. Vipers win.

Maui Na Koa Ikaika Maui (Warriors)
Orange County Flyers
Tijuana Cimarrones (Rams)
Tucson Toros
Yuma Scorpions

Round 1 – Toros vs. Scorpions to get to 4 teams. It is a bad matchup for the lethal scorpion as the Toro (bull) is massive in comparison. Ignoring the stinger of death, a quick stomp and the scorpion is mush. Toros win.

Round 2 – Warriors vs. Toros. This time it is a bad matchup for the bull. Armed with a spear, the warrior deftly dances away from the horns and eventually – after many jabs – lethally stabs the bull. Warriors win.

Flyers vs. Cimarrones. For the record, a “Flyer” is a train so this one is a no brainer. Ram steps on the tracks ready to lock horns, the flyer slams it, and the engineer enjoys his prize with a nice mint sauce. Flyers win.

South Final – Flyers vs. Warriors. The warrior is more cunning than the ram and does not step on the tracks. Instead, the warrior goes far away and lays logs and rocks on the track and then taunts the engineer. The flyer feels invincible and races towards the warrior but in a huge upset, is derailed and tumbles off the track. Warriors win.

FINALS – Vipers vs. Warriors. This matchup looks a lot like the Vipers/Outlaws in the North final. This time though, there is no gun and the warrior draws a spear and begins lunging at the viper. It is a close fight, the viper strikes but never hits flesh. Finally, the spear pins the snake and a quick knife ends this epic battle. Warriors win.

So there you have it, a Warriors/Vipers final with Maui winning in its inaugural season.

Aloha and mahalo.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Keep an eye on Brandon Villafuerte

Of the three pitchers recently signed by the Seals who have appeared in the majors, Brandon Villafuerte has the most big-league experience. The 34-year-old native of Hilo, Hawaii was selected by the New York Mets in the 66th round of the 1994 draft. That means that 1,586 players were chosen before Villafuerte -- yet he somehow managed to make it to the show (Mike Piazza, the poster boy for ballplayers who defied the odds, was chosen 1,390th overall).

Villafuerte has played for four different MLB teams over five seasons. In fact, the Victoria Seals will be (at least) his 21st professional ballclub. If he were a lot older, I’d be tempted to believe he inspired the (often-covered) song “I’ve Been Everywhere”. Check out the cities that he has represented in pro baseball (with the league name in brackets): Kingsport (Appalachian), Pittsfield (New York-Penn), Columbia (South Atlantic), Brevard County (Florida State), Portland (Eastern), Charlotte (International), Jacksonville (Southern), Toledo (International), Detroit (AL), Oklahoma (PCL), Texas (AL), Portland (PCL), San Diego (NL), Lake Elsinore (California), Tucson (PCL), Arizona (NL), Fresno (PCL), Schaumburg (Northern), Carolina (Southern) and Albuquerque (PCL). Phew!!

He last appeared in the majors in 2004 with the Arizona Diamondbacks and he sports a 4.12 career ERA in 102 2/3 big-league innings. His best season was with the Padres in 2002 when he had an impressive 1.41 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) in 31 appearances.

Villafuerte has been used almost exclusively as a reliever in the last eight seasons and I wouldn’t expect that to change in 2010, his second year in independent baseball. Villafuerte briefly played in the Northern League in 2007; after lighting it up with a 1.08 ERA he was quickly signed by the Florida Marlins. After a pretty solid 2008 season in AAA (7-3, 3.50 ERA, 7 saves), Villafuerte was granted free agency but he did not play professionally in 2009.

Considering his career strikeout numbers (8.4 K’s per nine innings in the minors) and his 55 career saves in pro ball (three of which were notched in the majors), I’d be surprised if he didn’t start the season as the Seals closer. After factoring in the other highly-touted newcomers (Jason Kershner and Phil Barzilla), Victoria is looking like it should have an improved pitching staff in 2010.

