Two seasons and 11 appearances on the mound for the Victoria HarbourCats — those stats are maybe the smallest part of the Claire Eccles story.
Ground-breaker and role model for female baseball players and fans around the world are the more important accomplishments of Eccles in her time in the West Coast League.
Today, the HarbourCats are officially announcing that no other player will wear #8 again for the franchise. The number will be retired in a ceremony on June 17, when the HarbourCats play the Bend Elks at RAP.
“Each one of those 11 outings brought a level of magic and a unique atmosphere to the park,” said Brad Norris-Jones, General Manager of the HarbourCats. “The first appearance was as emotional and electric a night as we’ve had in our six years in the WCL, matched closely by her last outing, getting the last out of a win over Corvallis.”
Above all that, Eccles proved a tremendous ambassador for the game — yes, for young girls who look up to her, but also for her family, friends, and the baseball programs proud to call her theirs, in White Rock, with Baseball Canada women’s national team, and the UBC softball squad.
The left-handed Eccles was 2-0 with two starts and nine relief appearances over two seasons, striking out three batters — in a league where rosters are dominated by NCAA-D1 and MLB drafted players. Eccles’ time with the HarbourCats was shortened due to her Team Canada duties — including a 2018 bronze medal at the Women’s World Cup in Florida. Eccles and the HarbourCats fell a couple runs short of earning rings in 2017, losing in the penultimate game of the WCL championship series in Corvallis.
Among her memorable outings — with her signature “Hollaback Girl” entry song — was a perfect inning of relief in extra innings against the Kelowna Falcons in the heat of the 2017 pennant chase, and filling in for an emergency start against the Yakima Valley Pippins. The media picked up on the knuckleball in her repertoire, but it was the unique angle and movement on her fastball and sweeping curveball that gave lefty hitters a serious challenge.
“One of the highlights of my first season as Commissioner was getting to spend a few minutes with Claire in Victoria. I just wish I’d asked her to sign a baseball for my daughter,” said WCL Commissioner Rob Neyer.
“Claire Eccles has meant more to the HarbourCats — and for that matter, the entire West Coast League — than mere statistics can suggest, and this honour is wonderfully deserved. Claire has been a true pioneer, and I look forward to the day when nobody is surprised to see a talented woman playing in the West Coast League.”
“In her two seasons in Victoria, Claire represented the HarbourCats and the entire West Coast League with great skill and dignity, so we offer our heartiest congratulations on this richly deserved honour.”
Nearly two years ago, news of her signing earned notice around the world, and on every major news outlet in North America. People were made more aware of Victoria, of the HarbourCats, and of the West Coast League.
“Hitters respected her, that’s for sure, tipped their caps, it was always interesting to watch the varied reactions, and I hope she taught something to us all,” said Jim Swanson, Managing Partner of the HarbourCats. “But it was seeing faces of fans young and old, both genders, all walks of life, connect with her in so many ways — that was special. Claire will always be a HarbourCat, and fully deserves a place in our Ring of Honor for her bravery, her courage, to step into that spotlight, and to do it with such class.