The Victoria HarbourCats have a new head coach.
The team announced yesterday it has hired Graig Merritt to lead the West Coast League baseball club in the 2015 season.
Merritt, 36, is the third coach in franchise history, replacing Bob Miller. In the team’s 2013 inaugural season, Miller and Dennis Rogers shared head coaching duties.
“Graig has a very high baseball intelligence, is a strong communicator both with players and in the community, and will connect with the players in a way that will help them believe in their abilities,” said HarbourCats president John McLean.
Merritt, who hails from Maple Ridge, was drafted twice by the Los Angelos Dodgers – 67th round in 1996 and 44th round in 1997. He signed with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2001 and got as high as AA before being released in 2006. He has been a scout with the Rays since 2008.
He has won at almost every level he has played with including an NCAA Division 2 World Series, two Canada Cup gold medals, a Baseball Canada Senior Championship, and been part of two provincial championships at the senior level.
“I have high expectations on how we develop players into potential professionals,” said Merritt. “I want to see players get better, and I want to see players succeed.”
Merritt said the first goal of the team next season is to make the playoffs. This year’s squad remained in a playoff position until a nine-game losing streak all but eliminated its chances midway through the season.
As Merritt settles into his new job, he’ll be searching for a top-end pitching coach, and to work on player commitments for 2015.
“I know how competitive the West Coast League is, and I’m excited about the challenges ahead, he said.
BASE PATHS … Five candidates were interviewed for the head coaching job, including a former major leaguer … HarbourCats fans can purchase 2015 season tickets and 10-packs now at 2014 prices. Tickets will be going up slightly for the 2015 season, said general manager Jim Swanson. Those prices will be announced in late October.