Thursday, January 31, 2013

Pivetta and Schuknecht named top prospects by Baseball America

Nick Pivetta
At least two Victoria HarbourCats made the cut in Baseball America's list of the top 25 junior college prospects. Our hometown boy, Nick Pivetta, was named as the 6th-best prospect, while catcher David Schuknecht came in at number 22.

Pivetta turned heads this fall by consistently throwing his fastball in the mid-90's and topping out at 97 MPH. The big right-hander will suit up for the New Mexico Junior College Thunderbirds this season, the third-ranked junior college team in the nation according to Baseball America. Pivetta could easily end up being drafted in the first five rounds of the MLB draft in June.

Scouts will be watching Schuknecht closely this spring to see how he has recovered from a torn labrum injury. He'll be under the tutelage of HarbourCats' head coach Dennis Rogers at Riverside City College (RCC) this season. Spring can't be far away, because the RCC Tigers kick off their season on Friday with a game against East Los Angeles College.

You can read more about both of these HarbourCats in the blog post that reported the signing of the team's first six players.

  • Jackie Robinson was born 94 years ago today and Google commemorated his birthday with the doodle shown on the right. Incidentally, Robinson played baseball at Pasadena Junior College before transferring to UCLA. 
  • The other co-head coach of the HarbourCats, Bob Miller, is the head coach at Cuesta College. On Tuesday, Dennis Rogers' RCC Tigers will take on the Cuesta College Cougars in what should be an interesting match-up.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Top 10 baseball songs for a HarbourCats home game

The subject of my favourite baseball song
On Tuesday, the Victoria HarbourCats sent out a tweet asking fans to share some of their favourite ballpark tunes. Never afraid to volunteer my opinion, I decided to compile a list of my Top 10 baseball songs.

My list doesn't include some of the ballpark staples like Glory Days (Bruce Springsteen), YMCA (Village People) or Cheap Seats (Alabama), mainly because I think there are more interesting tunes out there. Of course, compiling any Top 10 music list is a highly subjective activity and is likely to result in never-ending arguments. With that in mind, here is my list of the Top 10 baseball songs to listen to at a HarbourCats home game:

All Future and No Past, The Baseball Project
The Baseball Project is a rock supergroup that includes the former guitarist of REM, Peter Buck. Formed in 2007, the group has been churning out quality baseball tunes at an impressive clip. Their song All Future and No Past is about the springtime optimism that fans can have for their beloved team in spite of overwhelming odds ("The Tribe could end up drenched in champagne..."). After all, everyone is in first place on opening day.  
When the HarbourCats return to Royal Athletic Park after a road trip, this is the perfect song to play when they take to the field for the top of the first.
Talkin’ Baseball, Terry Cashman
Nothing says baseball like "Willie, Mickey and the Duke". The song may not have aged as well as some of the other oldies on this list, but it gets bonus points for including a reference to one of the most underrated players of the 1970's, Rusty Staub
Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio, Les Brown Orchestra with Betty Bonney
This swingin' tune pays tribute to the Yankee Clipper's incredible 56-game hitting streak in 1941. It's a fitting homage to a record that will likely never be broken.
Although just about everyone who has ever seen a professional baseball game probably knows the chorus to the 1908 composition by Jack Norworth, few are familiar with the two surprising verses. For all the details, check out my 2010 blog post on the subject. While I wouldn't recommend playing the full song during the seventh-inning stretch, it's perfect for when fans are trickling into RAP.
Sweet Caroline, Neil Diamond
I was hesitant to include the anthem of the Slightly Less Evil Empire on my list, but one can't deny the universal appeal of this Neil Diamond ditty. "So good, so good, so good..."
Big League, Tom Cochrane
Tom Cochrane may have been thinking about hockey when he wrote this song, but it easily does double-duty as a baseball tune ("All the right moves when he turned eighteen, Scholarship and school on a big U.S. team..."). It's a Canadian classic. 
Harvey Haddix, The Baseball Project
In 1959, Harvey Haddix pitched one of the greatest games in baseball history -- and lost. Although he retired the first 36 batters in order, he wound up on the losing end of a 1-0 score. In spite of his 12 perfect innings, Haddix doesn't get credit for pitching a perfect game, and this Baseball Project tune aims to set the record straight. The heartbreak in this song is palpable.
Centerfield, John Fogerty
Unless The Boys Are Back in Town is playing, this is the song you want to hear when the HarbourCats take to the field. Add a hot dog and a cold beverage and all is good in the world. 
Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit that Ball?, Natalie Cole
Old number 42 is perhaps the most significant person in baseball history, and Natalie Cole's incredible 1994 version of this tune is a fitting tribute. As far as baseball music goes, it just doesn't get any better than this.

