The Victoria HarbourCats will have a new head coach — former Major League Baseball star outfielder Brian McRae.
McRae, who’s now a college coach with summer baseball managerial experience, has agreed to a two-year contract to lead the on-field product at Royal Athletic Park.
McRae, who turns 49 on Aug. 27, hit 103 home runs over a 10-year big-league career spent mostly with the Kansas City Royals. He also played for the Cubs, Mets, Blue Jays and Rockies. McRae is the son of former MLB player and manager Hal McRae. They hold the distinction of being one of the only four father-son manager-player combos in MLB history. McRae was taken 17th overall in the 1985 draft by the Royals, was an exceptional defensive player, base-stealer and leadoff hitter who was known for his toughness and durability.
He coached NAIA-level Park University, and is now student-assistant coach at Division-1 Missouri. In addition, McRae coached in the Team USA system, including serving as the hitting/outfield coach for the USA Baseball U18 team that competed in Thunder Bay in 2010 and featured eight current MLB players, among them Francisco Lindor and Lance McCullars. Key to the decision to bring him in to lead the HarbourCats, McRae has collegiate summer baseball head coaching experience with the Morehead City Marlins in the Coastal Plain League (2012).
“This is a fantastic opportunity to work in one of the greatest cities in the world, and to be part of what has developed into an outstanding summer collegiate franchise,” said McRae.
“I think the people of Victoria know how special that situation is there, and now we get to work to build what we hope is a championship team, with the players and the coaching staff. The West Coast League is an outstanding, highly-competitive league.”
McRae takes over the role held the last two seasons by Graig Merritt, who was named West Coast League (WCL) coach-of-the-year after leading the HarbourCats to a WCL-record 40 win season, including a league-record 19-game winning streak.
“Graig did a tremendous job for us for two years, taking the program to a new level with his energy, his attention to detail and his teaching skills,” said Jim Swanson, managing partner of the HarbourCats.
“The WCL is a developmental league for players, for people in the front office, and for coaches. Graig has proven he is ready to move up in the coaching ranks, and we expect he will get opportunities, and this ensures we have another great coach leading our players. We’re excited for Graig, and we’ll watch his career closely.”
Merritt replaced Bob Miller for the 2015 season, leading the HarbourCats to their first winning campaign (29-25). Miller and Dennis Rogers were co-coaches in the team’s inaugural season (2013, 22-32), and Miller was head coach in 2014 (25-29).
Merritt, a scout with the Tampa Bay Rays, is a former professional catcher in the Rays system and has been a winner at every level he’s competed at.
He posted a 69-41 record, including playoffs, leading the team to its first post-season berth.