Monday, May 31, 2010

McClain named VSBB Player of the Month for May

The contributors to the Victoria Seals Baseball Blog (VSBB) have named Terrence McClain as the first-ever recipient of the VSBB Player of the Month honours. McClain hit .290 with three homers and six RBI in the month of May to help lead the Seals to a 6-3 record. He also walked an impressive eight times in 31 at-bats to register a team-leading .450 on-base percentage. McClain also chipped in with a pair of steals and his 9 runs tied Wilver Perez for the most runs scored in the month.

There was a three-way tie for second place between Brandon Villafuerte, Brian Rios and Wilver Perez. Villafuerte sported a 1.80 ERA and three saves in four appearances. In five innings pitched, he only walked one batter while striking out five. Rios led the team in batting average with a .348 mark in the month of May. He also had a homer, three RBIs and a pair of steals. Wilver Perez was tied for the team lead in steals with an impressive eight swipes, along with left fielder Sean Smith. Perez also hit .265 with a homer and two RBIs in May, in addition to scoring 9 times.

The contributors to the Victoria Seals Baseball Blog will continue to name a VSBB Player of the Month for the remainder of the year. At the end of the season, the monthly results will be used to determine the VSBB Player of the Year. Players will receive three points for finishing first in a month, two points for finishing second and one point for finishing third.

No word yet on whether or not an actual prize will accompany the award, but there are rumours that a malty beverage at a local watering hole could be involved.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Home stand wrap-up

The Seals had to put the brooms away after another entertaining ball game at soggy and cool Royal Athletic Park as they fell in the series finale to the Orange County Flyers by a score of 6-4. Although it felt a bit like the game slipped away in the mid-innings, if you had told me a few days ago that we would go 3-1 aginst an undefeated Flyers team, I would have been ecstatic.

Kyle Wilson pitched a solid 5 innings allowing only 3 hits and striking out 8 as the Seals built up a nice 3-0 lead and seemed to be cruising. Flyers' hurler Byung Hyun Kim also pitched well but clutch Seals hitting helped chase him in the 5th. In a painfully slow few middle innings, both teams had some untimely errors and when the dust settled, OC had a 1 run lead. The Flyers added one more in the 8th for the 6-4 final.

Wilver Perez had a great game at the plate for the Seals with 3 hits including a frozen rope home run and swiped another 3 bases. Despite missing a line drive just above his head, which should have been caught, he had decent game in the field. Josh Arhart and Chris Van Rossum chipped in as well with 2 hits a piece, including a solo shot by the Awesome one late in the game to pull the Seals within 1.

But the miracle jar was empty and another come from behind win was not to be on this damp Victoria afternoon. I'm sure the boys are as excited (as anyone can be for a roadtrip) to be head to AZ where they may actually have to put on a bit of sunscreen.

The Seals got on umpire and fan un-favourite John De-Loser in the first inning when they complained about an inconsistent back foot movement by Flyers' starter Kim. Chris Bodisbaugh took one for the team by getting ejected early on as the Seals bench began chirping at the umps to grab the cajones to make a call on the ex-MLB hurler. He was quickly followed an inning later by interim manager Kip Gross who vehemently argued that an "AL" should be inserted in the middle of BK's initials for this foot movement. While it really had no bearing on the game, I believe they had a case here as it was inconsistenent and definitely NOT part of B(AL)K's"normal" pitching delivery. In any case, it was entertaining listening to the hearty and vocal crowd members make chicken noises each time BK made a move to first. Late in the game, even the OC bench was ragging at DeLuca for his low and inconsistent strike zone. Funny how he is the only one of the crew to make himself so visible. Maybe it is everyone else who has a problem, not him...I'm just sayin'....

In any case, I would say it was a great first homestand as the Seals head to a drier climate with a nice 6-3 record. It sure was an eventful beginning - they lost their marquee manager, played the first double-header and had 3 walk off wins. They held OC's potent offense to single digits in all four games after they had scored at least 10 or above in every game prior to playing the Seals. Having said that, the Seals have not yet hit the double digit mark in offense and are in need of a good "wake up the sticks" game. The fact that they are 6-3 is a trubute to stingy pitching, decent defense and clutch hitting. Let's hope it continues. Good luck on the road boys, see you on the 8th!

Seals give Orange County the cold shoulder - twice

There's a reason they play winter ball in Arizona, and spend the spring down there and in Florida... Baseball is more fun when it's hot, or warm at least! Baseball in the freezing cold wind of Royal Athletic Park is anything but pleasant. Saturday night the parkas, blankets, sleeping bags, and down jackets made an appearance at RAP as the Seals hosted Orange County in a double-header of shortened seven-inning games to make up for Friday night's rain-out.

Game one started earlier than usual at 5:00, and drew no more than a couple hundred fans to start the game. As the night wore on, the crowd grew in size to a more respectable Victoria baseball crowd, but numbers were still held well below expectation due to the freezing winds.

200 hardy fans prepare for a long night of baseball

The game itself was a pitchers duel from the start, with starters Jesse Smith for OC and Aaron Trolia for Victoria giving up only 3 hits between them over the first 4 innings. Colin Moro put the Seals ahead in the bottom of the 5th inning with his first HR of the season, a solo shot to left center. The Flyers Ben Johnson got that back in the top of the 6th with his league-leading 4th home run, and the Flyers added another run in the top of the 7th to take a 2-1 lead into the Seals last at bat.

Rally caps were out, and once again they came through. Terry McClain continued to build his reputation for clutch hitting by driving in Wilver Perez with the tying run from second after a well-timed steal. This set the stage nicely for new player-coach Brian Rios to come through with his first home run and RBIs of the season with a magnificent walk-off 2-run homer to end the game. Rios was met at home plate by the entire team as they bounced him back to the dugout.

This was the first "clean" game of the year for the Seals, as no errors were committed.

Third Base Brian Rios hits the next pitch out for a walk-off 2-run HR in Game 1

After a short break, a couple hot chocolates, and a few hundred more fans arrived at the park, game two of the double header saw the Seals Chris Bodishbaugh take on Brett Smith for the Flyers. The second game was back and forth, and featured some stellar defensive play by both teams. Sitting Eric Pringle, the Seals mixed their lineup by moving Perez to short, and playing Brian Rios at second base to give Shane Cronin some time at 3rd base. Cronin the Barbarian didn't disappoint, going deep in the second inning to keep the Seals within a run of the Flyers, who had jumped out to an early 3-1 lead.

T-Mac stands in during game 2 of Saturday's double-header

The key play came in the bottom of the 6th inning. With two outs and the game tied at five, Wilver Perez hit a routine fly ball to right field. Flyers fielder Ben Johnson played it casual and the ball bounced of the side of his glove, allowing Sean Smith to score from second on the error.

Seals closer Brandon Vilafuerte couldn't get the job done in the top of seven, giving up a run to force "extra innings" and extend the game into the 8th, as the Seals were unable to score. With most of the crowd heading for the exits, Vilafuerte kept the Flyers scoreless, setting the stage for yet another walk-off win. After a base hit by Chris Van Rossom and a bunt by Matt Kavanaugh, the Flyers Tyler Keeble made a horrible throw that sailed over first base, allowing Van-Awesome to scamper home with the winning run.

The Seals are now 3-0 against Orange County, and lead the division with a 6-2 record. Sunday's game against Orange County at 1:30 is the final game of the opening home stand of 2010.

