Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
June 2, 2014, Victoria, BC (ISN) – They rolled into town on an absolutely beautiful day for baseball and hit the field Monday at Sports Traders Diamond at Royal Athletic Park to show Head Coach Bob Miller their stuff. Ladies and gentlemen, the 2014 Victoria HarbourCats have arrived and at first glance, they look pretty good.
University of San Diego product Hunter Mercado-Hood takes his cuts in batting practice under the watchful eye of his new HarbourCats teammates (Photo Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Almost twenty players, including Victoria natives Brandon Feldman, Brett Hull, Kelly Norris-Jones and Eric Hegadoren, as well as Nanaimo’s Alex Rogers, were at the first day of camp and were put through their paces in a series of drills by Miller and Assistant Coach Charlie Strandlund.
HarbourCats Head Coach Bob Miller welcomes his players to camp Monday at Sports Traders Diamond at Royal Athletic Park (Photo Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The HarbourCats will have a very brief training camp consisting of practices on Tuesday and Wednesday and then an exhibition game against a combined squad of Victoria Eagles and Victoria Mariners Premier League players on Thursday night, before they hit the road Friday to open the season in Kelowna.
Infielder Noah Cummings was looking sharp in fielding drills on Monday (Photo Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
In that time, Miller will need to make some quick assessments of the talent that is at camp so far (some signed players are still in transit or still playing with their college teams) and put the best product on the field Friday night against the Falcons.
Miller likes what he sees so far. “Our talent level is exciting and I’ve seen some good things already here in the first workout. We have foot speed, bat speed, arm strength. Our pitchers were showing good command in their workouts and the upside with many of them is that, although talented, they did not have a chance to pitch a lot during their school years, so they are fresh and ready to go and have a chance to take advantage of their opportunities here.”
Nanaimo native Alex Rogers takes some fielding practice off the mound during Monday’s workout (Photo Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Miller takes the helm of the club in its second season after co-managing the club with Dennis Rogers in year one. “Dennis has been a mentor of mine since I began coaching,” noted Miller, “so many of my philosophies around managing have been modeled on what I’ve learned from Dennis. You can expect some similarities there I guess in how I run the team, but the proof will be in the body of work as we go I guess. You have to coach the talent you have however, so there will be some differences there from last year. We also have a chance offensively to be a little more solid with the bat, but the bottom line is that I expect us to play hard every night, day in and day out.”
HarbourCats Head Coach Bob Miller surveys his team from behind the batting cage Monday. “Our talent level is exciting this year..I like what I see so far.” (Photo Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
HarbourCats General Manager Jim Swanson was also pleased to see the crew finally on the field. “For me, this is the “pop the balloon and start the summer” moment. All the work we have gone through in the off season has led to this moment and now it’s time to get going. The field looks great, the players, from what I have seen so far, all look sharp and it’s time for the better players in the bunch to lift this team to where we expect them to take us.”
Infielder Cole Kreuter (UC-Irvine) is all focus during fielding drills on Monday (Photo Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
For local players like Hegadoren, Norris-Jones, Feldman, Hull and Rogers, the chance to play for the HarbourCats means a chance to play high level ball in front of their home crowd and a chance to showcase the baseball talent that the Victoria and Vancouver Island area can produce.
“I am really looking forward to the chance to play again,” said 6’10” right-handed pitcher Hegadoren, a former Victoria Eagle who is signed to an initial 10-day contract and hopes to stay beyond that. “I really did not play a lot in my first year in college, so just being out here and throwing two bullpens in my first three days here really feels good. I’m looking forward to getting back on the field and proving myself and getting ready for next year. The structured environment here so far has been great and I’m looking to learning from the coaches and other players and of course playing in front of the home town crowd.”
Former Victoria Eagle Eric Hegadoren is looking forward to the opportunity he has with the HarbourCats this season and hopes to get some time on the mound during his 10-day contract (Photo Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Another former Eagle, Brandon Feldman, is also happy to be home. “Playing in front of the home fans is going to be great for sure,” said Feldman. “There are going to be lots of people at the games and I am not used to that at our school.”
Feldman, who won the BCPBL batting title in 2013 but who was used primarily in a pitching role this season at Otero College, is hoping that he can get back into the batter’s box in his time with the HarbourCats, as well as seeing some time on the mound. He certainly did not show any rust in the batter’s cage Monday and perhaps helped his cause a bit, with one batting practice bomb that he knocked off the bottom of the scoreboard in left field.
Victoria native Brandon Feldman watches the flight of his ball, along with Head Coach Bob Miller, during batting practice on Monday. Feldman showed little rust after spending most of his freshman year as a non-hitting pitcher, cranking one off the bottom of the scoreboard in left field (Photo Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Other HarbourCats who looked sharp today included infielders Noah Cummings (Oral Roberts University) and Cole Kreuter (UC Irvine), pitcher Alex Fagalde (Cuesta College) and our own Kelly Norris-Jones, who could see a good deal of catching duties with the club this season.
The HarbourCats continue their workouts this week on Tuesday from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm and Wednesday from Noon to 3:00 pm. The workouts are open to the public.
Former Victoria Mariner and current University of Illinois player Kelly Norris-Jones is expected to see his fair share of time behind the plate this season for the HarbourCats (Photo Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
On Thursday night the HarbourCats host a BC Premier League game between the Victoria Eagles and the Victoria Mariners. Game time is 7:11 pm with gates open at 6:00 pm and admission for all seats (rush seating) is $5 with tickets available at the door. The Bin4 Burger Lounge will also be open!
On Thursday, the HarbourCats face their first real test as they will play an exhibition game against a combined squad of Eagles and Mariners players. Game time again is 7:11 pm with gates open at 6:00 pm. Regular ticket pricing and seating will be in effect.
On Friday the season opens in Kelowna, vs. the Falcons, with the series continuing Saturday and Sunday evenings. Fans can listen-watch live through www.harbourcats.com
The HarbourCats home opener goes Tuesday June 10th at 7:11 pm against the Cowlitz Black Bears who make their first trip to Victoria. The series continues Wednesday and Thursday with game also at 7:11 pm. Tickets for all games are available online at www.harbourcats.com at the HarbourCats office or at the box office on game days.