VICTORIA — The Victoria HarbourCats are pleased to announce that former Major League Baseball star outfielder Brian McRae, now a college coach with summer baseball managerial experience, will take over as the team’s head coach.
McRae has agreed to a two-year contract to lead the on-field product at Royal Athletic Park.
McRae, who turns 49 on August 27, hit 103 home runs over a 10-year big-league career spent mostly with the Kansas City Royals, and also played for the Cubs, Mets, Blue Jays and Rockies.
He takes over the role held the last two seasons by Graig Merritt,who was named West Coast League coach-of-the-year after leading the HarbourCats to a WCL-record 40 win season, including a league-record 19-game winning streak.
“Graig did a tremendous job for us for two years, taking the program to a new level with his energy, his attention to detail and his teaching skills,” said Jim Swanson, Managing Partner of the HarbourCats.
“The WCL is a developmental league for players, for people in the front office, and for coaches — Graig has proven he is ready to move up in the coaching ranks, and we expect he will get opportunities, and this ensures we have another great coach leading our players. We’re excited for Graig, and we’ll watch his career closely. Our fans, and the players who improved under his watch will never forget Graig’s coaching style and his passion. People in baseball have taken notice, and we thank Graig for every ounce he put into this position — he’s earned the chance to explore any and all further opportunities with full focus.”
Merritt replaced Bob Miller for the 2015 season, leading the HarbourCats to their first winning campaign (29-25). Miller and Dennis Rogers were co-coaches in the team’s inaugural season (2013, 22-32), and Miller was head coach in 2014 (25-29).
Merritt, a scout with the Tampa Bay Rays, is a former professional catcher in the Rays system and has been a winner at every level he’s competed at. He posted a 69-41 record, including playoffs, leading the team to its first post-season berth.
McRae is the son of former MLB player and manager Hal McRae, and they hold the distinction of being one of only four father-son manager-player combos in MLB history. Brian McRae, taken 17th overall in the 1985 draft by the Royals, was an exceptional defensive player, base-stealer and leadoff hitter who was known for his toughness and durability.
McRae coached NAIA-level Park University, and is now student-assistant coach at Division-1 Missouri. He has coached in the Team USA system, including serving as the hitting/outfield coach for the USA Baseball U18 team that competed in Thunder Bay in 2010 and featured eight current MLB players, among them Francisco Lindor and Lance McCullars. Key to the decision to bring him in to lead the HarbourCats, McRae has collegiate summer baseball head coaching experience, with the Morehead City Marlins in the Coastal Plain League (2012). He has done extensive broadcasting work for the Kansas City Royals (six years on radio and TV), ESPN, MLB.com and for the past two years has been a college baseball broadcaster with American Sports Network (ASN). He is a tireless volunteer for Big Brothers and Big Sisters, and Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
McRae runs the KC Sluggers elite youth program that helped produce MLB players Albert Pujols and Shawn Marcum.
“This is a fantastic opportunity to work in one of the greatest cities in the world, and to be part of what has developed into an outstanding summer collegiate franchise,” said McRae. “I think the people of Victoria know how special that situation is there, and now we get to work to build what we hope is a championship team, with the players and the coaching staff. The West Coast League is an outstanding, highly-competitive league.”
McRae is familiar with Victoria after being part of the coaching staff at the HarbourCats-supported Blue Jays Super Camps that have been at Royal Athletic Park. He has worked camps across Canada for the past four years on behalf of the Blue Jays.
“Brian brings a number of new networks to our recruiting process, to augment the programs we already have relationships with, and he’s a respected coach and former player with contacts across the continent,” said Swanson.
“Brian has witnessed games here, he knows our people, and he understands the program and how it supports the best NCAA college teams. He’s excited to work in front of our fans. Work is already underway to recruit for 2017, and to put together a first-rate coaching staff.”