NANAIMO, B.C. — The Victoria HarbourCats are returning to the HarbourCity.
The HarbourCats, of the West Coast League, a collegiate-elite baseball league with 11 teams spread through B.C., Washington and Oregon, will be making their third appearance at 50-year-old Serauxmen Stadium when they play a selection of Vancouver Island’s best amateur players on July 3, a 3pm start.
“This is a great chance to have the Island’s best level of baseball on display at our historic park, and we’re excited to have the HarbourCats back in Nanaimo,” said Jereme MacKinnon, the local organizer of the event, who works with the Coalminers senior baseball program and Nanaimo Minor Baseball.
If MacKinnon and some other people in Nanaimo have anything to say about it, the West Coast League could be a regular occurrence. The West Coast League works well in Victoria, and the brand of baseball and community involvement, supporting local/youth baseball, may be a perfect fit for the second-largest city on Vancouver Island.
MacKinnon, named Sports Administrator of the Year in Nanaimo for 2016, has submitted a Letter of Interest to the West Coast League, probing the opportunity to land an expansion team in Nanaimo that could start play as early as 2019. There are a lot of steps to complete before that can become a reality, including acceptance by the West Coast League.
“Seeing what they have in Victoria, and how well the market there has embraced the HarbourCats, it’s our pleasure to bring the team here for a game on the July long weekend and expose this high level of baseball to Nanaimo,” said MacKinnon, who recently led a fund-raising event that brought Blue Jays great Kelly Gruber to Nanaimo.
“West Coast League teams are viable operations that add tremendous value to each of the communities they are in, and having a team in Nanaimo would be a great addition to the summer calendar here. Giving our young players a chance to see top collegiate baseball players will only enhance the youth programs and give those kids something to shoot for. And for those who have spent an afternoon or evening watching baseball at Serauxmen, it’s just a great place to be.
“We’d like to see a strong turnout so we can send a great message to the West Coast League as part of our interest.”
The West Coast League is currently comprised of 11 teams, including Victoria and Kelowna. Other teams are in Washington state (Bellingham Bells, Walla Walla Sweets, Yakima Valley Pippins, Cowlitz Black Bears, Port Angeles Lefties and Wenatchee AppleSox) and Oregon (Gresham Greywolves, Bend Elks, and Corvallis Knights). Top collegiate players report to WCL teams after their school season is done, to be able to continue their development.
“I can speak on behalf of the Victoria HarbourCats, that Nanaimo is the kind of market and Serauxmen Stadium the kind of facility that could work well in the West Coast League, and if all the boxes can be checked off could add another strong rivalry to our team and the new Port Angeles Lefties team,” said Jim Swanson, Managing Partner of the Victoria HarbourCats, who is also part of the WCL expansion committee.
“There is a process the league has, and that has been communicated to Jereme and those he is working with. Above all, the first major step is that Serauxmen Stadium needs to have lights and some new seating areas added to fully merit consideration, in my opinion. You need a strong ownership group, you need a great market, and you need a facility like Serauxmen Stadium could become.”