Sunday, February 19, 2012

Another step closer to baseball's return to Victoria

In case you missed it, a story in the Times Colonist on Thursday reported that Victoria's city council has authorized the city's Director of Parks, Recreation and Culture to begin negotiating a memorandum of understanding with the future owner of a West Coast League expansion franchise. This non-binding agreement will hopefully be the last significant hurdle in bringing baseball back to Royal Athletic Park in time for the 2013 season.

Readers of this blog will know that the West Coast League features high-level NCAA players playing a 54-game schedule from June to mid-August. League alumni include Jeff Francis of the Cincinnati Reds, Jacoby Ellsbury of the Boston Red Sox and Nyjer Morgan of the Milwaukee Brewers. The quality of competition has continued to improve in recent years, with ten West Coast League players selected in the first six rounds of the June 2011 MLB draft and two players selected in the first round.  The highest drafted player last year was left-handed pitcher Tyler Anderson of the Corvallis Knights who was selected 20th overall by the Colorado Rockies.  Anderson signed with the Rockies at the end of the West Coast League season (August 2011) for a signing bonus reported to be $1.4 million. 

Victoria baseball fans will be relieved to learn that the West Coast League is an extremely stable and well-run circuit. In 2011, the league set an attendance record for the seventh consecutive year by drawing 274,991 fans in total, or 1,113 fans per game. Given the success of the Golden Baseball League's Victoria Seals and the Canadian Baseball League's Victoria Capitals, I'd expect the Victoria franchise to be above average on the attendance front -- and that can only translate into a much longer existence than either of the previous two baseball teams that called Royal Athletic Park home.