Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Who's on first

Once a WCL roster is put together by forming and fostering relationships with various US college teams and their coaching staffs, the real fun begins. Now it's time to assemble all these puzzle pieces into a cohesive and functional lineup. As opening day gets closer, the college teams finish up their season and even our esteemed HarbourCats coaching staff see to the final duties of their US seasons.

However, some of these teams are just gearing up for the second season as they try and march as deep as they can into the College World Series. This marquee baseball event doesn't wrap up until late June, and with our opening day on June 5 (just 15 more sleeps!), this is sure to cause some logistical issues as WCL teams try to build a roster.

It is expected that maybe a bit more than half of the HarbourCat roster will be there for the first game. To fill the gaps, our managerial and coaching staffs will be very busy signing players to 10-day contracts until the regulars file in after completing their college season. On top of that, there may be more surprises as guys get direction from other sources (agents, parents, doctors, etc.) and this could also influence when/if they report as planned. It all makes for a very difficult situation to manage, but our team will not be unique so it will just be a matter of "dancing with the girls that are at the ball" until the personnel situation stabilizes.

This short-staffed roster is made even more challenging in that the first time the team really gets together is on June 3rd. The coaching staff will get in to Victoria on June 2nd and burn the midnight oil in preparation, but the next day is when they truly meet the players for the first time, give out uniforms and take care of all the other last minute things that need to get done prior to first pitch on June 5th. The team will workout on June 4th - let's call that "Spring Training Day" - and then get at it the very next day. They are home for 11 days and then they hit the road which should be good for team chemistry as they will be together 24x7 as they travel around. Hopefully bonds will start forming and they will really start to get to know each other for this brief summer season.

The 'Cats "permanent" roster has been selected on a position by position basis so when everyone finally does show up, they will have a specific position that they have been earmarked for. The pitching staff is a bit more fluid in that the coaches do not yet have a fixed rotation, an assigned stopper, or long/short relief from the (approx.) 13 pitchers that will be on the staff. They may have a notion, but as the season plays out, you can expect a bit of musical chairs until they can find a combination that works for them. Based on the pitching-heavy experience of our coaching staff though, I feel out pitchers are in very good hands.

College coaches do have some input into how they would like their players handled, but ultimately it is up to the 'Cats staff to fill in the lineup card every night based on the hand they have been dealt this year. That said, keep in mind that the relationships with the colleges are built on trust so I suspect any input is heeded in order to keep a positive relationship with the programs that are lending us our baby 'Cats.

This is very important when it comes to certain pitchers and players who may be nursing some sort of injury. A college coach may request that a pitcher be put on a strict pitch count, say, 65 pitches, once a week. Some may even be on a week by week progressive plan, or a player may be recovering from a sore arm and may be suggested for smaller stints in middle relief, even though they are a true starter. Again, while this is just input, it is wise to accommodate these requests wherever possible to prevent arm abuse, as well as not biting the hand that feeds. This may lead to us seeing strange things, such as a starter pitching a gem and then coming out for no apparent reason. Welcome to the WCL!

Rogers and Miller deciding on opening day lineup
During the college year, there is really not much contact with these players as they are focused on their current season and our coaches are also busy with theirs. There is occasional contact with the coaching staffs though, to monitor how they are doing, and see how they are progressing throughout the year. Now that the 'Cats coach - Dennis Rogers - has his season in the books, he will crank up this contact over the next week or so. Team trainers will be a prime target, again, for checking up on the health of our future players.

Net, your guess is as good as mine as to what our pitching staff will look like, or even who will start
the home opener. All I know is that it will take a bit of figuring out and is sure to make for some lively debate once the season gets going.

As an aside, here is a link to the original "Who's on First"...a classic and very apropos!

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