Saturday, June 16, 2012

Victoria's WCL team needs a name

With just under a year to go before Victoria sees the return of baseball to RAP, there is bound to be a flurry of activity surrounding the new WCL team as it builds itself a head office, on-field staff, and the rest of a baseball operations team.

It shouldn’t be too long before we start to see some fan-building activities as well, as a promotions team comes on board and starts to build interest. The first order of business is likely a team naming activity, with input from Victoria baseball fans to help pick the name. As Gus mentioned in his post, not sure if that means fans will be invited to submit their ideas, or if we will only get to vote on a shortlist.

We here at the blog are never ones to wait for instructions, we like to jump the gun and make our own path and this time is no exception! Come along with us and submit your own opinions on team names. 

There have been a few suggestions made on Gus’s post. Marmots, Islanders, Tide, Thunder, and more. Those are perfectly fine suggestions, they just aren’t mine. Here’s my take on the team name: Please welcome to town, the Victoria Gulls!

Yes the Gulls! What better to represent our city that the water fowl that is everywhere. You can’t spend a day in Victoria without at least once looking upward fearing the gull’s wrath (even if it’s good luck to be targeted). Yes the mighty gull is a force to be reckoned with.

The Gulls name in baseball is fairly unique. There was once a PCL team in Salt Lake City called the Gulls, it’s been defunct since 1984. There are the Newport, RI Gulls who do play in the New England Collegiate Baseball League. Still, Victoria’s Gulls would be the only Gulls team within 4000km.

So the Gulls in my world follow the colour scheme of the ChiSox. White, black, and grey – just like a Gull. Check out their uni below:

You see – the "V" in Victoria is a Gull in flight! Nice tie-in, I know. And for the team logo, incorporate a sight seen on the top of every light post and telephone pole in town. The mighty gull at rest:

So that’s my take on it. I can see the souvenir t-shirts and hats already - the ones with the fake poop on the brim and sleeve... The game-day posters with the visitor’s logos plastered with a white mess... The on-field promotions where two lucky fans toss eggs back and forth until someone gets plastered with one... Yes, the Victoria Gulls are a full on and off field experience!

Okay so it’s not like we need more suggestions after all that, but what the heck - take your best shot! Add your comments. Team names, jersey ideas, mascots, promo ideas... Let’s have them all! Who knows, maybe one will be so good, we can make choosing the name only a formality...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

City of Victoria signs three-year deal with WCL team

Ken Wilson, John McLean, Dwight Willett & Dean Fortin
The City of Victoria held a press conference late this morning to announce that it has entered into a three-year agreement with a (yet unnamed) West Coast League baseball team.

The new team will be the anchor tenant at Royal Athletic Park beginning in June of 2013, but the park will remain a multi-purpose facility. In order to allow that to happen, a new home run fence will be purchased that can be installed at the beginning of a home-stand and removed when the team goes out on the road. This will allow for non-baseball use of RAP for roughly half of the WCL season, which runs from June to August. As part of the new agreement, the city will continue to run the concession stands at RAP and there will be a similar sharing of revenue as per the previous arrangement with the Victoria Seals.

The West Coast League has been trying to setup shop in Victoria since 2008 and those efforts quickly ramped back up hours after the demise of the Victoria Seals in November of 2010. Mayor Dean Fortin deserves much of the credit for bringing a WCL team to our fair city and he spoke passionately about the game of baseball at today's press conference. Hats off to the mayor for all of his efforts.

Mayor Dean Fortin
For over a year now, we have known about the existence of an anonymous Vancouver-based businessman who was trying to bring an expansion WCL team to Victoria. Today we found out that there are actually two businessmen in the team's ownership group: John McLean and his partner Dwight Willett. McLean is a Managing Partner at Ansera Capital Partners and Willett is a semi-retired executive who has worked at Bruce Power and Enbridge. Although Ansera is a private equity / venture capital firm, McLean is quick to point out that his personal ownership of the team is completely unrelated to the venture capital business. McLean also went out of his way to praise Mayor Fortin, saying that he and the entire staff at the city's Parks and Recreation department were "tremendous to work with".

