Two of the more dynamic and memorable players from the fifth season of Victoria HarbourCats baseball are returning for another season.
Left-handed pitcher Claire Eccles, who became the first female to play in the West Coast League, and switch-hitting versatile outfielder Ethan Lopez have signed to play in Victoria for the 2018 campaign. Eccles, the ace of the Canadian women’s national team, and Lopez, a junior at the University of Hawaii, were both fan favourites and key parts that helped the team bond so closely and go on a run that nearly culminated in the HarbourCats’ first league championship, losing in Game 3 of the WCL final to the Corvallis Knights.
“A lot of people around the world learned about the West Coast League, the Victoria HarbourCats, and the level of baseball we play, because of the interest in Claire and what she accomplished in the summer of 2017 – it was a move that turned many heads, and brought in female fans of all ages,” said Jim Swanson, Managing Partner of the HarbourCats. “There were some people who thought we were nuts, too – and Claire proved them wrong. She handled things so well both on and off the field, with the support of great teammates, who had her back at every turn, even when coaches and players on other teams would snicker or make remarks.
“Claire’s signing was international news when we announced it in May. We know she’s excited to get another chance to prove she can compete at this level, and help us win.”
Eccles pitched in eight games, including two starts, and earned her first WCL win on June 29 against the Cowlitz Black Bears. She struck out three, walked seven, allowed 19 hits and had an 11.91 ERA in 11.1 innings pitched, with five earned runs in one-third of an inning of a July 7 game skewing that statistic (6.55 ERA without that game, which included a grand slam). Aside from her debut June 7 against Wenatchee, her most memorable moment might have been the three-up/three-down extra inning outing, with one strikeout, in a late-season home game against Kelowna. For trivia buffs, her first WCL strikeout was Yakima outfielder Tora Otsuka, who attends the University of San Diego.
Lopez, from Whittier, CA, played in 30 games and batted .216 with 11 RBIs and four stolen bases, providing plus-plus outfield defence. His enthusiastic personality – he became known as the “Flyin’ Hawaiian” for some of his catches — made him a team leader for Head Coach Brian McRae’s team.
“Ethan was just getting warmed up for us when he had to leave for a period, but returned for the playoffs and really energized us,” said Swanson. “He had a crucial hit for us in that epic Game 1 that allowed us to have a chance in the late innings. His reads in the outfield, fearless going to the wall, was contagious. Ethan can also play almost anywhere in the infield, so he’s a valuable piece for B-Mac.”
LHP CLAIRE ECCLES, 5-8/140, Junior, University of British Columbia – From White Rock, BC, on a softball scholarship at UBC, where she’s a hitter/outfielder. Ace of Team Canada’s staff for Head Coach Andre Lachance.
OF ETHAN LOPEZ, 6-0/200, Junior, University of Hawaii – “E-Lo” is a product of La Mirada High School, part of multiple championships prior to heading to Manoa. Can play second, third or any OF spot.
Roster to date – 14 players – C Tanner Rempel; IF/OF Jaxxon Fagg; IF/P Jedd Fagg; IF/OF Jason Willow; OF Hunter Vansau; OF Ethan Lopez; OF/P Trevin Reynolds; LHPs Ethan Fox, Claire Eccles; RHPs Wyatt Boone, Garrett Goodall, Garrett Ritter, Luke Manuel, Lawson Humphries.
**HARBOURCATS HOTSTOVE, Thursday, Feb. 8 — Gruber, Zaun,McRae
Returning to Victoria, scheduled for Thursday, February 8 at Yates Street Taphouse, is the third-annual edition of the HarbourCats Hotstove Event — this time bringing in favourite Gregg Zaun, HarbourCats Head Coach Brian McRae, and new to the program is former Toronto Blue Jays star Kelly Gruber. Tickets for the event are now on sale at the HarbourCats office, 1814 Vancouver Street. It’s an evening to talk baseball, go over great memories, and bid on items unique to the evening.
**BLUE JAYS/MARINERS WEEKEND IN SEATTLE — August long weekend
The HarbourCats are also pleased to be teamed once again with Wilson’s Transportation and Flight Centre to offer a three-game, three-day trip to Seattle to see the Mariners host the Toronto Blue Jays (Aug 3-4-5). The cost, based on double-occupancy, is $899 per person, or $825 per person for our season ticket holders. It includes bus travel, ferry, two nights of hotel at the Embassy Suites in Lynwood, shopping trips, opportunities for golf, and lower-level tickets to three games at Safeco Field.
This is a trip that has sold fast in the past two years. To sign up, contact Carey Shelby of Flight Centre at email@example.com.
**NOVEMBER 30 CHRISTMAS OPEN HOUSE
The HarbourCats are hosting their annual Christmas Open House on Thursday, November 30, at the team’s office at 1814 Vancouver Street – deals on tickets, merchandise, novelties, and a chance to warm up while talking about the 2018 team.
A significant player announcement is expected to be made at noon on November 29, which will add excitement to the event, which runs 8am to 8pm. Tim Hortons will have its Mobile Truck on site from 9am to 11am, which is sure to draw a crowd as well.
The announcement of the team’s schedule for 2018 also will allow for single-game tickets, and 10-packs, to go on sale, including the June 1 Opening Night, Father’s Day, Canada Day, and the popular final series. Fireworks dates have already been set:
Season tickets continue to be sold as well. The team’s pocket schedule will be out shortly, and major promotional dates and activities will be announced in the new year.
The schedule appears at http://harbourcats.com/calendar/, with an I-Calendar option to add it to your smart phone or tablet.
**MILITARY MONTH, NOVEMBER
In November, we salute our troops, their service, thanks to Galaxy Motors and Wilson’s Group of Companies. With Remembrance Day now behind us, the HarbourCats are excited to announce that all military members and families are eligible for two-for-one 2018 season tickets this month – contact the team office for information, 1814 Vancouver St., 778-265-0327, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
**NEW MERCHANDISE IN
The HarbourCats are starting to stock the shelves for Christmas with some new hat, t-shirt and knick-knacks arriving recently. Decorative Christmas balls, team mugs, lanyards and other items are due to arrive. The new Island Proud t-shirts, along with some ladies styles, are in the shop now and for sale.
**GREAT TEACHERS CONTEST
The HarbourCats continue to take nominations for the Great Teachers Contest, sponsored by Mayfair Optometric Clinic. The winner for October was Mr. Borich, who teaches a Grade 2 class at Eagle View Elementary, and his whole class will be our guests at the annual SCHOOL SPIRIT GAME on June7, a special 11:35am start time.
Each month until May, the HarbourCats will select a teacher, whose class will be guests of Mayfair Optometric Clinic at the team’s annual School Spirit Game – a day-game on June 7, slated for an 11:35am start.
To nominate a great teacher, email a submission to email@example.com
**SEASON TICKETS STILL AVAILABLE
The HarbourCats have seen an uptick in season ticket purchases, and as corporate partnerships are completed, the selection of season ticket locations and single-game walkup options is getting less and less. Seats in the Diamond Club, the two-year-old on-field section are sold out, but there remain available seats in the popular padded/served Campbell Real Estate Club Section, and in the Main Grandstand.
With the off-season now upon us, the team’s office at 101-1814 Vancouver Street will see reduced hours through the end of November. Expanded hours will be announced for December as fans look to make tickets and merchandise a big part of their gift planning.
MONDAY-FRIDAY – Noon-6pm
SATURDAY-SUNDAY – Closed (Except by appointment)
Brad Norris-Jones (General Manager, Victoria HarbourCats) 250-888-2003
Jim Swanson (Managing Partner, Victoria HarbourCats) 778-265-0327