Friday, May 28, 2010

That's my Victoria

Tonight's game against the OC flyers has been CANCELLED due to "unplayable" field conditions - a first, but probably not a last for the Victoria Seals. It's rumoured that the Seals looked at the weather forecast for the next 40 days and 40 nights (OK...for at least the next week!) and will use the time to build an arc.

So in lieu of a game report, let me throw something out there for Seal's fans to pass the time until Mr. Sunbeam decides to make another appearance.

With Gus' previous reference to "Cronin the Barbarian", he got me thinking that our boys need some nicknames. All sports players need nicknames. Think of the good ones out there - "The Human Highlight Film", "Prime Time" and my favourite from the baseball world, "The Big Hurt". So given that, here are a few that I could dream up, but I'm always open to new suggestions/additions. Here are a few to get us going:

Shane Cronin "the Barbarian"
Brian "Inky" Rios...OR Brian "Blame It On" Rios...OR (if he were #8) Brian "Ocho" Rios
Eric "Chip" Pringle
Chris van "Awesome"
Josh "Captain Jack" A-r-r-r-rhar-r-r-rt
Aaron "La Grande Unite" Easton (he is in Canada now!)
Terrence "T-Mac" McClain
Sean "Flash" Smith...OR "Windy City" Smitty
"Skip" Gross

I've got more, but I'll leave it at that for now...expect more as the season goes on and personalities take shape!

Seals hold on to dump Orange County

In the first of a four-game set against the Orange County, the Seals handed the Flyers their first loss of the young season, holding on for a narrow 8-6 victory.

The Seals jumped out to an early 3-0 lead thanks to Terry McClain's third home run of the year and some aggressive base running that saw the Seals pull off their second double-steal of the year.

Orange County capitalized on 2 Seals errors in the 4th inning to tie the game at 4, and took the lead in the 7th with some old-fashioned small-ball, working a walk, a steal, a single, and a sacrifice into the go ahead run. It all came crashing down on the Flyers in the bottom of the 7th, as Perez, Arhart, and Pringle all reached on fielding errors, and the Seals scored 3 times.

The 9th inning saw some drama as well, with the Seals committing their fourth error of the game, and ex-Seal Sergio Pedroza driving in a run and putting the tying run on second base. Seals closer Brandon Vilafeurte shut the door from there, striking out leadoff hitter Steve Boggs, and getting Jimmy Rohan to bounce out to end the game.

Not a stellar day in the field with both teams giving up 4 errors each, leading to 5 unearned runs - 3 for OC, 2 for Victoria. OC Pitching was excellent as expected Thursday night, limiting the Seals to only 7 hits. Seals pitching held the red-hot Flyers to only 13 hits.

The game marked the first professional win by Seals interim coach Kip Gross, who took over earlier in the day from the resigning Bret Boone. No news on a potential replacement at this time, the Seals hope to have this question answered prior to their next home stand which starts June 8th.

The Seals continue play against Orange County with games Friday and Saturday night at 7:00, and Sunday afternoon at 1:30.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Boone resigns

In an unexpected move, Bret Boone has resigned as manager of the Seals per an official announcement on the team's website. The reasons cited were personal in nature and he is returning home to California to be with his family. Kip Gross - the current pitching coach - will take the reins as inteirm manager. Josh Arhart was already acting as a player-coach and it is expected that Brian Rios will now also jump in to aid in this capacity.

No details have been released but the statement makes it sound like this is a permanent situation so a new manager search should start immediately. Darren Parker pulled off quite a coup getting such a high profile manager as Boone, so we'll see if he can repeat it now that he is under the gun once again.

Stay tuned and we'll report as we get information.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Orange County Flyers - series preview

When previewing the series against Maui, there were a host of unanswered questions: How will the franchise look out of the gate, who are the players to watch, do they have any hitting or pitching… With the exception of only a couple players, the team was very much a mystery. The result against Maui turned out to be as predicted - Victoria took 3 of 5, but the main take-away from the Maui series was that the Warriors were much better than expected. Without some late-inning Seals heroics, Maui could have easily taken 4 of 5 from Victoria.

Next up for the Seals at RAP this season are the Orange County Flyers. This team presents the exact opposite situation - we do know these guys, we know what they can do, and if the first week of the season is any indication, the Flyers might just be THE early season force to be reckoned with.

All the Flyers did last week was completely destroy the St. George Roadrunners opening home stand by outscoring them 49 – 30 and taking all four games. The Flyers have yet to be held to single digits this season, scoring 15, 12, 12, and 10 runs a game. Roadrunner pitching took the full brunt of that storm, with their starters combining for an ERA over 11 for the weekend.

So now the good news… Of the 49 runs against, only 37 of them were earned, pointing to some porous St. George defence. In fact the Flyers collected (only) 57 hits the entire series – that’s just 4 more than the Seals gave up in 5 games against Maui. The difference was clearly in team defense, which saw the Roadrunners give away 12 runs by committing 11 errors. By comparison, the Seals gave up only 31 runs, 27 of them earned on 6 errors.

Run scoring proved to be an issue for Victoria against Maui. Not hitting - the starters hit a respectable .270 - but they could only push across 22 runs in five games. Production like that would usually buy you a losing record in the GBL, but stingy team defence and reasonable pitching prevailed to keep them above ground.

Keys to the series

These seem pretty obvious against OC. Keep the defence solid and don’t give away outs. Pitching is always a key in the GBL, but getting timely hitting to drive runs across will go a long way to ensuring the starting pitchers have chances to win games. I would still expect OC to score 5-8 runs a game, making the late-inning rally less effective if you’re already down by a handful.

Players to watch

It will be a Mariners Alumni reunion of sorts when the Flyers get to town, as OC is managed this season by 11-year MLB veteran Paul Abbott. Abbott and Boone played together in Seattle in 2001, 2002, and 2005. Abbott was with OC’s last year, serving as the team’s pitching coach.

Ten players return to the Flyers from last year, most notably seven key components of last year’s dominant pitching staff. Starters Matt Durkin and Jesse Smith have returned – they finished 1-2 in wins in 2009, and Durkin was the GBL pitcher of the year.

In the bullpen, OC has added former MLB All-Star and World Series champion Byung-Hyun Kim. BK has been providing middle-relief to this point, but given the blow-out scores of previous games, hasn’t been called on to close yet – and he will.

At the plate, the Flyers added more talent in the off season by grabbing ex-Seal Sergio Pedroza from Calgary. Pedroza if you remember was the MVP of the GBL Championship series last year for the Vipers. Sergio has been limited to pinch-hit duty so far this season and has not been a factor. Another new addition is ex-MLB infielder Keith Ginter, who is making a significant impact early for OC, batting .438 over the first 4 games. Outfielder Ben Johnson, who joined the Flyers late last season is leading the team in home runs and RBI. Ginter, Johnson, Steve Boggs, and Jimmy Rohan are all batting over .400 after their first series.

Of the Flyers “starting eight”, six are hitting .333 or better…

The Flyers ex-MLB talent pool: Keith Ginter, BK, and Ben Johnson


On the surface (or by the box scores), it looks like a Flyers sweep might be in the cards - the Seals will be in tough against some solid starting and closing pitching, and the late-inning surges the Seals have banked on to date are less likely against OC.

