VICTORIA, B.C. – The Victoria HarbourCats are pleased to announce the finalization of the club’s coaching staff for the 2017 West Coast League season.
Brian McRae, former 10-year major league outfielder and current student manager at the University of Missouri, was hired as the HarbourCats fourth head coach in franchise history in late August. On Monday, McRae’s coaching staff was announced.
Rounding out the HarbourCats coaching staff for the upcoming season are:
JASON LEONE- Assistant Coach (pronounced lee-OWN-ee)
MIKE SPEARS- Pitching Coach
TROY BIRTWISTLE- Assistant Coach
Jason Leone is in his fourth season as hitting coach and recruiting coordinator at Avila University (NAIA) in Kansas City, Missouri.
A native of Corona, CA, Leone played collegiately as an infielder and right-handed pitcher, spending a year each at San Bernardino Valley and Fullerton College before concluding his career with two years at Avila.
During Leone’s playing days at Avila, the Eagles were 2012 Heart of America Conference Champions and made back-to-back NAIA Opening Round Regional appearances in 2012-13.
Leone was the 2012 recipient of the NAIA Champion of Character Award, and as a senior in 2013, started 48 games on the infield for Avila.
Former college and professional left-handed pitcher, Mike Spears served 13 years (2001-2014) in law enforcement including six with the San Diego Police Department and seven at the San Diego Sheriff’s Department.
Spears was awarded the Sheriff’s Department Medal of Honor and the State of California’s Medal of Valor after being involved in an incident in 2012. Following his retirement from the Sheriff’s Department, Spears opened CrossFit RSD, an elite training and fitness centre located in El Cajon, CA. Spears recently combined CrossFit RSD with NXT LVL Athletics and NXT LVL Pitching Academy to help athletes and pitchers build strength and learn about arm care.
He also now speaks to law enforcers dealing with traumatic experiences.
The native of Chicago, IL and a big Cubs fan who resides in San Diego, CA played collegiate baseball as a pitcher at Grossmont College in El Cajon, CA and later Hill College in Hillsboro, TX. Tim Tadlock, now the head coach at Texas Tech, was an assistant at Hill during Spears time at Hill.
Spears posted a 9-2 record with a 2.27 ERA in his final year at Hill, earning All-League and All-Conference honors as well as an All-State Honorable Mention for a Rebels team that missed the Junior College World Series by one game.
Mike played professionally in the independent Western League and Prairie League from 1995-97.
Troy Birtwistle is a native of Shawnigan Lake, BC and an alumnus of the National Baseball Institute.
NBI was established by Baseball Canada in 1986 to enable top Canadian players to attend post-secondary institutions while playing together in Vancouver.
There, Birtwistle played for renowned manager John Haar, who led the program for it’s entire 14-year existence, producing eight major league players. Haar was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007. Birtwistle was the starting pitcher for NBI in an exhibition game against the reigning World Series Champion Toronto Blue Jays, in a game played at Regina’s Taylor Field in the summer of 1993.
Birtwistle pitched semi-pro in Australia and pitched at the national level including the 2001 and 2002 Baseball Canada Men’s Nationals.
Troy was a guest coach for the HarbourCats in preseason for the 2016 season.