BY Jonathan Hodgson
The early season has been a wild ride for the Victoria HarbourCats fans and many of their players, with the club off to an 11-3 start and currently riding a franchise-record 11-game winning streak.
The streak started at the HarbourCats home opener before 4,544 fans at Royal Athletic Park who were spurred on by special guest Krazy George, former B.C. Lions and world famous cheerleader, who is noted as being the inventor of the wave. The team responded with an 11-1 victory over the Wenatchee AppleSox and starting right-handed pitcher Dalton Erb carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning.
The next week, Erb, a junior from Chico State University was drafted and signed by the San Diego Padres. The six-foot-eight, 250-pound right-hander was one of eight current or former HarbourCats selected in this year’s MLB draft, which is an all-time high for the club. Cameron Cannon, a shortstop for the HarbourCats, was selected in the 21st round by the Arizona Diamondbacks but will remain with the HarbourCats as he has elected to attend the University of Arizona this fall.
As a league, 83 current or former players in the West Coast League were selected in this year’s draft, an all-time high for the summer-collegiate league, further cementing it’s status as one of the elite leagues of it’s kind.
“Summer ball” as it is commonly referred to, is a unique and crucial time in a player’s career. It is a 10 or 11-week period of time where a college baseball player can focus solely on baseball without the added pressures of class schedules, assignments and papers that they have to balance during the college season. The summer ball experience is designed to create a structure similar to professional baseball, playing nearly every day in ballparks that simulate a professional atmosphere and often playing before professional scouts.
All of this gives the player a first look at what it takes to be a professional baseball player, and also gives evaluators an idea of if a player will succeed in the pro environment.
Many players are not far away from professional contracts and beginning the climb up major league organizations. Dalton Erb of the HarbourCats is the perfect illustration of this. On June 7, he was dominating on the mound in Victoria, and on June 18 he pitched two shutout innings for the Padres single-A affiliate in Tri City, Washington.
When you attend Victoria HarbourCats games, you are seeing elite collegiate talent, and chances are somebody you watched at your home ballpark is starring professionally soon after.