Friday, November 30, 2012

Victoria to host 2013 WCL All Star Game!

The good news for the Victoria HarbourCats just keeps on coming. This morning, the team announced that they will be hosting the West Coast League’s All Star Game in July 2013.

Owner John McLean, GM Holly Jones and SportHost's Hugh MacDonald
The game will give local fans a great chance to view the league's best players, many of whom will go on to be drafted by big-league clubs. In last June’s MLB draft, 55 former or current WCL players were selected. Given the talent level in the league, we are assured of seeing some outstanding baseball in the All Star Game. It’s possible that this might turn out to be the greatest collection of baseball prospects to take to the field in the history of Royal Athletic Park.

The game will also feature a Home-Run Derby, which is always a hit with the fans. Last year when Walla Walla hosted the event, the Home-Run Derby took place roughly two hours prior to the 7:35 PM start time.

Unlike the MLB All Star Game, the position players selected for the game get to stick around for more than one at-bat. That's because there are only about 20 players on each squad, a factor that adds to the realism of the game. Another important difference between the two All Star Games is that WCL fans cannot stuff the ballot box for their home team. Although fan voting will be taking place, fans are only responsible for selecting a representative for their team. All other players are selected by scouts, coaches and owners.

The fact that the West Coast League chose to award the game to Victoria speaks volumes about how the city and franchise are viewed by the league’s Board of Directors. Given that the team is entering its inaugural season and not a single WCL game has been played in Victoria as yet, it’s incredible that such a prestigious game would be awarded to the HarbourCats. There are seven other teams in the league that have never hosted an All Star Game (inaugural season shown in parentheses): Bend (2005), Kelowna (2005), Kitsap (2005), Wenatchee (2005), Cowlitz (2010), Klamath Falls (2011) and Medford (2013). WCL President Ken Wilson was quoted as saying "... Victoria is now the largest market city in the league, a city with a rich baseball tradition, a great fan base and a strong minor baseball and softball community." Clearly, Victoria is already considered one of the premiere franchises in the West Coast League.

Now the hard work to organize such a high-profile event begins. The challenges for the HarbourCats front-office are fairly significant, but we’re confident that the team will host a first-class event. One of the measures of success will obviously be the attendance. It’s worth noting that the league record for attendance at an All Star Game was set by Corvallis in 2011, when 2,517 fans took in the mid-season classic. We’re putting the odds at greater than 50-50 that the baseball fans of Victoria will come out in droves and smash that attendance record.

  • Former Blue Jay Marc Rzepczynski, Tommy Milone and Eric Sogard of the Oakland A's and Jeremy Hefner of the NY Mets played in the West Coast League's inaugural All Star Game in 2006. Rzepczynski, nicknamed "Scrabble", went on to win the 2011 World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals.
  • Tickets to the All Star Game will be available in the New Year. Season Ticket Holders will have tickets to the All Star Game included in their package for free.
  • Season Tickets and 10-Game Flex Packs go on sale on Monday December 3rd at 10 AM. For ticket information, go to the HarbourCats web site.
  • The exact date for the All Star Game will be announced in the near future, likely when the 2013 WCL schedule is released. Last year's All Star Game in Walla Walla took place on a Tuesday, so there is good chance the game will be played on July 23, 2012.
  • With the addition of expansion franchises in Medford and Victoria, the league will operate with 11 teams in 2013. Victoria will likely be placed in a five-team division with the Bellingham Bells, Kelowna Falcons, Walla Walla Sweets and the perennial powerhouse Wenatchee AppleSox.
  • The club has opened a new office at 103-1814 Vancouver Street (between Caledonia and North Park). Some merchandise is available for purchase (e.g. hoodies and caps). Office hours are 10-3 Monday to Friday and 10-3 Saturdays until Christmas.
  • Victoria's Mayor Dean Fortin was his usual supportive self at today's press conference. It's not always easy to find good things to say about politicians, but Fortin is an exception to the rule. His role in bringing elite baseball back to Victoria is commendable.
UPDATE: The All Star Game will indeed be played on Tuesday July 23rd.

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