|Victoria's Fab Five All Stars|
Would anyone come? Would the infrastructure be able to support the event? Would the marketing and operations teams be able to step up?
The answer Tuesday night at RAP was a resounding Yes! The HarbourCat did Victoria proud by hosting the baseball event of the summer. The crowds came in droves. They were all at once dazzled by the on-field talent, surprised by the off-field product, and amazed by the evening's extras.
A Fan Fest started off at 4:00 with live music, games for the kids, a dunk tank, and plenty to see and do. Crowds queued outside the stadium well before the park opened, hoping to get in on the fun early. The non-All Star HarbourCats wandered the concourse, talking with fans, laughing with the kids, and even agreeing to be dunked in the tank!
Lineups for food and drink were manageable. Even when the crowd peaked at game time, you could still get back to your seat in minutes with a fresh beverage or food item.
And peak they did! The crowd grew steadily from 4:00 through the home run derby, right up to game time - which started right on time, despite the potential for a long-running derby. Records were broken and set - the most people ever at a WCL All Star game, the most people ever to attend any WCL game. A total of 4,210 people crammed the park, cheered on the All Stars all night, and had a great time doing it.
The night ended with a spectacular fire works display that seemed even longer than the Canada Day exhibition down town. Most of the crowd stayed right to the end, walking out with smiles and a vow to return for another game. Mission accomplished Ms. Jones.
There were so many things to wonder at this night...
- Like listening to a group of major league scouts in the beer lineup talk about the importance of the Summer leagues in the recent development of Canadian baseball prospects.
- Like watching the players, at first huddled with their own team mates, branch out to sit with others during the home run derby, and become life-long friends by the end of the game.
- Like watching Medford 1B Kevin Davidson's huge smile as he listened to the cheers made for home-town hero Alex Real's first at-bat.
- Like seeing Victoria boy Darren Kolk sitting in the stands watching BP, and hearing him talk about how amazing it was to return to Victoria as an All Star and be in the park.
- Like watching new teammates bonding over great plays in the field, and tough at-bats.
- Like watching Alex Real go all "Pete Rose" on Corvallis catcher Dane Lund, bowling him over before stretching back to touch the plate and score a run for the North.
- Like watching Alex DeGoti, at the end of the 8th inning, after being on the field for hours, sprint full-speed off the field like it was the first inning of the first game of the season.
- Like watching Bend's Derek Dixon, who couldn't find a ball to give to the kids down the first base line, take his batting gloves out of his pocket and sign them to give.
- Like seeing the Victoria baseball faithful out in force. Those people who still wear the Seals hats from 3 or 4 years ago. Still Loyal to the last team they cheered, while out supporting the new breed.
- Like hearing the anthem sung beautifully by a 9 year old, and then in the 8th inning, hearing stories of Babe Ruth told by a gentleman turning 102 in September.
And in there somewhere, there was a home run derby, and a baseball game. The South won the game, despite the best efforts of four of our five seals (Ty Pro did not pitch, as expected given his pitch count on Sunday). The home run derby was short by derby standards, but featured some mammoth home runs hit over the fence, off the scoreboard, and onto Pembroke Street.
Once again, Victoria proved that it can be a sports town. That we can get behind a significant sporting event, and support the local team. Encouraging that barely 2 months into our relationship with the HarbourCats and the WCL, that Victorians choose to make an event like this a special night for everyone involved. From where I was sitting, it seemed like it couldn't have been a better night.