After spending some time with the new owners, I was impressed with both of these gentlemen. Not only do these guys have impeccable business credentials, but they also appear to be quite fond of the game of baseball. Twice during the press conference, McLean referred to baseball as a "magical sport" and he was clearly well-versed in Victoria's lengthy baseball tradition. He pointed out that Victoria was once home to a minor-league affiliate of the New York Yankees and that Yankees star Gil McDougald played the 1949 season at Royal Athletic Park. Two years after hitting .344 for the Victoria Athletics, McDougald won the 1951 American League Rookie of the Year Award with the Yankees.

John McLean
WCL President Ken Wilson was on hand at today's press conference and he also deserves a great deal of credit for bringing baseball back to Victoria. Not only does Wilson have an incredibly impressive background as a sportscaster, but he has done a outstanding job of steadily growing the West Coast League since he took over as president in 2008. Although the league has been operating with an odd number of teams in recent years, the WCL waited until the right opportunity presented itself before expanding to ten teams. With Victoria now in the fold, the league is looking to add two more teams for 2013 -- likely Medford (Oregon) and Chico (California). If that were to happen then the league would switch from an East-West to a North-South divisional alignment. The nine current WCL teams are the Kelowna Falcons, Bellingham (WA) Bells, Bend (OR) Elks, Corvallis (OR) Knights, Cowlitz (Kelso / Longview, WA) Black Bears, Kitsap (Bremerton, WA) BlueJackets, Klamath Falls (OR) Gems, Walla Walla (WA) Sweets and the Wenatchee (WA) AppleSox.

Our new team will be running a "select a name" contest in the coming months. It's unclear if the team will propose a small number of names from which to choose (like the Victoria Royals hockey team did last year) or if fans will be free to suggest any name. My personal preference is to call the team the Victoria Marmots (or better yet the Fighting Marmots) after the endangered (yet tenacious) species found on Vancouver Island. Another option is to revert back to the Victoria Seals. Feel free to kick-start the brainstorming by leaving a comment to this blog post.
Ken Wilson

The West Coast League prides itself in providing affordable family entertainment and the new team projects average ticket prices to be under $10. By comparison, the Kelowna Falcons charge $10-$12 for adult tickets and $5-$7 for children and seniors. That's considerably cheaper than what the Victoria Seals were charging, but the new team will be operating under an entirely different cost structure. Not only are the (NCAA) players not paid, but the cities in the league are close enough to allow teams to travel entirely by bus. Unlike in the Golden Baseball League, WCL team owners aren't burdened with the cost of flying to Maui, Texas or Mexico.

Looking back on what happened to the Seals and the Victoria Capitals, it's easy to be skeptical about this new venture. But given the strong ownership, viable business model and the stable nature of the West Coast League, there is good reason to believe that this new, yet-to-be-named baseball team will be here in Victoria for a long, long time. Now it's up to the city's baseball fans to come out and support it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The boys are back in town!!

Well, it's official. This evening, the Times-Colonist confirmed our suspicions in their online edition and CTV Vancouver Island also reported the news. Break out the bubbly, because elite baseball is set to return to Victoria's Royal Athletic Park in June of 2013.

Our team of intrepid bloggers will be attending the press conference tomorrow and we'll have all of the details on this blog afterward.

Let's celebrate with a little Thin Lizzy...

Special announcement at RAP tomorrow!

Is baseball coming back to Victoria in 2013? Invitations have been sent out for a "special announcement" at Royal Athletic Park tomorrow. It's very likely that the announcement will be that the City of Victoria has reached an agreement with an unnamed Vancouver businessman to bring baseball back to the City of Gardens.

The city has been negotiating a Memorandum of Understanding with the mystery owner of an expansion West Coast League (WCL) franchise since February. The WCL features elite NCAA players playing a 54-game schedule from June to mid-August. League alumni include Jeff Francis of the Colorado Rockies, Jacoby Ellsbury of the Boston Red Sox, Nyjer Morgan of the Milwaukee Brewers and Tommy Hanson of the Atlanta Braves. In the 2012 Major League First Year Player Draft conducted last week, 53 players from the West Coast League were drafted by Major League clubs.

Stay tuned to this blog for more details as they become available!