We’ll profile Villafuerte’s buddy and teammate, Jason “Kersh” Kershner, in an upcoming blog post.

Seal Blubber Bits
  • Eri Yoshida is starting to get some press attention in Canada. An article in the Brandon Sun highlights her potential to draw fans out to Canadian ballparks (is the Canadian Press reading this blog too?). Roxann Bury, General Manager of the Seals, is quoted in the article.
  • To my knowledge, the article above is the first time Roxann Bury has been listed as the General Manager of the Victoria Seals (a quick check of victoriaseals.ca confirms it). Last season, she served as Assistant GM. Congratulations on the promotion, Roxann!
  • Ex-Seal Isaac Hess has struggled of late in the Mexican League (AAA). After starting out with a 2.35 ERA in his first three starts, he has had some difficulties and is now working out of the bullpen for the Diablos Rojos del Mexico. In his last 8 1/3 innings, Hess has given up eight earned runs on 11 hits and four walks to raise his ERA for the season to 4.70.
  • Another Seals alumnus, Austin Bibens-Dirkx, has kicked off his 2010 season in the minors. Last Saturday, Bibens-Dirkx had his first start of the year for the Tennessee Smokies in the Southern League (AA) and it was a pretty good one. He earned a no-decision after giving up two earned runs in five innings of work against the Mississippi Braves. Bibens-Dirkx struck out six and only walked one batter. His next scheduled start is on Friday against the Chattanooga Lookouts.

Seals acquire Moro from Calgary for Cosme

Coanabo Cosme, we hardly knew 'ya. The first player signed for the 2010 season has been shipped back to the Calgary Vipers in return for 2008 GBL Rookie of the Year Colin Moro.

Moro fills a hole in the Seals outfield and he'll play alongside centre fielder Chris VanRossum this season. Moro finished third in hitting in the GBL last year with a .376 average and he sported an impressive .469 on-base percentage. The Calgary native also knocked in 65 runs in 74 games played. Moro will fit nicely into the top of Bret Boone's batting order and he gives the manager some lineup flexibility since he can also play some first base.

The move creates an opening in the Seals middle infield, so perhaps Wilver Perez will slide back into his usual position at second. No word yet on who might play shortstop for the Seals this season (Bret LeVier, are you interested?).

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Seals sign three former big-league pitchers

The biggest reason why the Victoria Seals stumbled to a 32-50 record in their inaugural season was their anemic pitching, but the team has already taken major strides in addressing that problem for the upcoming year. In addition to the key signing of pitching coach Kip Gross, the team has just inked a trio of hurlers who have major-league experience: Phil Barzilla, Jason Kershner and Brandon Villafuerte. Let's start by taking a closer look at the first pitcher signed (Barzilla) and we'll profile the other two in the coming days.

The 31-year-old Barzilla was a fourth-round selection of the Houston Astros in the 2001 amateur draft out of Rice University.  While at Rice, the 6'0" left-hander served as the team's closer. He went on to notch a 3.91 career ERA in 9 minor-league seasons and spent parts of five years at the AAA level. He was briefly called up by the Astros in June of 2006, but his major-league career amounted to only 1/3 of an inning on the mound. In his lone outing in the show, he gave up a single to Brian Jordan and retired Todd Pratt on a fly ball in the 8th inning of a 14-4 victory over the Atlanta Braves.

Barzilla, who was also born in Houston, played for Italy in the inaugural World Baseball Classic (WBC) in 2006. During the tournament, he pitched 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief.  Barzilla was also on the provisional roster for Italy in the 2009 WBC, but he did not see any action. You may remember that Italy eliminated Team Canada from the 2009 WBC in what was one of the lowlights in Canadian baseball history.

Barzilla became a free agent following the 2007 season and he spent a portion of 2008 in the Seattle Mariners organization, appearing in seven games for the Tacoma Rainiers (AAA) and collecting a 6.28 ERA. After being released by the Mariners, he was signed by the Padres later in 2008. Last season, Barzilla only pitched 3 2/3 innings before he went on the DL and was subsequently released by the Padres on July 24th.