  • Before joining the HarbourCats, freshman Anthony Hermelyn looks like he will play a significant role for the Oklahoma Sooners in the college season that kicks off on February 15th. According to a preseason scouting report in Baseball America, he is projected to start at first base and could even be the team's closer. The scouting report states that "Hermelyn has a quick bat and a high baseball IQ... the Sooners have high hopes for him." It also mentions that he throws in the 92-94 MPH range.
  • HarbourCats GM Holly Jones was the special guest at the local Society for American Baseball Research's SABR Day meeting in Victoria on January 26th. A recap of the event can be found on the organization's Pacific Northwest Chapter website.
  • Pointstreak, the organization that manages the West Coast League's statistics, has recently setup their WCL web site for the 2013 season. It looks good to see the Victoria HarbourCats included in the official North Division standings, especially since we're already listed ahead of our soon-to-be rivals, the Wenatchee AppleSox.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

HarbourCats sign five players from big-name schools

Brandon Smith
On Monday the Victoria HarbourCats announced the signing of five players, four of whom are NCAA Division I players, while the other is a Division II player who was recently selected in the MLB draft. All five are currently in their freshman season of college baseball.

Brandon Smith is a speedy outfielder who was selected by the Washington Nationals in the 15th round of last June's First-Year Player Draft. Smith stole an impressive 21 bases in only 77 at-bats in his senior year of high school in Irvine, California. He chose not to sign with the Nats and instead plays for Grand Canyon University, a Division II school.

Brett Urabe is an infielder with the UCLA Bruins, the fifth-ranked team in the nation according to the Collegiate Baseball Preseason Top 40 Poll. Although he is a diminutive player, Urabe has a powerful hitting stroke that he used to club seven homers in only 80 at-bats in his senior year at Huntington Beach High School. He played second base last year (among other positions) and seems to be cut from the same cloth as Craig Biggio -- he's the kind of player who could become a crowd favourite at Royal Athletic Park this summer. There is a good chance that UCLA will participate in the College World Series again this year (eight teams qualify), so we might not see him in a HarbourCats uniform until the Kelowna Falcons make their second visit to RAP on July 5th.
Brett Urabe at the plate

Anthony Hermelyn is a versatile infielder from McKinnney, Texas. Hermelyn, who is now playing for the 14th-ranked Oklahoma Sooners, received first team all-state infield honours in his junior year of high school. That year he clubbed 13 homers, including this bomb that can be viewed on YouTube.

Will Ballowe is a hulking 6' 4" 237 lb. pitcher with the University of Washington Huskies. Ballowe actually pitched in the West Coast League last season straight out of high school, posting an 8.52 ERA in eight relief appearances for the Bellingham Bells. The imposing southpaw struck out seven batters and walked six in those 6 1/3 innings of work. With a season of pitching for the Huskies under his belt, he could make huge strides forward with the HarbourCats this summer.
Josh Cushing

Josh Cushing is a teammate of Ballowe's at the University of Washington. The athletic infielder has a strong throwing arm and some serious power potential. Cushing, who can play any infield position, hit .400 with five homers as a senior at Campolindo High School last season. We may see him manning the hot corner at RAP on opening day.

There are now eleven players listed on the official HarbourCats roster, four of whom have been previously drafted by MLB teams. We can expect to hear the news of additional signings in the not-too-distant future, so stay tuned for more information on our new team. Go Cats Go!

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

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

HarbourCats' Austin Russell earns All-Canadian honours

Austin Russell
Although we only learned the identity of the first six HarbourCats players two weeks ago, one of those players has already earned his first award since signing with the team. Austin Russell has just received All-Canadian honours from the Canadian Baseball Network as a second-team outfielder. The All-Canadian voting was done by 18 college and elite coaches, 14 scouts, 10 Canadian Baseball Network writers, 9 front-office staff, three other writers, two broadcasters and two former players.

Russell, who is set to begin playing for Southern Polytechnical State University in Georgia, hit .402 with one homer and 37 RBI in 56 games for Colby Community College last season. He also stole 18 bases in 20 attempts and had an excellent .462 on-base percentage.

In addition to Russell, two other players from Victoria received All-Canadian Second Team honours. Scott Jones, a teammate of Russell's with both Colby Community College and the Victoria Mariners, was named the second-team second baseman. Jones hit .358 with 8 homers and 37 RBI last season for Colby CC. He will play for the UBC Thunderbirds this season.
Jag Gordaya

Victoria's Ricky Alvernaz was named as the second-team designated hitter. Alvernaz hit .372 last season as a senior at Mayville State, an NAIA school in North Dakota. He smacked three homers and knocked in 43 runs in only 145 at-bats.

Three other Victoria players received honourable mentions in the All-Canadian voting: Kelly Norris-Jones (catcher, University of Illinois), Jag Gordaya (second base, Texas Southern University) and Duncan Blades (third base, Abilene Christian University).

As we pointed out in an earlier post, over 700 Canadians were playing college baseball in the United States last year and 24 of those were from Victoria. The fact that six out of the 24 Victorians went on to receive All-Canadian honours is an impressive feather in the cap for this city's baseball community. Congratulations to everyone named, especially the HarbourCats' Austin Russell!