Thursday, August 22, 2013

West Coast League hands out 2013 awards

Alex Real
The West Coast League awards have just been handed out and there is plenty of good news for the Victoria HarbourCats organization.

Although the team finished in fourth place in the North Division with a lackluster .407 winning percentage, the HarbourCats still had three players receive league honours. Alex Real was named to the All-WCL First Team, while Alex DeGoti and Bryan Conant received All-WCL Second Team honours. Real led the HarbourCats' offense in their inaugural season, posting a sparkling .339 batting average -- good enough for seventh best in the entire West Coast League. Conant was the ace of Victoria's pitching staff, and his 1.81 ERA was the fifth-best mark in the league.

The West Coast League's MVP award went to one of the few Canadians in the league -- Alex Calbick of the Bellingham Bells. The left-handed hitting slugger, who used to play for the Coquitlam Reds in the BC Premier Baseball League, won the batting title with a remarkable .384 average. The Burnaby native was a thrill to watch during Bellingham's visit to Royal Athletic Park on the final weekend of the season.

Nick Sabo of the Klamath Falls Gems was named the WCL Pitcher of the Year. He posted a 6-3 record and a 2.63 ERA in a league-leading 75 1/3 innings pitched. Although he didn't make his first appearance until June 19th and pitched fewer innings, the award could easily have gone to Andrew Olson of the Bellingham Bells. Olson had a 1.84 ERA and a miserly 0.86 WHIP, while he struck out more than seven batters for each hitter that he walked.

Brooke Knight received Coach of the Year honours for the fourth time in his career. He led the Corvallis Knights to the WCL championship after compiling a league-leading 37-17 record in the regular season. That mark was an impressive 5 1/2 games ahead of the second-best record in the league, a 31-22 season put together by the Walla Walla Sweets. Although Knight is a fine coach and a worthy recipient, I would have liked to have seen the award given out to Josh Hogan of the Medford Rogues. Hogan led the Rogues to the playoffs with a 30-24 record -- a new league record for the most wins by an expansion team. It's worth noting that Hogan accomplished the feat with only one of his players named to the All-Star team, while Corvallis had seven players named.

As for the off-field awards, HarbourCats GM Holly Jones was named WCL Executive of the Year. Under Jones' leadership, Victoria finished second in the league in average attendance with 1,437 fans per game. Only the Bend Elks (1,574 fans per game) posted a higher average attendance. The Medford Rogues, the other expansion team in the league, finished third in attendance with 1,372 fans per game.

From this vantage point, it appears that the deciding factor in awarding Executive of the Year honours to Jones was the wildly successful All-Star Game. The midsummer classic, which received rave reviews from all corners, attracted 4,210 excited fans and smashed the all-time WCL record for single-game attendance. Achieving this kind of success helped to improve the (already excellent) reputation of the West Coast League. Although their work was largely performed outside of the limelight this summer, a good amount of the credit for the All-Star Game should also go out to HarbourCats staff members Cale Reining and Nicole Post.

Congratulations to all of the award winners!

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