While Barzilla has started 62 games in his minor-league career, it's more likely that he'll be used in relief by the Seals. While his strikeout and walk totals were average in the minors, his most impressive statistic is his ability to keep the ball in the park: he has given up an average of only one home run every 22.3 innings. Considering Royal Athletic Park's short porch in left field, that's an attribute that I wish every Victoria pitcher possessed. Barzilla has had a lot of success at the A and AA levels and moderate success in AAA, so if he's able to stay healthy then he'll make a significant contribution to the Seals pitching staff in 2010.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Woman knuckleball pitcher to face Seals at RAP

Eri Yoshida has just agreed to terms with the Chico Outlaws of the Golden Baseball League. Considering the Outlaws are scheduled to play seven games in Victoria this year, it's very likely that we’ll see her take to the mound at Royal Athletic Park.

Yoshida will become the first woman to ever play in the Golden Baseball League. Eri performed decently in the Arizona Winter League (a developmental league associated with the GBL), compiling a 1-1 record and a 4.79 ERA in 10 appearances. However, opponents frequently made solid contact against her knuckleball and she gave up a whopping 27 hits in 19 innings of work, while striking out only four batters.

While Yoshida will be the first woman to appear in the GBL, she will likely not be the first woman to play professionally in North America in the 21st century. That’s because Tiffany Brooks was signed by the Big Bend Cowboys (Cowpersons?) of the independent Continental Baseball League in early March and the CBL season starts two weeks before the GBL campaign kicks off. Brooks plays first base and pitches, although she is unlikely to set the CBL on fire in spite of the fact that the league is quite a bit weaker than the Golden League. In the Arizona Winter League this year, see amassed a portly 18.38 ERA and hit only .185. Brooks and Yoshida will be the first female professional baseball players since Ila Borders retired more than 10 years ago. Of course, many women also played professionally in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which existed from 1943 until 1954.

For those of you not familiar with Yoshida, she is an 18-year-old knuckleball specialist who stands 5’1” tall and weighs 114 pounds. She played professionally in Japan in 2009 for the Kobe 9 Cruise of the independent Kansai League and had a respectable 4.63 ERA. Her mentor and hero is Tim Wakefield of the Boston Red Sox. Following the conclusion of the Arizona Winter League season, she worked out with Wakefield and was given a number of pointers for improving her knuckleball. "I'm impressed," Wakefield said after their workout. "She spun a couple, but for the most part it was very good. She was able to take the spin out of a lot of them and they had quite a lot of movement on them." Her sidearm-knuckleball dances up to the plate in the low 50’s (MPH).

From a marketing perspective, you would think that the Seals organization (and the league in general) would prefer that she be used as a starter and not in relief. With the assurance that she would appear on a given night, the team could promote her RAP starts and bring in a few hundred extra fans or possibly even more. You would have to think that a Yoshida start would be of significant interest to the numerous Japanese students, Japanese-Canadians and female sports fans in Victoria.  We’ll find out soon enough – the Outlaws are scheduled to play the Seals in Victoria July 26-28 and August 14-17.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Ex-Seal Bibens-Dirkx promoted to AA

Former Victoria Seals pitcher Austin Bibens-Dirkx will start the 2010 campaign with the Tennessee Smokies of the AA Southern League. The Smokies will kick off their season on Thursday against the Mississippi Braves.

You may remember that Bibens-Dirkx had an impressive start to the 2009 season with the Seals. After posting a 2-2 record with a 3.70 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 48 2/3 innings, he was signed by the Chicago Cubs on July 3rd and assigned to their A ball affiliate in Peoria.

Bibens-Dirkx quickly established himself as the ace of the Peoria Chiefs' staff as he put up some impressive numbers: a 7-2 record and a miserly 2.04 ERA. His strikeouts fell to only 50 in 70 2/3 innings, but his control was off the charts -- he averaged only 1.1 free passes per nine innings. Bibens-Dirkx led the Chiefs to the playoffs and he earned the start in Game 1 of the Western Division Championship Series.

