Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
December 20, 2013, Victoria, BC (ISN) – The Victoria HarbourCats unveiled their first three player signings of 2014 on Friday morning and once again, three local players, including Victoria native Kelly Norris-Jones, will take their place in the HarbourCats lineup.
Joining Norris-Jones (University of Illinois) are Nanaimo’s Griffen Andreychuk (University of Seattle) and Surrey, B.C.’s Nick Rutckyj (Cuesta College).
The trio were introduced to the media on Friday morning at Spinnaker’s Brew Pub – a HarbourCats sponsor – and in a fitting touch to the role that local players had in the success of the team in 2013, were handed their jerseys and caps by 2013 team memebers and Victoria natives, Austin Russell, Ty Russell and Connor Russell.
HarbourCats GM Jim Swanson (far left) introduces 2014 HarbourCats (left to right) Kelly Norris-Jones, Griffen Andreychuk and Nick Rutckyj, while Harvey the HarbourCat (far right) looks on (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
Norris Jones, a catcher, will be a familiar name to many local baseball fans, as he grew up playing in the Victoria Mariners system and is a graduate of Lambrick Park High School. He is a Junior at the University of Illinois and played summer ball last year for the Green Bay Bullfrogs in the Northwoods League and in 2011 for the Kelowna Falcons in the West Coast League. Norris-Jones, whose father Brad is a Marketing Executive of the team, is also a former draft pick of the Toronto Blue Jays, having been selected in the 50th round in 2010.
Norris Jones is excited to be coming home to play in front of his hometown fans, “It is nice to come back home and play here as it will be the first time doing so since I went away to college. This is my last year of eligibility for college summer ball, so it will be exciting to play in front of the crowd at Royal Athletic Park.”
The newest HarbourCats (left to right), Nick Rutckyj, Griffen Andreychuk and Kelly Norris-Jones (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
Outfielder Rutckyj will also be a familiar name for HarbourCats fans, as he had a brief stint on the 2013 roster near the end of last season. He also played in the BC Premier Baseball League (BCPBL) with the Langley Blaze, seeing regular action against the local PBL teams the Victoria Eagles and Mariners. Rutckyj is also playing at Cuesta College as a freshman under the tutelege of HarbourCats Coach Bob Miller.
“I feel good about coming back to the team having been here last year. I am really excited to be playing ball in Canada and playing with Coach Miller again is great. He doesn’t like losing and neither do I, so I want to just come out and work hard and make the team a winner.”
Middle infielder Andreychuk is another BCPBL grad having played with the Nanaimo Pirates and last season as a teammate with Rutckyj on the Langley Blaze. He is in his freshman season with the Unversity of Seattle Redhawks.
Sporting the three versions of HarbourCats jerseys, Nick Rutckyj (left), Griffen Andreychuk (centre) and Kelly Norris-Jones (right) were on hand to greet the media Friday morning at Spinnakers Brw Pub in Esquimalt (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
“I’m excited about the oportunity to be here and in many respects it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to come back to the Island – my home – and play for a team of this caliber and in the West Coast League,” said Andreychuk. “I know my friends and family in Nanaimo are excited for me and hopefully they can all get down for a number of games this season. My Mom is a baseball nut so I am sure they will be here for every game.”
HarbourCats Head Coach Dennis Rogers is equally excited to have these three players on the squad. “These are the first players we announcing, and we’re excited to have them as part of a deep and dedicated roster for 2014 – a roster we hope will bring Victoria WCL championship,” said Rogers.
“Kelly is an MLB draft choice who has won a college championship and can provide leadership. Griffin can play middle infield, with excellent defensive tools and a quick bat and Nick is a pure energy guy who will run through a wall to win a game” added Miller.
General Manager Jim Swanson is also excited about the prospects for the team this year. “We are really excited about not only these three players, but the full roster of players that we will be announcing soon,” noted Swanson. “Now that colleges have heard about us and what the experience was like for players last year, we have been able to do some better recruiting this year and attract players that will give us what we believe is a team that will take HarbourCats baseball to the next level. The coaches are talking championship this year…winning the marathon that is the regular season and then getting into the playoffs and letting the chips fall where they may. We are definitely excited about that prospect for this season.”
Norris-Jones, Andreychuk and Rutckyj will all be on hand Saturday morning at the HarbourCats offices (101-1814 Vancouver St.) to meet fans and sign autographs.
The HarbourCats begin their 54-game 2014 season June 6 with a series in Kelowna and then have their home opener on Tuesday June 10 against the Cowlitz Black Bears. All games are at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria.