Sunday, May 29, 2011

Baseball likely to return to Victoria in 2012

According to two published media reports, Victoria is on the short list of cities to be granted an expansion franchise in the West Coast League (WCL) for the 2012 season. A few months ago, an article appeared in the New Westminster News Leader stating that a WCL team could be playing next year in Queen's Park Stadium in New Westminster. This article also stated:

"The nine-team league, which first called "play ball" in 2005, has an eventual vision of 12 franchises. It is also looking at placing teams in a location "east of Kelowna" and another in Victoria."

Recently, Ballpark Business included a short note about WCL expansion:

"Team owners from the summer collegiate West Coast League will meet in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue (WA) on April 22-23 to discuss league business, including adding one-to-three new franchises to the circuit in 2012.  The markets most recently mentioned were Medford (OR), the Olympia (WA) area, Victoria (BC), and New Westminster (BC)."

The West Coast League features high-level NCAA players and the 48-game schedule (June to mid-August) is a good fit for Victoria's summer weather. League alumni include Jeff Francis of the Kansas City Royals, Jacoby Ellsbury of the Boston Red Sox and Nyjer Morgan of the Milwaukee Brewers.

The West Coast League already includes a team in British Columbia -- the Kelowna Falcons -- so the Victoria team would have another rival in addition to New Westminster. Other teams in the league include the Bellingham (WA) Bells, Bend (OR) Elks, Corvallis (OR) Knights, Cowlitz (Kelso / Longview, WA) Black Bears, Kitsap (Bremerton, WA) BlueJackets, Klamath Falls (OR) Gems, Walla Walla (WA) Sweets and the Wenatchee (WA) AppleSox.

Hopefully, Victoria lands a WCL expansion team and an official announcement is made in the near future. The departure of the Seals has left a gaping hole in the summer sports scene in this city, and a WCL team would be a nice addition. I for one would be excited to watch future major leaguers showcase their skills at Royal Athletic Park.

Let's keep our fingers crossed...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Isaac Hess a Winnipeg Goldeye

Photo courtesy Christian Stewart
Issac Hess, the most dominant pitcher to ever wear a Victoria Seals uniform, is currently playing for the Winnipeg Goldeyes of the American Association. "Zack" has now played for three professional baseball teams in Canada and he continues to pursue his dream of pitching in the major leagues.

Anyone who has been out to Royal Athletic Park over the last two seasons can't help but fondly remember Hess, the crafty southpaw who befuddled Golden Baseball League hitters and swung a big stick at the plate for Victoria. Isaac compiled an impressive 14-6 record and a 3.88 ERA over two seasons with the Seals. He also struck out 170 batters in 171 2/3 innings, while only walking 64.

So far in 2011, Hess has pitched 10 scoreless innings, struck out 11 and only walked three batters. We know that he'll continue to excel in the American Association. Hopefully, his performance will lead to a contract in a higher professional league (Japan or Korea?) and then ultimately a chance to pitch for an MLB organization.

Go get 'em, Zack!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Pluta suits up for Newark Bears; Edgecombe and Swinford not so lucky

After being released by the Los Angeles Angels in spring training, former Victoria Seals pitcher Anthony Pluta has signed with the Newark Bears in the Can Am League. The Bears, whose season kicks off on May 26th, are managed by future Hall-of-Famer Tim Raines.
Pluta photo courtesy of Christian Stewart

Pluta made great strides with his control last season and posted a 6-4 record and a 4.56 ERA with the Seals. Hopefully he can continue to progress as a pitcher and get another shot with a major-league organization.

It's possible that Pluta could pitch against another ex-Seal this season, as Jeff Duda is pitching for the Qu├ębec Capitales. The Bears and Capitales are scheduled to play each other a dozen times in 2011.

In other news, the Southern Illinois Miners of the Frontier League just released former Seals first baseman Matt Edgecombe. Edgecombe hit .287 with 2 homers and 30 RBI in 251 at-bats last season. Hopefully he'll find another pro team to catch on with.