Digging a bit deeper however, adjusting for the howling Caledonia Express winds, and counting on the Seals to play a more solid defensive game than OC has seen so far this season, I’m predicting a 2-2 split.

One thing is for certain, this will be an excellent early season test for Boone’s boys, and the fans in Victoria should see some excellent baseball this series.

The Seals host Orange County Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 7:00, and Sunday at 1:30. See you at the park!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Smith and Cronin turn the tide against Maui

The Strong Warriors of Maui were very good in the opening series of their inaugural season, but the Victoria Seals were better. Aided by a pair of defensive gems from Sean Smith and a timely, momentum-building homer from Shane Cronin, the Seals took the rubber game of their five-game series with Maui 4-3.

The visitors led for most of the night. In fact, Victoria didn't register a hit until Colin Moro hit a bouncing-ball single up the middle in the bottom of the fourth. In the top of the 7th, Maui held a 3-0 lead and they were threatening to put the game away. With a pair of runners aboard, Phil Avlas hit a long drive to left field that initially seemed destined to land on Pembroke Street. But Smith got to the wall and made a gorgeous leaping grab at the base of the fence to end the inning.

Earlier in the game, Smith made another beautiful catch on a drive that was hit down the left field line, but drifted into foul territory. Although Smith was positioned in the gap in left-centre, he got on his horse and raced over to snare the ball with a stunning diving catch.

Going into the bottom of the eighth, the Seals trailed 3-0 and were being out-hit 10-3. Eric Pringle chipped in with a single to start the inning and manager Bret Boone sent up the hot-hitting Shane Cronin to bat for the pitcher. On a 1-1 count, Cronin The Barbarian cranked his second homer in as many days and got the Seals to within one run. More importantly, the blast swung the momentum firmly into the Seals camp.

Three batters later, Colin Moro tied the game up with his second base hit of the night. He then scored the eventual winning run on a balk by TJ Macy. The balk was called by first-base umpire John DeLuca, who had another questionable game. Although we were all pleased when the balk was called, none of us in the lower part of my section could determine what Macy did to warrant the balk. Not surprisingly, DeLuca got an earful from Macy and Maui's manager Cory Snyder.

Earlier in the game, DeLuca blew another call. A wild throw from a Seals middle infielder shot past Terrence McClain at first base and bounded off the cement wall about 30 feet past the dugout. DeLuca made a loud (but incorrect) call and explained to anyone within earshot that this area was out of bounds and he then awarded both the runner on third and first an extra base. Luckily, the alert home-plate umpire Chuck Becker convened a quick conference with his two colleagues and reversed the botched call. The runners were sent back to first and third and the Seals got out of the inning without the run having scored.

Seal Blubber Bits
  • The Seals now have a 3-2 record and are 1 1/2 games behind the first-place Chico Outlaws.
  • Manager Bret Boone needs to find a way to get Shane Cronin into the lineup. He's doing everything he has been asked to do and he is tearing the cover off the ball. Maybe Cronin should rotate through the first base, third base and catcher positions. It seems a shame to only use him for pinch-hitting duties.
  • Josh Arhart had another great night behind the plate, throwing out two of three Maui runners attempting to steal second.
  • Brandon Villafuerte picked up his second save of the season.
  • Andrew Arreola got the win, his first of the season. Arreola has pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings in his three relief appearances this season.
  • The ace of the starting rotation, Jason Kershner, will be back on the hill for the Seals when the home stand continues on Thursday night.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Impressive Maui hitting knots series at 2-2

The Strong Warriors of Maui sure can swing the sticks. They continued to smack the ball with authority on Monday night at RAP as they defeated the Seals 7-4. Maui has now outscored Victoria 28-18 in the first four games of the series, even though the hits are only 42-35 in Maui's favour. The difference has been in two-out hits: Maui has been getting them a lot more frequently than the Seals have. The rubber game goes Tuesday night at 7 PM.

Shane Cronin led the Victoria attack with a 2-for-4 night, including a two-run homer in the bottom of the second inning. Cronin is quietly leading the Seals in hitting with a cool .500 average and he is pushing Brian Rios at third base. With Rios feeling under the weather the last couple of days, Cronin has been given additional playing time. To his credit, Cronin has jumped all over it. One of the things I like about him is that he seems to be a total team player. When Rios had a pinch-hit double late in the game on Monday, Cronin was the first to come over and give him a fist bump.

Bubba wrote in his post earlier today that Terrence "T-Mac" McClain is well on his way to replacing Jamar Hill as possibly the most popular player on the team. Last year, the most under-appreciated player had to be Sergio Pedroza. Game after game, he amazed me with his play, but when he stepped into the box he got half the cheers that Jamar Hill did. This year's most under-appreciated player could turn out to be Shane Cronin. Tonight you could hear crickets when Cronin was announced before his plate appearances. That's a shame. I'm hoping that Victoria warms up to Shane Cronin because he strikes me as one helluva ballplayer.

Seal Blubber Bits
  • The Maui team sported their third different jersey in four games on Monday night. Their red tops were much easier on the eyes than the bright green jerseys from Sunday's game.
  • Plate umpire John DeLuca had another terrible night on Monday. Just like in Friday's game, he continued to call balls at the ankles as strikes. He also got into an argument with the Victoria bench when the Seals noticed that the Maui pitcher was throwing to the plate without touching the rubber. I believe it was pitching coach Kip Gross who was trying to get DeLuca to take action, but DeLuca yelled at the bench "No, you look it up!" (the rule). He threatened to start tossing people, but cooler heads prevailed. I'm not in the habit of criticizing officials (on the blog anyway), but DeLuca is not exactly the best professional umpire that I have ever seen.
  • It might sound odd, but Colin Moro had an impressive 0-for-4 on Monday. He smoked the ball all night, but he hit it right at people. He's only hitting .154 right now, but he'll break out very soon.
  • Even with Jino Gonzalez's 0-for-2 at the plate on Monday, the Victoria pitchers are still out-hitting the position players. The pitchers are 3-for-8 (.375), while the position players are only hitting .262. I find this all rather humorous, especially considering my chat with pitching coach Kip Gross before opening day. One of the questions I asked him was whether or not any of the pitchers were decent hitters. He repeated a number of times "No, they are ALL terrible. THEY'RE PITCHERS!"

Box Score

I'm an old-school guy. I listen to sports on the radio, I tell my kids that I walked to school 5 miles each day (uphill both ways in chest-deep snow) and I love to read the newspaper. In general, I think the Times Columnist does a great job covering the Seals with articles every game day, but riddle me this Batman- why don't they print the box score?

I know that I can get it from other internet sites, but as I settled down with my coffee to read the paper Saturday and Sunday morning, I longed to pore over these more detailed stats that perfectly summarize a ball game. Even as I hunted in today's online edition, I couldn't find it. How much room does a box score take up anyway? I propose to get rid of some meaningless "filler"and use that space. I mean, who really cares about the Rex Hospital Open golf tournament or the LPGA Sybase Match Play Championship - each of which hogs space big enough to fit a box score. Familiarize the local team with the sportsheads out there by getting the names in print. They print the Salmon Kings game summary, so why not the Seals' box score?

As an aside, even though the picture above the article on yesterday's game was from Saturday (Maui wore green tops yesterday), there is a great article on the female knucklballer Eri Yoshida. Check it out.

McClain the early-season hero

In the Seals first season, it was Jamar Hill. That player that everyone cheers for, everyone wants an autograph from, and who always seems to deliver when needed. With Jamar gone and a fresh batch of Seals at the park, this town's in need of a new hero. If the first three games of the season are any indication, that job may belong to Terrance McClain.

T-Mac digs in in the ninth, with Wilver Perez looking on.

On Sunday afternoon at RAP, McClain came through in the clutch yet again. With two outs and the winning run standing on second base, he stood at the plate with a 2-2 count. After fouling off 3 balls from monstrously large Maui closer Jerry Spradlin, T-Mac got all the way around on a fastball and laced it just inside the bag at third, past a diving Keoni Ruth. Colin Moro flew home from second as the ball made its way to the outfield fence, and was met with a huge mob at home plate as he scored the winning run in a stunning come from behind 6-5 victory to move the Seals to 2 and 1 on the year.

McClain, with helmet raised, is mobbed by teammates after driving in Sunday's winning run

In Friday night's opener, T-Mac went 3 for 4 with 2 home runs, and has been solid at first base this year contributing some defensive gems. Sunday's game saw him make a great tag play at first on a throw that pulled him off the bag, and he chased a Maui runner down for the tag on a botched steal. While his braided locks remind many in the crowd of Manny Ramirez, his defensive abilities bear no resemblance. With his unique style and his flair for the dramatic, no doubt Seals fans will be cheering hard for #24 as the season moves on.

Seal Blubber bits on Sunday's game 3:

  • Victoria native Charlie Strandlund put another notch in his belt Sunday, collecting his first professional RBI as a pinch hitter in the seventh inning. Watch it here.
  • Maui pitchers did themselves no favours on Sunday, bringing the Seal's fourth and fifth runs in on wild pitches. Both runs tied the game at the time, much to the enjoyment of the rowdy crowd along the first base line.
  • Perhaps the happiest man in the park when the winning run was scored, was reliever Aaron Easton. Easton gave up a home run to Maui lead-off hitter Fehlandt Lentini in the top of the ninth inning, just minutes after the Seals had tied the game at 4 and narrowly missed a chance to take the lead. On the hook for a loss, Easton leaped over the dugout fence to join the party at home plate and celebrate his first win of the season.
  • The Seals once again wore their dark blue "third jersey", leaving the home whites in the locker room. Like much of last year, the players seem more comfortable in the pullover rather than the more traditional jersey style. Perhaps the whites should be labeled the "alternate jersey"...
  • Maui showed off their alternate jersey as well on Sunday - a bright green model with the word "Ikaika" on the front. Combined with the loud white/red/yellow pants, the uniform now reminds us of the old Windows 3.1 colour scheme called "Hot Dog Stand". They blended seamlessly into the Subway banner in left-center field.
Maui outfielder Paul Nishimura sports the alternate greens while coaching first

Two more games are upcoming against the Warriors, Monday and Tuesday nights at 7:00.

Tijuana Cimarrones stumble out of the gate

The Tijuana Cimarrones have had an odd start to their inaugural Golden Baseball League season.  On Friday, they were scheduled to play their home opener against the Chico Outlaws, but the game was cancelled due to problems with the lighting in the stadium. On top of that, Outlaw officials reported that they had difficulty getting information on the situation -- even well after the scheduled start time of the game.

If you go to the web site of the Golden Baseball League's official stats provider,, you'll notice that both the Chico Outlaws and the Tijuana Cimarrones are shown as having a record of 0-0. Apparently, the Tijuana team is having some trouble uploading data to Pointstreak and no information has been passed on to the stats provider as yet this season.

After some digging, I was able to discover that on Saturday, the Chico Outlaws ruined the Cimarrones' home opener by defeating their Mexican hosts 10-6. To make up for the Friday cancellation, the teams were to play a pair of 7-inning games on Sunday. In the first game of the double-header, there was a bizarre twist of fate. Pitcher Kris Honel, who was traded for Jose Lima last season, took to the mound a few short hours after Lima passed away. Honel then went on to pitch the second no-hitter in GBL history, shutting out Tijuana by a score of 20-0. No further details on this game are currently available and we have been unable to track down the result of the second game of the doubleheader.

All of this means that we're not actually sure if the Victoria Seals are in sole possession of first place in the North Division with a 2-1 record. Chico's record could be 2-0, 2-1 or 3-0. Hopefully the league will start getting some information out of Tijuana very soon.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sad News

The baseball community was given some sad news today, as it was announced that former MLB and GBL pitcher Jose Lima has passed away this morning from an apparent heart attack at age 37.

Lima made his major league debut in 1994 with the Detroit Tigers and chalked up 89 wins and close to 1,000 strikeouts in his 13 year career. Of course we know him more recently for bringing "Lima Time" to our GBL backyard as a memebr of the Long Beach Armada and Edmonton Capitals.

More recently, Lima began focussing on establishing a youth baseball academy in California and seemed to be settling in to a life off the mound. Hopefully his high energy and joy for life will help move this noble gesture forward in his absence.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Strandlund collects first pro hit in 14-3 loss

It was a windy and bitterly cold evening, but the Maui bats were definitely hot on Saturday night. The Strong Warriors of Maui manhandled the Victoria Seals 14-3 to even up their five-game series at one win apiece. Given the playing conditions, it wasn't surprising that it was a sloppily played affair -- the game featured three errors and 13 walks. The Seals also left 12 men on base.

Aaron Trolia started for the Seals and he got roughed up pretty good. He gave up three homers and eight earned runs in his 3 2/3 innings of work. He also got a base hit in his only at-bat with Josh Arhart on second and Chris VanRossum on first in the bottom of the second inning. Unfortunately, manager Bret Boone was overly aggressive and he waived in the not-so-speedy Arhart who was thrown out by a wide margin at the plate. Boone's base running tactics will backfire occasionally this year, but he'll get it right the majority of the time.

The turning point of the game was in the bottom of the third with the Seals trailing 4-2.  They loaded the bases with two outs, but Chris VanRossum struck out to end the inning. In the next half-inning, Trolia gave up four more runs to make the score 8-2 and that was the ballgame.

Boone was quick to get all of his backup players into the game once it was clear that the game was out of reach. Unfortunately, he did not have any pinch-hitters remaining in the bottom of the 8th inning when pitcher Nick Martin was forced to bat with the bases loaded and only one out. Although the score was 10-2 at the time, a grand slam would have put the Seals right back into it.  Martin struck out and then left fielder Sean Smith was also retired on strikes to end the inning.

The highlight of the game was Charlie Strandlund's appearance in his first professional game. In the seventh inning, the Victoria native made a sparkling defensive play at second base by ranging to his left and diving to come up with a ground ball. He then threw out the runner at first from his knees. Strandlund collected his first professional hit in the bottom of the ninth, a bouncing ball up the middle. A number of his teammates immediately motioned to the opposing pitcher (Jason Mackintosh, who pitched in AAA in 2007) for the baseball, so Strandlund will have a nice souvenir of his accomplishment. Our boy Charlie went on to steal second and he eventually scored on a passed ball. It's too bad that there were only a few hundred fans left in the stands when he got his base hit, but the frigid temperature had chased away all but the most ardent of fans. Of this you can be sure: Charlie Strandlund belongs in the GBL. As Bret Boone himself said, he is not a token local.

A golden opening night at RAP

Jason Kershner throws the first pitch of the 2010 Seals season

Bret Boone is a man of his word. At Thursday's media day, your faithful bloggers had an extended conversation with Boone on his thoughts about coaching third base. His goal this season? Be aggressive on the base paths. He wants guys going first to third on singles. He wants guys scoring from second on hits - he says it makes people better hitters if they know you're busting your ass to score for you. Boone figures he'll get some guys thrown out at the plate by 10 feet at times, but in the long run the strategy will work given the quality of fielding in the Golden League. Friday night, he put that philosophy to work early and often as the Seals opened their second season at RAP.

Leading off the second inning, after Terrance McClain delivered the first hit of 2010 with a solid single, Brian Rios hits one to the outfield and Boo
ne gives T-Mac the all-clear for 3rd base. Josh Arhart then hit a medium depth fly ball to left, and Boone gives T-Mac the green light to tag and score the Seals first run. Boone was right - the throw was a bit off, and a well timed slide beat the throw.

The third inning saw more of the same. After a Sean Smith 2-out single, Wilver Perez hits a ball off the Camosun sign in right-center and stretched it into a triple with a close play at the bag. After the ball gets away from the Maui infielder, Perez jumps up and scampers home, barely beating the tag for what turns out to be the winning run.

In the fifth inning, Eric Pringle and Sean Smith execute a perfect double steal to put two runners in scoring position. The Seals finished the game with 4 steals.

Meanwhile over at third base, Boone stands with arms crossed, and a look of satisfaction on his face. With the seals in the field the next inning, Boone walks past us, leans in with a grin and says "How we looking so far boys"? Pretty good Mr. Boone, pretty good.

Seal Blubber Bits on game 1

  • Victoria native Charlie Strandlund had a busy night, although he didn't play. Charlie was called upon to coach first base all night, and did a good job of not going anywhere near the drawn coaches box (why they still draw that box I have no idea - nobody ever stands in it!).
  • Attendance was excellent as expected, with the grandstand and bleacher seats pretty much filled to capacity. The crowd was appreciative, noisy, and in good spirits. There were many leis seen in the crowd as well, a nice touch to welcome the Maui franchise to Victoria, and to the Golden League.
  • Barely in our seats at the start of the game, and what shows up beside us, but a beer man! Yes the age-old sounds of baseball hawkers is alive at RAP. "Ice cold Beer, Cider" or "Popcorn" could be heard throughout the game as they walked the aisles. Another great addition to the baseball experience.
  • Top of the first inning, Maui catcher Phil Avlas gets the first hit in Na Koa Ikaika history with a solid single to the gap in right.
  • The Seals sported their new "3rd jersey", a variation on last year's popular dark blue pullover style. Expect to see these jersey quite a bit this year, as the players prefer these over the more traditional white home jersey. If you're wondering, its the game's starting pitcher who chooses which jersey the team wears on any given day...
  • You can't talk uniforms without mentioning the Maui jerseys... The jerseys themselves are an impressive black with red, green, and yellow trim which is quite striking. The issue is the pants. Bright white pants with a four inch red stripe covered with triangles running down each side. Nasty pants that bring back thoughts of old Houston Astro's unis from the 70s.

More Photos from Friday night's game...

Seals 2B Wilver Perez and the new third Jersey

Maui catcher Phil Avlas at first after his historic first hit in franchise history

Victoria Native Charlie Strandlund between innings

The Seals continue their home stand against the Maui warriors with games Saturday (7:00), Sunday (1:30), Monday (7:00), and Tuesday (7:00).

Seals win 2010 home opener

Can you say "First-place Victoria Seals?" Yes, the Seals are sitting on top of the North Division standings after last night's 5-2 win at RAP over the Strong Warriors of Maui. Terrence McClain was the hero of the night, hitting a pair of round-trippers and going three-for-four with two RBIs and three runs scored.

Starter Jason Kershner was solid on the mound, giving up only two runs in seven innings of work. The plate umpire, John DeLuca, was wildly inconsistent calling the balls and strikes and he had a very low strike zone.  Kershner did a good job of adjusting and he was able to strike out eight of the Maui hitters. Aaron Easton and closer Brandon Villafuerte also pitched a scoreless inning each to seal the win.

Bret Boone's troops looked very good on this night. He said they would be aggressive on the base paths and they definitely were. Wilver Perez turned a double into a triple with some solid hustling and he ended up scoring on the throw to third.  Boone's idea to put pressure on the defense is perfectly suited to the Golden League and it has already paid dividends. It should be a very exciting year at the ballpark this summer.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Play ball!

And so it begins...first up for the Seals will be Na Koa Ikaika Maui (Mighty Warriors of Maui), one of the new kids on the block. This early in the year, it's pretty hard to say just how this series will go, but that's why they pay me the "film star" money. OK...maybe not, but at least I'll give it a shot.

Like the Seals, the Maui team has a couple of players who have dabbled in pro ball but none have any big League experience like their Victoria counterparts. For Maui, Rex Lundgren is an infielder who played in the Rockies system last year for the Tulsa Drillers, hitting only .238 but brings a good glove to the infield. Gered Mochizuki played some independent ball in the Frontier and Appalachian leagues where he hit a respectable .302 before signing with the Mets last year. To the benefit of the Mighty Warriors, he was released from the Mets spring training and is now ready to debut in the Golden League. Both Rundgren and Mochizuki played high school ball in Hawaii which is consistent with owner Rick Berry's plan to load up on local talent from the islands. Case in point, another solid player is Mark Okano, who has posted a solid .277 batting average in his GBL career who was born in Honolulu and currently resides in Hawaii. Another solid (non-local) player is Fehlandt Lentini who hit a venomous .366 (.389 in the playoffs) with Calgary last year; the Seals would be wise to pitch carefully to this lad who has also played at the AAA level.

Without any real stats to base it on, I'm not sure how this will go, who is on a roll/who is not, but let's take a quick look as some keys to the game:

1) Coaching - Two ex-MLBers are going at it in Bret Boone and Cory Snyder so it should be fun to see how these two fare behind the lines. It is Boone's debut while Snyder has had some previous experience in the GBL managing the Roadrunners.
2) Experience - As mentioned, the Warriors have no players with MLB experience while the Seals have a couple. This should give the Seals an edge in what I hope will be a charged atmosphere at RAP for this opening series.
3) Pitching - I like the Seals pitching additions (including a coach) and even not knowing that much about what Maui brings to the table, I think this will help the Seals. In fact, the opening day starter will be Jason Kershner who is one of those Seals with MLB experience. In what is definitely a hitter's league, any pitching edge is a good thing! On the flip side, can the pitchers hit? I suspect we'll see a bunt or twelve...
4) Intangibles - It is opening night for the Seals so fan interest and emotion will be high. This should boost the Victoria boys, but being the first game ever for the Warriors will also pump up Maui - especially with so many local lads on board. Weather will also be interesting. Forecast for Friday is 11 degrees with showers in Victoria while the Maui crew is missing a partly cloudy day that tops out at a balmy 30 degrees. I hope they packed their fleece longjohns!

Prediction - Victoria takes 3 of 5

In the words of Ed Grimly, "I must say, I'm so excited!".

Darth's Fun Fact - Rex Rundgren is famous music legend Todd Rundgren's son and he is half brother of the lovely Liv Tyler...pretty cool house to grow up in. I kid you not!

Victoria Seals announce 2010 roster

The opening-day roster for the Victoria Seals was announced this afternoon and there was one major surprise. Charlie Strandlund, the Victoria native who earned an invitation to spring training from the local tryout camp, has made the team as a utility player. Manager Bret Boone was emphatic that Strandlund earned his way onto the team. After being skeptical initially, Boone was won over by Strandlund's skill, versatility and determination.

The other surprise was that Javier Garcia was not on the roster.  Garcia, who started 2009 as Victoria's closer, was traded to the St. George Roadrunners for future considerations. Rumour has it that he was about to be released by Victoria, but the Seals traded him instead. He is the second Seal shipped off to play for Darrell Evans' squad this week (first baseman Brett Flowers was dealt there on Tuesday). It's nice to see that our "leftovers" are being picked up by other teams -- that says a lot about the caliber of the 2010 version of the Victoria Seals.

Here are the likely starters on opening day:
  • Pitcher - Jason Kershner
  • Catcher - Josh Arhart
  • First Base - Terrence McClain
  • Second Base - Wilver Perez
  • Third Base - Brian Rios
  • Shortstop - Eric Pringle
  • Left Field - Sean Smith
  • Centre Field - Chris VanRossum
  • Right Field - Colin Moro
Pitching coach Kip Gross has said that the team will employ a four or five man starting rotation, depending on the schedule. Any one of the five starters will be shifted back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen.  The five starters will be:
  • Jason Kershner
  • Aaron Trolia
  • Chris Bodishbaugh
  • Jino Gonzalez
  • Kyle Wilson
The bullpen will be anchored by ex-major leaguer Brandon Villafuerte, who will be the team's closer.  The other members of the bullpen are Andrew Arreola, 6' 10" Aaron Easton, Anthony Pluta and Nick Martin.

It was a bit of a surprise that the team chose to go with only ten pitchers on the 22-man roster.  That will put a lot of pressure on the bullpen and Gross will have a tougher job with only ten hurlers to choose from. In a pinch, he could also bring in Charlie Strandlund to throw an inning.

Shane Cronin and Charlie Strandlund are the backup infielders and both guys can play just about anywhere.  Steven Wright is the fourth outfielder on the team (although first baseman Terrence McClain is normally an outfielder).

If I had to pick one word to describe the roster, it would be "impressive."  This team is head and shoulders above the 2009 squad -- especially on the pitching mound.  I predict that the Seals will at least play .500 baseball and with a few breaks could be in the pennant races (there are two since the GBL uses a split-schedule).

Kudos to Bret Boone and Kip Gross for putting this team together. Boone went out of his way to give credit to Gross for all of his hard work. So come on out to Royal Athletic Park this summer and show your appreciation!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

2010 edition of Victoria Seals baseball

The home opener is less than 48 hours away, so it's time to look ahead to the upcoming season.  Here are some burning questions as we head into the second season of Seals baseball:
  • Will Victoria's love affair with the Seals continue?
    The inaugural season for the Victoria Seals was a smashing success. Can the good times continue to roll at Royal Athletic Park? This scribe fully expects so. The organization has refused to rest on their laurels and we'll see a bunch more improvements at the ballpark this season (e.g. a kid's play area and hawkers selling food and beverages in the stands). Given the improved talent that the Seals will be putting on the field, it should be an exciting summer down on Caledonia Avenue.
  • Can the Seals break 100,000 in attendance?
    Last year, the team drew 93,691 fans in their 40 home games. However, the weather was almost perfect last year. But unless we run into some terrible weather in 2010, the Seals have a good shot at breaking the 100,000 mark. The biggest reason is that they have an extra five home games this year. On top of that, they'll be playing a variety of teams instead of mainly Calgary and Edmonton like they did in 2009. Hopefully, teams like Maui and Tijuana will help draw a few extra fans.
  • How many rain-outs will the Seals have?
    Only one game was rained out last year. You have to figure that number to be higher this season, but let's keep our fingers crossed for good weather on game days.
  • Who will emerge as the fan favourites in 2010?
    Last season Jamar Hill, Josh ("Arrrrrrrrr!") Arhart and Isaac Hess were fan favourites at Royal Athletic Park. Returnees Wilver Perez and Brian Rios have the stuff to take the place of Hill and Hess, who have moved on to greener pastures. However, I'm expecting the Garden City fans to elevate one or more of the newcomers to cult status. Who will it be? Captain Canuck Colin MoroBrandon Villafuerte? Sean Smith? Eric Pringle? Come on out to the ballpark to find out.
  • Will Victoria be treated to an Eri Yoshida start and how will she be received?
    The "Knuckle Princess", as she is being affectionately called, is due to make her first start of the season on May 29th in Chico against Tijuana. If she can hold her own in the first half of the season, you can be sure she'll get a start at RAP when the Chico Outlaws come to town on July 26-28 and August 14-17. If we're lucky, we might even get to see her twice. Not only will it be interesting to see how she does, but the entire scene should be fascinating. For instance, how many Japanese media will attend? Will hundreds of extra Japanese fans and females buy tickets? How will she be treated by opponents? How will she handle the bat when she takes her turn at the plate? Let's hope we get to find out.
  • Can the Seals go from pretenders to contenders in one year?
    Last year, Victoria finished with a 32-50 record and the organization threw in the towel in August, trading away most of our best players to teams who were headed to the post-season. This year, the Seals are expected to be much improved. Whether they'll be good enough to challenge for a playoff spot remains to be seen. I'll write more on this topic in the days to come.
  • How long before Bret Boone gets into trouble?
    Don't get me wrong -- I am a huge Bret Boone fan. I think he is the best thing to happen on the Victoria sports scene in a very, very long time. He's guaranteed to be a hit with the local fans. The umpires, not so much. While I'm not expecting him to throw Lou Piniella-style tantrums, Boonie is not afraid to speak his mind. Some think it might just be a matter of time before he says something that lands him in hot water with the Golden Baseball League. In any event, the sports reporters and bloggers will love him. Let the stream of quotable quotes begin!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Brett Flowers traded to St. George

The Victoria Seals will have a new first baseman in 2010. Last year's first baseman, Brett Flowers was recently traded to the St. George Roadrunners as compensation for shortstop Eric Pringle. He'll rejoin his old manager, Darrell Evans.

The trade was not a big surprise. With the significant amount of talent in the Seals camp this spring, Flowers became expendable. A big reason he was traded away is that he can only play first base and his defensive abilities would never be confused with Mark Grace's. Flowers hit .301 with 6 homers and 49 RBIs with the Seals last season.

I'm guessing that either Terrence McClain, Shane Cronin or Colin Moro will take over for Flowers at first base.

Seals outfield gets more crowded

Yesterday, there were six remaining outfielders fighting for four jobs with the Victoria Seals. That picture just got even more crowded after the team announced that they have signed 27-year-old centre fielder Sean Smith. This could end up being bad news for Chris VanRossum.

To the best of my knowledge, Smith is the first player signed through Bret Boone's personal connections. Smith played the last two seasons with the Somerset Patriots of the Atlantic League, but he was signed this past winter by the Washington Nationals. Unfortunately for Smith, he wasn't assigned to any of Washington's minor-league affiliates at the completion of spring training, but he comes to the Seals on a recommendation by Bret Boone's father, Bob Boone. The elder Boone is Assistant GM and VP of Player Development for the Nationals.

Smith is a speedy outfielder who is solid defensively and has a good arm. In the last two seasons, he stole an impressive 80 bases with the Patriots. He also has a bit of pop in his bat and is capable of hitting 10-15 homers. He hit .292 and .262 in the Atlantic League in the last two years, so he would probably hit over .300 in the Golden League. Smith also has good plate discipline and he draws more than his share of walks. He sounds like Bret Boone's kind of ballplayer.

The last round of cuts should be made by the end of the day on Wednesday. The roster currently stands at 29 players, so seven players will need to be let go. As I have said before, the Seals coaching staff will likely be leaning towards guys who can play more than one position to give them maximum flexibility with the small 22-man roster that they have to work with until August 15th. I'm betting on a surprise or two in the list of players that are released, but we'll know for sure in the very near future. Stay tuned.

Seal Blubber Bits
  • Ex-Seal Jamar Hill was involved in an embarrassing incident with the York Revolution of the Atlantic League on Sunday afternoon. The Revolution took a 4-2 lead into the top of the ninth, but things quickly unraveled. After a pair of runs tied the score 4-4, Nook Logan of the Newark Bears hit a fly ball to Hill. Unfortunately, Jamar lost the ball in the sun and it dropped in for a base hit -- but that's not the embarrassing part. His sunglasses were resting on the top of his hat. Scott Spiezio followed with the eventual game-winning RBI and a cascade of boos rained down from the 4,312 in attendance.
  • Seals alumnus Austin Bibens-Dirkx is almost unhittable in 2010. You may remember that Bibens-Dirkx was signed by the Chicago Cubs in July of last year.  He has started the year pitching for the Tennessee Smokies of the (AA) Southern League, but he may not be in AA for much longer.  Bibens-Dirkx pitched another gem on May 15th and he now sports a sparkling 2.19 ERA and a stunning 0.86 WHIP. Opponents are hitting .178 against him, so look for Bibens-Dirkx to be promoted to the AAA Iowa Cubs in the near future.
  • Former Seal Isaac Hess is back in the starting rotation for the Guerreros de Oaxaca of the Mexican (AAA). He now has a respectable 3-1 record and a 3.58 ERA.
  • Outfielder Terrence McClain was seen taking ground balls at first base during a recent visit to Royal Athletic Park.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

28 remain on Victoria Seals roster

The 32-man spring training roster for the Victoria Seals has been pared down to 28. This weekend, the Seals coaching staff decided to release Eduardo Baeza, Devon Franklin, Ryan Paterson and Scott Wallis.

The only surprise of the four was Eduardo Baeza, who was a member of the Victoria Seals last year.  Baeza went 5-9 with a 6.48 ERA in 2009. His release speaks volumes about the level of talent that we'll see on the mound from the Seals in 2010. For instance, seven Victoria pitchers had ERA's higher than Baeza's last year, yet he didn't have the stuff to make the team this year.

The Seals roster must be scaled back to 22 by Friday. That means that another six players will likely be released on Wednesday, the last day of spring training. Those cuts will be difficult and I don't envy the decisions that manager Bret Boone and pitching coach Kip Gross will have to make.

Victoria will likely break camp with 11 pitchers and 11 position players. In my opinion, there are only seven players that you can be absolutely sure will be on the roster:
After that, things get murky.  After taking Garcia, Kershner and Villafuerte out of the equation, there are 11 pitchers battling for the remaining 8 spots. Your guess is as good as mine regarding the three hurlers who will be let go.

There are likely three remaining spots in the infield, assuming Perez and Rios are on the team. That means that one of the following may be cut: Shane Cronin, Brett Flowers, Eric Pringle or Charlie Strandlund. The returning catchers from last year are Josh Arhart and Matt Kavanaugh. However, Kavanaugh is not necessarily a lock to make the team. If the organization thinks that Victorian Charlie Strandlund has the stuff to play in the GBL, it's possible that they could release Kavanaugh and use Shane Cronin as the backup catcher.

In the outfield, there are five players battling for three spots. Two of the following may have to be released: Lyndon Estill, Terrence McClain, Phil Ortez, Chris VanRossum and Steven Wright. Of course, Colin Moro could be moved to first base and Brett Flowers could be let go. The combinations and permutations are seemingly endless. Let's just say that Boonie and Kip Gross will be earning their paycheques this week.

Seal Blubber Bits
  • The Seals have erected a protective screen in front of the $400,000 scoreboard in left field. You may remember that Terry Mermer damaged the scoreboard hours after it was installed last season with a long batting-practice homer.
  • The team will be making better use of the scoreboard this year during games at RAP. For instance, the team will feature a crab race at every home game. The race will be similar to the speedboat races that are shown on the scoreboard at Safeco Field in Seattle.
  • The Orange County Flyers have signed ex-major leaguer Byung-Hyun Kim. The South Korean submarine pitcher, who bounced back from some crushing appearances in the 2001 World Series, last appeared in the majors in 2007. Orange County's only visit to RAP this year is from May 27th to the 30th, so make sure you come on out to see "BK" during their four-game series with the Seals.
  • The Yuma Scorpions have inked ex-big leaguer Cha-Seung Baek to a contract.  Baek went 6-2 with a 4.62 ERA for the San Diego Padres in 2008.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Bret Boone discusses his latest career move

In a recent interview with The SportingNews, Bret Boone discusses life after baseball and his decision to become the manager of the Victoria Seals.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Seals roar back to sink Vipers 6-5

The Victoria Seals came back from a 5-3 deficit to defeat the Calgary Vipers 6-5 on Thursday night at Norbrock Stadium in Kamloops. The victory gave the Seals a split in their two-game exhibition series.

Trailing 5-3 in the eighth inning, the Seals cut the gap in half with a Shane Cronin solo home run. The round-tripper was Cronin's second in two games and the Seals newcomer is making a strong case to make the squad. Victorian Charlie Strandlund doubled in the tieing run and then Campbell River's Scott Wallis scampered home on a wild pitch for the eventual game-winning run later in that same inning.

Aaron Easton was the winning pitcher and Ryan Paterson earned the save. Matt Kavanaugh had the only other RBI on the night for Victoria as three of their six runs scored on wild pitches.

Seal Blubber Bits
  • The Seals coaching staff is expected to make the first five or six cuts by this Saturday, with the remaining cuts coming before the first game on Friday May 21st. The 32-man roster must be paired down to 22 by opening day.
  • The Seals will be working out at RAP from 6-10 PM tonight. The workout is open to the public.
  • Jason Kershner is expected to be the opening day starter for the Victoria Seals.
  • The Times-Colonist estimated the attendance at Wednesday's exhibition game was about 1,200 fans, while the Kamloops Daily News estimated between 500 and 600. Approximately 500 attended the Thursday night game between the Vipers and Seals. Dave Kaval, CEO of the Golden League, estimates that probability of Kamloops getting an expansion team in the next year or two as "better than 50-50."
  • Seals alumnus Isaac Hess was traded by the Diablos Rojos del Mexico to the Guerreros de Oaxaca of the Mexican (AAA) League. It looks like he'll remain in the bullpen for the Guerreros though.  After getting off to a rough start this season, Hess is now 3-1 with a 3.66 ERA in the Mexican League. He has also limited opponents to a .244 batting average.
  • Ex-Seal Austin Bibens-Dirkx continues to dominate AA hitters for the Tennessee Smokies.  Bibens-Dirkx had another great outing on May 8th, giving up only one run on four hits in six innings of work.  He struck out seven and only walked one batter. In six starts, Bibens-Dirkx has a sparkling 2.61 ERA and a WHIP of 0.94. He has also limited opponents to a .193 batting average.  That promotion to AAA is looking more and more likely every day.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Seals lose 10-5 to Vipers in exhibition game

The Victoria Seals dropped a 10-5 decision to the Calgary Vipers in Kamloops on Wednesday night.  Shane Cronin hit a solo homer for the Seals, while Matt Kavanaugh hit a three-run shot. 

