Tuesday, December 18, 2012

HarbourCats announce first six player signings

The baseball season seems a lot closer now that the HarbourCats have started to unveil their roster. On Tuesday morning at Lambrick Park Secondary School, the team announced the signing of six players, three of whom are from Victoria. I must say that Lambrick Park was an excellent choice as a site for the press conference, since it's the home of the highly successful Diamond for Excellence Program.

(L-R) Austin Russell, Nick Pivetta and Connor Russell sign their contracts
The three local players signed by the HarbourCats are Nick Pivetta, Austin Russell and Connor Russell (no relation). All three played premier baseball in the city: Austin and Connor Russell were teammates on the Victoria Mariners and Pivetta played for the Victoria Eagles. These guys are not token local content either -- they can all play the game.

Pivetta is a flame-throwing right-hander who will pitch for New Mexico Junior College this season. He was recently awarded a full scholarship at the University of New Mexico, so he'll suit up for that NCAA Division I school beginning in September of 2013. According to the scouting service Perfect Game USA, Pivetta's fastball was 88-92 MPH last season but recently jumped into the 95-97 MPH range. If that's the case, he could have a monster 2012-13 season and be a high draft pick in next June's MLB draft.

Austin Russell is a speedy outfielder who played two seasons at Colby Community College (Kansas) before recently transferring to Southern Polytechnical State University (NAIA Division I). He hit .402 last season at Colby CC and received first-team all conference and first-team all region honours. You may see Austin hitting near the top of the HarbourCats batting order and stealing more than his share of bases at RAP next June.

Connor Russell is a right-handed starting pitcher in his third season with the Vancouver Island Baseball Institute (VIBI) Mariners, a team that plays in the Canadian College Baseball Conference (CCBC). Last season, Connor broke school records for innings pitched (77), strikeouts (76) and ERA (0.90). He pitched for the Okotoks Dawgs in the Western Major Baseball League (WMBL) during the last couple of summers, registering a 1.88 ERA in 2011 and a 5.25 ERA in 2012. Fans of the defunct Victoria Seals may remember that Jeff Duda also played for the Okotoks Dawgs just prior to becoming a solid pitcher with the Seals.

The HarbourCats also announced the signing of three American players who were recently drafted by MLB clubs out of high school. In all three cases, the players did not sign a professional contract and chose to play college baseball instead. However, they will be eligible to re-enter the draft in the future.

David Schuknecht is a left-handed hitting catcher who was taken by the Colorado Rockies in the 12th round of the 2011 draft. The Rockies offered Schuknecht $500,000 to sign with them, but he chose to attend the University of Arizona instead (the Arizona Wildcats are the fourth-ranked Division I team in the country). Unfortunately, Schuknecht tore his labrum early in his freshman year and had to shut it down for the season. He now attends Riverside City College and will be coached by Dennis Rogers, head coach of the HarbourCats.
Casey Schroeder

Casey Schroeder, a switch-hitting catcher from Ohio, was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 22nd round of the 2012 draft. Schroeder is a freshman at the University of Kentucky, a solid Division I school that is currently ranked 18th in the country.

Connor Baits is a freshman right-handed pitcher at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB), another NCAA Division I school. Baits was taken by the New York Mets in the 23rd round of the 2012 draft after being named as a Rawlings 2nd Team All-American. He was one of the top-ranked high school pitchers in California and he can throw in the low to mid 90's.

I would expect that we'll learn of additional signings periodically over the next few months, but for now it's good to know at least some of the players who will be wearing a HarbourCats uniform in the team's inaugural season. The college baseball season begins in February, so we'll be able to post updates on the progress of our HarbourCats as we get closer to opening day. Only one hundred and sixty-eight more days...

For additional information on the signings, check out the official HarbourCats site.


  1. In looking at some of the other team websites in the WCL it appears that quite a few early signees are offered 10 day contracts. They offer these so as to have an ample roster at the beginning of the season as players are transitioning between college ball finishing and summer ball starting. Some are offered full roster contracts but the 10 day guys can get released. Does anyone know what our local guys signed? Would seem a shame to have them promote the team in Victoria and the get excused early after the season starts. Is this common place?

  2. Excellent question, Anonymous!

    All six contracts announced yesterday were for the entire season. The HarbourCats will be signing players to 10-day contracts just like the other teams in the West Coast League. As you implied, some players won’t be able to get to Victoria in time for Opening Day on June 5th. How many will be late reporting depends on how well their teams perform in the playoffs (e.g. the College World Series doesn’t finish until June 26th, 2013). The 10-day contract players will gradually be replaced with full-season players as they report. Of course, a 10-day contract player could suit up again should injuries happen during the season. Unless otherwise noted on the blog, you can assume that contracts are for the full season.

  3. Thanks Gus, Excellent Response!

  4. Gus, do you think there will be any other Canadian players added from your list. Looking at the list you gave there are a lot to choose from. What about UBC players being added.

  5. Thanks for your comment, Anonymous. Keep in mind that my list only included the 24 guys from Victoria playing college ball down south.

    The HarbourCats are being tight-lipped about the remainder of their roster, so we'll just have to wait and see if there are any other Canadians on the team. There is a reasonable chance that there will be, since there are over 700 Canadians playing college ball in the United States, plus the UBC team that plays in the NAIA. There are also a bunch of teams that play in the Canadian College Baseball Conference (CCBC) and the Canadian Intercollegiate Baseball Association (CIBA) that could theoretically supply players as well.

  6. Kelly Norris-Jones, Jason Gibson, Jagit Gordaya all Div 1 players any word why they are not signed.

  7. Technically speaking, we don't actually know that those guys weren't signed. The way I understand it, the roster has been pretty much complete for some time now (Dennis Rogers started putting the team together in September). The HarbourCats have only announced six signings so far, but they will be releasing the names of other players signed in dribs and drabs between the beginning of January and the start of the season.

    It's also worth noting that if a player doesn't sign with the HarbourCats, it doesn't necessarily mean that the team didn't try to sign him. Players may have a variety of reasons for not wanting to sign. Also, a player must have at least one year of college eligibility remaining (and he must have played at least one year of college ball). I believe Gibson and Gordaya are both seniors, so they may or may not have run out of college eligibility.

  8. Norris-Jones played in Jayhawk League this past summer and I believe is committed again to remain down south to play summer ball. It looks like we have our catchers now anyway.

  9. Thanks for the info on Norris-Jones, Anonymous.

    A number of teams in the WCL carry three catchers, but even if Norris-Jones could commit to the HarbourCats it probably doesn't make sense to have three catchers of that calibre on the squad. Schuknecht and Schroeder are both very capable receivers.