And finally, ex-Seal Dale "Swinny" Swinford has signed with the Windy City (Crestwood, Illinois) Thunderbolts of the Frontier League. However, Swinny is currently on the Thunderbolts' inactive list and will have to wait for an injury before he can suit up. Windy City's season got underway on the 19th of May. Swinford hit .283 with no homers and 16 RBI in 191 at-bats with the Seals in 2010, before his controversial release in August.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Bodishbaugh and Kavanaugh sign with Calgary Vipers

Two former Victoria Seals, Chris Bodishbaugh and Matt Kavanaugh, have recently signed with the Calgary Vipers in the North American League (NAL). The pair join two other ex-Seals in the Vipers infield, Wilver Perez and Brian Rios, who inked deals earlier this year with the Calgary squad.

Photo of Bodi courtesy Christian Stewart
Kavanaugh had a break-out season with the Seals in 2010, hitting .315 with 7 homers and 38 RBI in 235 at-bats. We wouldn't be surprised to see the 26-year-old continue his improvement and earn a spot on this year's NAL All-Star Team.

Bodishbaugh went 1-3 with a 3.30 ERA in 2010 and capped off his season by being signed by the Chicago White Sox in October. Unfortunately, Bodi was subsequently released by the White Sox early in spring training.

Mike Koons (4-1, 4.50 ERA), who pitched in relief for the Seals in 2010, will also play this season in the NAL. He signed to play for manager Garry Templeton in Maui.

The NAL regular season kicks off on Tuesday with a double-header between the Vipers and Scorpions in Yuma, Arizona. The 10-team league has had to adopt a very unbalanced schedule in order to minimize travel costs between the geographically dispersed cities. For instance, the Vipers will play the Edmonton Capitals a total of 29 times this season. That's plenty of time for Wilver Perez and Matt Rogelstad to get re-acquainted...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Italian pro team in 7th place despite Terrence McClain's hitting

As we reported three months ago, former Victoria Seal Terrence "T-Mac" McClain is playing baseball in Italy this summer. Although McClain is leading the North East Knights in just about every offensive category, his team has staggered out of the gate and posted a dismal 4-11 record.
In T-Mac's 48 at-bats, he has racked up a .313 batting average with one homer and five RBIs. Surprisingly, his early-season statistics are lagging the numbers that he posted with Victoria in the GBL last year. In 2010, McClain's OPS was a stellar .915 mark, but up to this point his OPS is a lukewarm .751. Clearly, the caliber of play in the Italian First Division is pretty darn good. It will be interesting to see how T-Mac fares over the rest of the season. It must be a difficult adjustment on a number of levels. For instance, I would expect it to be difficult to only play three games per week, since North American ballplayers are used to playing 6 or 7 per week.

It must also be a challenge to play in front of so few fans. According to the Italian Baseball League website, the North East Knights are only averaging 103 fans per game for their home games. Initially, I thought it might be related to the team's poor showing (7th place in an 8-team league), but the first place Bologna squad only averages 245 fans per game.

One cultural difference between Italian and North American baseball seems to be the prevalency of stolen bases. Based on the statistics that I have seen, Italian managers are hesitant to send runners. For instance, T-Mac has one stolen base (in only one attempt) in his 14 games with the Knights after racking up 19 steals in 85 games with Victoria last season. The entire North East Knights squad has only stolen 5 bases in 10 attempts in their 15 games. Their opponents have only swiped 11 bases in 22 attempts -- also for a dismal 50% success rate. By comparison, the Victoria Seals stole 145 bases in 88 games last year. Either the runners are slow in the Italian Baseball League or the catchers have rocket launchers for arms.

Seal Blubber Bits
  • In a news story that will not make Victoria baseball fans happy, it was recently announced that Fort McMurray is in the Request for Proposals stage to build a new 3,500 seat ballpark. The city is hoping to land a North American Baseball League or Western Major Baseball League team for the 2013 season. It's sad that a Canadian city with less than 80,000 people is about to build a new ballpark, yet the citizens of Victoria are stuck with a decrepit Royal Athletic Park.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Arhart lands coaching job in affiliated ball

Photo courtesy Christian Stewart
Victoria Seals fan favourite Josh Arhart is now working as a coach for the Princeton (West Virginia) Rays. Princeton is in the Appalachian League (Advanced Rookie level).

You can read more here.

Congratulations, Josh. Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!