Zach Cline, Eduardo Baeza, Javier Garcia, Andrew Arreola and Brandon Villafuerte all pitched for Victoria. The final three pitchers of the evening (Garcia, Arreola and Villafuerte) all breezed through their inning of work. It's pretty clear that the strength of the Seals is their bullpen, so I wouldn't be too surprised to see some late-inning comeback victories at Royal Athletic Park this season.

The second and final exhibition game between these two teams goes at 7 PM tonight.  You can listen to the game at

Seal Blubber Bits
  • Victorian Charlie Strandlund had a sub-par game on Wednesday night. Unfortunately, he appears to be a bit of a longshot to make the team.
  • Eric Pringle started at shortstop and he had a pretty good game. He got on base in the first inning, but was thrown out at third while aggressively running the bases. He also started a 6-4-3 double play to end the top of the third inning.
  • The crowd at Norbrock Stadium in Kamloops was reported to be "near capacity". Good news for the city of Kamloops -- they just might receive a GBL expansion team in 2011 if suitable owners can be found.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Cronin's versatility may earn him a spot on the Seals

While there are a number of Seals who are guaranteed to make the team out of spring training, I wouldn't be too comfortable right now if I were a returning player who could only play one position and posted marginal stats in 2009. Newcomer Shane Cronin has the ability to play first, third, catcher and outfield and that flexibility is incredibly important now that the GBL has eliminated the DH but left the roster size at 22 players (until August 15th).

Cronin is a 34-year-old native of Renton, Washington and he was a 32nd-round selection of the San Diego Padres in the 1996 amateur draft. He played seven different position in high school and five professionally (he even pitched in a pair of games in addition to the aforementioned positions), so he would be quite useful with the short bench in the Golden Baseball League. Offensively speaking, Cronin has decent power and would be classified as a contact hitter.

Cronin started his pro career in an impressive fashion. In 1996, he was named Arizona League MVP and the Topps Minor League Player of the Year after hitting .327 with 9 homers and 54 RBI in only 208 at-bats for the Arizona Padres. In 1997, he continued to impress in the Pioneer (Rookie) League, hitting .336. But after a promotion to the Clinton LumberKings of the Midwest League (A ball), he struggled mightily. Cronin hit only .239 in 230 at-bats in 1997 and then posted a .253 average in Clinton the following year. Considering his anemic .318 slugging percentage with the LumberKings as a first and third baseman, it wasn't a huge surprise when the Padres decided to released him.

Cronin went on to play in the Northern League in 1999 and 2000 and had some moderate success. He ended up getting signed by the New York Yankees as a catcher, but his offensive struggles continued in 2001 and 2002 and he was again released.

He went on to spend four years in the US Army and was stationed in Iraq for a year. After completing his military service, he spent 2008 and 2009 with the Chico Outlaws in the GBL. In 2008, he hit .294 with 9 homers and 30 RBIs in only 160 at-bats. Last year, his production dropped off slightly and he only hit .287 with 5 homers and 23 RBI in 164 at-bats. But when you consider catcher Matt Kavanaugh's .239 average and .321 slugging percentage in 2009, Cronin has a definite shot at making the Victoria Seals this season.

Seal Blubber Bits
  • Seals President Darren Parker joined play-by-play man Mike Walker in the broadcast booth on Wednesday night. The duo had good chemistry and were quite entertaining with their banter. In a lighter moment, Parker even offered up a positive review of the burgers at Norbrock Stadium in Kamloops.
  • You can listen to the broadcast of the second exhibition game between the Seals and Vipers on Thursday night on at 7 PM PST.
  • The Victoria Seals will receive a second player-to-be-named-later from the Calgary Vipers in return for loaning them Isaac Hess, Sergio Pedroza and Wilver Perez last season. The Vipers will be allowed to protect 15 players on their roster and then the Seals can pick any one of their remaining players. The Seals received the first player-to-be-named-later, Caonabo Cosme, from the Vipers in March but they turned around and dealt him back to Calgary in the Colin Moro deal.
  • The Seals will feature an inflatable pitching cage at Royal Athletic Park this season. Proceeds will go towards KidSport.
  • Darren Parker also announced that the sound system will be upgraded at RAP for the 2010 season.
  • Brandon Villafuerte has been named the Victoria Seals closer by pitching coach Kip Gross.
  • Steven Wright has impressed the Seals coaching staff so far in spring training, so it will be interesting to see if he can beat out Terrence McClain for the final starting outfield spot.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Globe and Mail article on Seals tryout camp

In yesterday's Globe and Mail, Tom Hawthorn penned an excellent article on Friday's Victoria Seals tryout camp.  You can read it here.

Kudos to Mr. Hawthorn for his clever reference to Seamore Seal as an "anthropomorphic pinniped mascot". Nice touch.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Pringle to play alongside Wilver Perez?

With the loss of shortstop Bret LeVier, the Seals are looking for a middle infielder to start next to All Star Wilver Perez. After seeing the Seals' spring training roster, it appears that Eric Pringle might have the inside track on the job.

First off, Pringle has the most professional experience out of any of the new additions to the spring training roster who can play second base or shortstop. Although he went undrafted and has never played in affiliated minor-league baseball, he has spent most of the last five years in the Golden Baseball League and he has also appeared in 30 games in the Northern League. Pringle's best year was in 2007 with the Chico Outlaws, where he hit .281 with two homers and 36 RBI in 71 games. Most impressive was his 21 steals and .407 on-base percentage. 

Throughout his pro career, his most impressive offensive attributes have been his speed and his ability to draw walks. Last year, the 27-year-old Pringle hit only .193 for the St. George Roadrunners, but he still managed to contribute with a .311 on-base percentage. In his five years in independent baseball, he is a career .241 hitter with an on-base percentage of .345.  Obviously, he's patient at the plate.

Although Pringle can play both shortstop and second base, he has had more success at second. His defensive statistics are adequate at shortstop, but below Bret LeVier standards. However, he has a career .978 fielding percentage at second, which is actually higher than Perez's career fielding percentage at that position in affiliated minor-league baseball. Given those numbers, if Pringle makes the team as a starter I wouldn't be surprised to see him play second base and Wilver Perez slide over into the shortstop position.  Pringle projects as a number eight hitter in the Seals' batting order (the DH has been eliminated for 2010, so the pitcher will be batting ninth).

Another factor in Pringle's favour is that he's Bret Boone's kind of ballplayer. Pringle has good speed and has stolen 53 bases in his 349 games in independent baseball. Boonie has said that he'll have his team running the basepaths aggressively and putting pressure on the defense and Eric Pringle sounds like he just might fit the bill perfectly.