HarbourCats HeadOnly

Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

February 26, 2014, Duncan, BC (ISN) – The Victoria HarbourCats and the Duncan Junior Baseball Association (DJBA) announced today that they will be teaming up to bring a HarbourCats exhibition game to Duncan on Sunday, June 22, 2014.

The game will be played against the Langley Blaze Senior Men’s Baseball Team, who play in the Pacific International League, and who are the 2-time defending BC Senior Men’s Provincial Champions, winning the 2013 title at Lambrick Park in Victoria.

The game was announced today during a media conference at Evans Park, the 3-year old home of DJBA and site of the game. Making the announcement were HarbourCats General Manager Jim Swanson, DJBA President Kevin Olender and of course Harvey the HarbourCat. Other dignitaries were also on hand including Duncan Mayor Phil Kent, North Cowichan Mayor Jon Lefebure, and Greater Victoria Minor Baseball President and BC Minor Baseball rep Fraser Campbell.

IMG 8768
Victoria HarbourCats GM Jim Swanson (left), Harvey the HarbourCat (centre) and Duncan Junior Baseball Association President Kevin Olender (right) were on hand Wednesday at snow covered Evans Field in Duncan to announce a June 22nd exhibition game between the HarbourCats and the Langley Blaze Senior Men’s team (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

The 9-inning game will begin at 1:05 pm on June 22, 2014 and will cap off “Baseball Sunday,” a season ending wind-up for the DJBA leagues. At 9:00 AM, PeeWee (U13) and Mosquito (U11) teams will play in wood bat games and from 10:00 AM to 12:30 PM there will be Fun Fair games, food and other games. At 11:00 AM, DJBA awards will be handed out.

At 11:30 AM the HarbourCats and Blaze will take to the field for warm-up and batting practice, with first pitch then scheduled for 1:05 PM. Players from both teams will also be available for autographs following the game.

“It is very exciting for us to bring this game to Duncan,” said HarbourCats GM Swanson. “This has been a very supportive market for baseball, we also have a number of fans in Duncan and we are happy to showcase our team in such a great place and in such a great facility. Fans will enjoy the level of baseball they will see from the HarbourCats and Blaze that day. It’s going to be a ton of fun!”

IMG 0236
HarbourCats GM Jim Swanson on Wednesday: “It is very exciting to take our team to such a supportive market like Duncan. We are pleased to be able to showcase our team here and at such a great facility.” (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

DJBB President Kevin Olender was also excited to bring such a high level game to Duncan. “We are excited to work with the HarbourCats and proud to bring this event to the Cowichan Valley. This ties in great with our [DJBA] year-end event and with the growth of baseball here in Duncan and teaming with the HarbourCats for this game is a great step for everyone. This will definitely be a highlight of our season.”

IMG 0234
Duncan Junior Baseball Association President Kevin Olender: “We are excited to work with the HarbourCats and to bring this event to the Cowichan Valley. This will be a highlight of our season.” (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

The game will be a good test for the HarbourCats, as the Blaze are one of the top Senior Men’s teams in the country, finishing 2nd at the 2013 Nationals and being a strong contender to win this year’s Baseball Canada Senior Championships in Newfoundland. The team is well coached by Dave Diachuk and Mike Cressey and feature many former top college players and ex-pros who continue to play at a high level.

“The Blaze will be among the toughest opponents we will face this year,” noted Swanson. “We will need to be at the top of our game to beat them. I think given that we will be in the middle of our schedule at that time, it works well for us and will keep our players focused to play hard against these guys.”

IMG 0439
The Langley Blaze will provide a formiddable opponent to the HarbourCats, having won back-to-back BC Senior Men’s Provincial Championships, including here in 2013 at Lambrick Park in Victoria (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

The exhibition game marks the second such game to be scheduled for the HarbourCats this season, the first being a pre-season game on June 5th against the best of the Victoria Mariners and Victoria Eagles, the two Premier Baseball League teams in town. The scheduling of the June 22nd game also fills a nice gap that the HarbourCats had in their schedule, as the last league game prior to the exhibition game against the Blaze is slated for June 18th against Bellingham. The HarbourCats then resume the regular season Monday June 23rd with games against the Bend Elks.

The game may also set a precedent for playing future games in other Island communities such as Nanaimo or Campbell River. “I won’t be at all surprised if other communities see this happening and ask us how they can get involved,” said Swanson. “While Duncan is the nearest major centre to Victoria and I want to keep working with the folks here to establish a long-term relationship, there is the possibility of entertaining other games in other locations, schedule and logistics permitting.”

Evans Park, which is located at 6257 Somenos Road in Duncan, was built by DJBA over the last three years and has emerged as one of the best baseball facilities in the Cowichan Valley. There are 7 baseball and softball diamonds in total and the facility is just coming off hosting the 2013 Midget AA Provincial Championships which were a great success.

evans park
Located on Semenos Road in Duncan, the 7-Diamond Evans Park complex is aptly suited to host a game of this caliber (From Google Maps)

DJBA has announced that they will be undertaking some fundraising for the game in an effort to offer free admission for all fans for that game. “There is of course a cost to bring this here,” said DJBA President Olender, ” but to support baseball here in town, and to make this special event affordable for all families, we are going to do some fundraising so we can give this back to the community for free. Our goal is to have absolutely no charge for this event.”

The HarbourCats will kick off their season on June 6th with the home opener on June 10th against Cowlitz. The team has announced a number of players that have already signed for 2014 and plan to roll out the rest of the 2014 roster over the next few weeks.