By Jonathan Hodgson
It’s that time of year again. Baseball is back at Royal Athletic Park (RAP).
Warm, sunny days and picturesque Island sunsets have returned to Victoria, the field at Royal Athletic Park is green and expertly manicured, and the historic ballpark is about to come back to life for the fourth season, the grand slam season, of HarbourCats baseball.
The friendly confines of ‘RAP’ has been a summer gathering place in Victoria for decades, and has taken on a new life since the arrival of the HarbourCats in 2013.
The club has set franchise records in both wins and average attendance in each of their first three seasons, and head into 2016 with what they feel is their most talented team yet as they look to clinch their first playoff berth in the summer-collegiate West Coast League (WCL).
The WCL is arguably the premier league of its kind in operation today, boasting rosters of all college-eligible players from the top NCAA Division 1 baseball programs in the U.S., as well as a mix of some of the top local talent. Major League Baseball has drafted more than 200 league alumni and 18 former WCL stars made opening day rosters this year including Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles and Jacoby Ellsbury of the New York Yankees.
Ladner, B.C.’s James Paxton, now with the Seattle Mariners got his start with the WCL’s Kelowna Falcons, the HarbourCats’ Canadian cousin in the 11-team loop that spans B.C., Washington and Oregon.
Youngsters in the stands on opening night can aspire to be on the field in a HarbourCats uniform some day. Victoria’s Nick Pivetta was the team’s starting pitcher for their first game on June 5, 2013 and is now knocking on the door of the big leagues at double-A for the Philadelphia Phillies as a former fourth round pick.
Nanaimo product Griffin Andreychuk has led Victoria’s team for the past two seasons and is slated to return to the RAP infield in 2016. Andreychuk, a scholarship athlete at Seattle University, was the club’s player of the year in 2015.
But it’s about more than what happens between the lines. It’s about enjoying an evening or afternoon with friends and family or a youngster’s first game instilling a life-long passion. It’s about the fun and games between innings like Krazy George of B.C. Lions fame leading the HarbourCats faithful on opening night.
It’s about the relationships built on a common passion for this great game of baseball, and for our special Victoria community. It’s time to play ball, Victoria. See you at the ballpark.
The Victoria HarbourCats kick off their season at home on Tuesday, June 7 at 6:35 p.m. against the Wenatchee Applesox. For the full schedule visit harbourcats.com.
Jonathan Hodgson is the play-by-play broadcaster and communications director for the Victoria HarbourCats. A passionate baseball fan, Hodgson has written for the Toronto Blue Jays, Canadian Baseball Network and Sportsnet.