HarbourCats name new Head Coach, Graig Merritt

new gm

Jim Swanson, GM, Head Coach Graig Merritt, President John McLean (PHOTO Credit Jeff Morrison ISN info@jeffthephotoguy.ca )

Aug 14,2014(ISN) – VICTORIA, B.C. – The Victoria HarbourCats program is designed to prepare
college players for professional baseball, and new Head Coach Graig Merritt
is perfectly suited to do just that while focusing on developing players in
a winning culture.

The Victoria HarbourCats are pleased to introduce Merritt, 36, as the new
Head Coach of the West Coast League organization. Merritt takes the role
previously held by Bob Miller (2014) and the Co-Head Coach arrangement with
Miller and Dennis Rogers in 2013, the inaugural season. The HarbourCats
were 22-32 in the first season, and finished three games better at 25-29
this past season.


New Look Harbourcats (PHOTO Jeff Morrison ISN info@jeffthephotoguy.ca )

”Graig is a fiery guy who has a long track record of succeeding, and we
are excited to support him as he builds his coaching staff, works on
recruiting players for the 2015 season, and then develops the group into a
cohesive, winning team,” said HarbourCats President John McLean.

”Graig has a very high baseball intelligence, is a strong communicator
both with players and in the community, and will connect with the players
in a way that will help them believe in their abilities.”

Merritt is a Canadian, from Maple Ridge, B.C., and a graduate of Terry Fox
Secondary School. He played collegiately at College of Southern Idaho and
then transferred to Chico State where he was the starting catcher for the
NCAA Division 2 championship team in 1999, playing for Head Coach Lindsay
Meggs, who is now Head Coach at the University of Washington. Merritt was
twice drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers – 67th round in 1996, and 44th round
in 1997. He signed with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2001 and got as high as AA
before being released in 2006. Along the way, he caught current MLB stars
James Shields and Jason Hammel, among others.

Merritt has won two Canada Cup gold medals, been a member of the national
junior team, won a Baseball Canada Senior Championship, and been part of
two provincial championships at the senior level.

Merritt was in spring training with the Rays MLB club in 2003 and 2004, and
rose through the ranks because of his ability to handle a pitching staff
and run a game defensively. Merritt has been an area scout for the Tampa
Bay Rays since 2008 and is former owner and operator of the West Coast
Baseball Academy.

”I have known Graig since 2006 and his understanding of the game and how
it needs to be played is impressive – he is either described as the best
teammate or coach a player has ever had, or the guy you hated to compete
against,” said Jim Swanson, General Manager of the HarbourCats. ”He will
teach the game, with passion, and his game management skills will help us
win games. Graig has contacts throughout the baseball world, and especially
in college baseball, and we are confident he will put in place a quality
coaching staff that will teach and lead players with their development.”

”This is the best market and city in the West Coast League, and this
league is maybe only second to the Cape Cod League for summer opportunities
for elite collegiate players,” said Merritt. ”The ownership and
management are second to none at this level. In speaking with John and Jim,
the HarbourCats have very high goals and that’s perfect because I have high
expectations as well, for the fans here and for how we develop players into
potential professionals. I want to see players get better, and I want to
see players succeed. I think my contacts and coaching style will mesh well
with what we want to accomplish here. I am excited to begin player
recruitment and to start work in assembling a first-class coaching staff
for the 2015 season.”

Merritt’s first tasks are to hire a top-end pitching coach, and to work on
player commitments for 2015 – including reaching out to schools that
provided quality players the past two years, and working with his own
networks to secure the best talent.

”I know how competitive the West Coast League is, and I’m excited about
the challenge ahead in looking to bring playoff baseball to Victoria,”
said Merritt.


*Age*: 36 (July 2, 1978)

*Hometown*: Maple Ridge, BC

*Professional position*: Catcher

*Height*: 6-1; *Weight*: 205

*Drafted*: Twice, by Los Angeles Dodgers, 67th round in 1996 and 44th round
in 1997

*Signed*: Free agent contract, $1,000 signing bonus, by Tampa Bay Devil
Rays in 2001

Levels attained: A and AA, 2001 through 2005, including stops with the
Hudson Valley Renegades, Charleston RiverDogs, Bakersfield Blaze, Orlando
Rays and Montgomery Biscuits

*Notable*: A .194 batting average in five seasons over 262 games, hit 21
doubles, three home runs and nine stolen bases… Threw out 39% of would-be
base-stealers, including 45% in his final year of AA… In the minor leagues,
played with MLB players such as Delmon Young, Jason Hammel, Jeff Niemann,
James Shields, Jorge Cantu, Matt Diaz, Joey Gathright, Jonny Gomes, BJ
Upton, Chad Gaudin, Rocco Baldelli, Josh Hamilton and John Rocker.

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