The Cubs were wise to start Bibens-Dirkx in A ball last season. Slightly older than the competition, he was able to have some success and build his confidence. He'll definitely be challenged this year with the promotion to the AA Southern League. The 24-year-old will be of average age in the league and he'll face much more experienced hitters. But with another solid season, Bibens-Dirkx can put himself into contention for a big-league job. Of this you can be sure: It's just a matter of time before an ex-Seal is in the majors.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Single game tickets on sale now!

Get your tickets while the good seats are still available for the home opener.  Opening night at RAP is May 21st at 7:05 PM against the expansion Na Ikaika Koa Maui (Strong Warriors of Maui) and it's likely to be a sell-out.

To buy your tickets for games in the month of May, click here.

Ticket prices for 2010 are as follows:
  • Grandstand (behind home plate, covered, with seat backs): Adult $17, Senior/Youth $15
  • Lower Reserved Bleachers (1st and 3rd base lines, uncovered, without seat backs): Adult $15, Senior/Youth $13
  • General Admission (1st and 3rd base lines, uncovered, without seat backs, seating on a first-come-first-served basis): Adult $13, Senior/Youth $11
The prices above include the City of Victoria Facility Improvement Fee (which will be used to help fund future enhancements to the park like the possible Blue Monster in left field and other improvements described in our March 31st blog post).  When you purchase tickets via Select Your Tickets, you will be charged an additional $2 per ticket plus a $1 per-order fee.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Seals release nine players

The Victoria Seals are bringing back many of their high-profile players from their inaugural season, but nine others have been let go over the last few days.

The biggest name of the nine was slick-fielding shortstop Bret LeVier. LeVier struggled at the plate last season, hitting only .230 with 4 homers and 33 RBI.  The 26 year-old played three seasons in the GBL after being released by the Red Sox in 2005.  LeVier now has two young daughters (both less than 18 months old) and I wouldn't be surprised to see him return to the Seals at some point in the future.

Victorian Graham Campbell was also released. Campbell was inconsistent on the hill in 2009, going 1-1 with a 7.36 ERA. The only other Canadian on the roster last season, Phil Sobkow, was also let go today.  Sobkow was 0-0 with a 5.24 ERA in 22 1/3 innings pitched.

The most senior member of the Seals pitching staff in 2009, Travis Wade, was also released by the club.  Wade was 1-6 with a 5.83 ERA before being traded to the York Revolution in August.

Victoria also severed ties with outfielders Terry Mermer, Gabriel Riley and Billy Krause, as well as infielder Pedro "Petey" Montero and pitcher Ethan Katz.

However, all is not lost.  Players such as Josh Arhart, Wilver Perez, Brian Rios and Chris VanRossum (among others) will be back this year.  Other quality players are likely to be signed in the next six weeks, so the Seals should be an improved ball club in 2010.

Seal Blubber Bits
  • Ex-Seal Isaac Hess had his best outing of the young season on Wednesday night.  He picked up a no-decision in Mexico's 15-10 loss to Chihuahua.  Hess (2-0) gave up only one earned run on three hits in five innings of work.  He walked three and struck out four and lowered his ERA to 2.35 in three starts.
  • The new pitching coach of the Seals, Kip Gross, was once involved in a blockbuster major-league trade.  Gross was traded in November 2001 along with Eric Davis from the Reds to the Dodgers in return for John Wetteland and Tim Belcher. The deal is widely considered as one of the worst in Los Angeles Dodgers history, mainly because the highly-touted Eric Davis hit only 19 homers in two horrible seasons with the Dodgers. Wetteland went on to amass 330 career saves, 329 of which were notched after the Dodgers traded him away.
  • In a strange twist, the Yuma Scorpions released Salomon Manriquez less than one month after he was signed by the club. Manriquez was an All-Star catcher in the Atlantic League.