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Former impact player for HarbourCats and Dawgs calls it a career

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Photography by Christian J. Stewart

***

It wasn’t one of those lightning-bolt moments.

Michael Gretler’s decision to retire from professional baseball was more of an ongoing process. The former Pittsburgh Pirates prospect, who spent two formative summers playing on Canadian soil, listened to what his mind and body were telling him.

As hard as it was, he listened.

“It was definitely a decision I did not take lightly,” the 25-year-old said from his home in Seattle, just a short, scenic ferry ride away from Victoria, where he spent the 2015 summer season as a gem of a third baseman for the HarbourCats of the West Coast League. The following year, he took his talents to the Western Canadian Baseball League, where he claimed the most outstanding player award with the Okotoks Dawgs.

Michael Gretler was a standout third baseman for the Victoria HarbourCats in the summer of 2015.

“Baseball has done so much for me and it’s going to continue to be a part of my life but there are things in the working world and business world that I want to do and want to put on my resume as time goes on,” Gretler added. “And then – really – playing in the minor leagues, it’s a grind, man. It’s not a lot of pay, long bus rides, being away from your family and friends for an extended period of time. All those factors played a role (in my decision to retire) and I think it kind of boils down to the fact that if you’re not fully committed to something, and your heart and your passion isn’t fully there… it’s a grind as it is but then you lay those factors on top of that grind and it becomes much more difficult.”

Gretler officially hung up his spikes on Feb. 11, 2020. As a member of the Pirates organization he played two seasons in the minors, his last team the single-A Greensboro Grasshoppers of the South Atlantic League. Gretler also toiled for the West Virginia Black Bears and Bradenton Marauders.

The Pirates thought so highly of Gretler that they chose him twice in the MLB draft – in the 39th round in 2017 and the 10th round in 2018. They gave him a spring training call-up in March of 2019.

A product of Bonney Lake High School in the Greater Seattle area, Gretler was such a sizzling baseball commodity that he was actually drafted three times. The Boston Red Sox were the first MLB team to lay claim when they picked him in the 39th round in 2014. Gretler deferred the first two times in favour of attending, and then remaining at, Oregon State University, where he was a beloved member of the OSU Beavers from 2014 to 2018.

During his time with Victoria, Gretler would appear in 32 games, hitting .236, with one home run and 12 RBI, but also walking 23 times and scoring 20 runs.

When Gretler reflects on his career, he has no trouble picking out his highlight: going out as a champion in his final game with the Beavers. In that 2018 NCAA Division 1 season, OSU advanced all the way to the College World Series in Nebraska and eventually defeated the University of Arkansas Razorbacks in a best-of-three final that went the distance. Arkansas prevailed 4-1 in the opener, Oregon State stayed alive with a 5-3 extra-innings victory in Game 2 and then won 5-0 in the clincher.

“Obviously the individual accolades of playing college baseball or being drafted are great but that team camaraderie – as much time as you spend with those guys, you form some really special bonds that are going to go on for the rest of our lives – and being able to experience winning the College World Series with them was kind of like the perfect mountaintop for my career,” said Gretler, who was OSU’s starter at third base. “And it happened to be the last game of my college career so it was the cherry on top of what’s been a really, really exciting career.”

Gretler made his playing debut with the Beavers in February of 2015 and, later that year, arrived in Victoria for his first crack at baseball north of the border. While he’d been to Victoria a couple times before, the notion of living and playing in Canada left him feeling a little uneasy. But joining the HarbourCats, he quickly discovered, was the closest thing to professional baseball he had yet tasted. His nervousness evaporated and he made the absolute most of his opportunity.

Gretler at OSU, with the HarbourCats in 2015 and with his last pro team, the Greensboro Grashoppers, in 2019

“I remember it being the first experience of that challenge of playing baseball every single day,” he said. “Because in college, you play a weekend series, you get a couple days off, you might have a midweek (game) and another day off, and you might practice here and there. But the game every single day is why baseball is such a grind and such a challenge – the mental side of that and the physical side of that where you’re playing 16 games in a row before you get an off-day and your body is hurting after Day 8 and you’ve still got eight more games to go. It was a great introduction. And what I think is so great about the league, it gives guys that experience at a younger age that can then prepare them for hopefully a career in the minor leagues.”

Playing with and against such high calibre players is another thing Gretler remembers about his stint with the HarbourCats. And then there was the buzz of home games, routinely held in front of packed stands at Royal Athletic Park.

A very popular HarbourCat, one of Gretler’s images has adorned the front windows of the HarbourCats offices since late 2015.

“You hear you’re going to British Columbia and you’re like, ‘They play baseball up there?’ It’s just not the first thing that comes to mind,” Gretler said with a grin. “Us dumb Americans think of the hockey and the other sports so I didn’t really know what to expect – if they were big baseball fans. I knew, growing up, when the Blue Jays would come to play the Mariners, there was always a big presence of Canadian fans that would come down for those games but I really didn’t know what to expect from a college baseball standpoint. But it was unbelievable.

“I think the first game that I showed up was a sellout and you’re like, ‘Wow, this is not really what I was expecting for college baseball in Victoria.’”

HarbourCats fans immediately loved Gretler for his honest, hardworking approach to the game. That – combined with his athleticism, skill and professional demeanour on and off the field – will undoubtedly leave him as one of the favourite HCats of all time.

“He was probably the nicest kid we’ve ever had play for us – just really personable, a really engaging young man,” said Jim Swanson, general manager of the HarbourCats. “He played almost all third base for us and he was outstanding. Glovework doesn’t go into slumps, right?

“At the plate, he struggled, and struggled in the fact that he was really a guy getting his first real solid look at college pitching. Our league is a pretty good league – guys are going from here to pro baseball. But he worked hard, he was a battler that way.”

The next summer, 2016, Gretler put it all together with Okotoks. As the team’s most valuable player, his defensive game was as spotless as ever. And, with a bat in his hands, he was a beast (34 games played, .331 average, 45 hits, 11 doubles, four home runs, 36 RBIs). He also picked up 18 walks and swiped two bases.

While Gretler is giving up the hot corner to focus on his career in the biopharmaceutical industry and to his upcoming wedding in October, he is thankful for his time in Victoria, Okotoks and the pros and hopes to give back to the game someday, perhaps at the coaching level.

For Gretler, the stops in Victoria and Okotoks were all part of the journey and he’s thankful for those experiences and memories. With professional baseball now behind him, he has turned his attention to building a career. He now works in the biopharmaceutical industry as a sales representative for AbbVie. On a more personal level, he got engaged to high school sweetheart Emily last July, with the wedding planned for October in Seattle.

“We’ve been dating since my senior year of high school,” Gretler said. “I was getting a lot of pressure – everyone that I knew was like, ‘When’re you gonna ask? When’re you gonna ask?’ So we’re excited. We’re hoping the pandemic is behind us. It’s going to be a big baseball reunion, that’s for sure.”

Gretler certainly isn’t done with the game that has given him so much. He plans to get into coaching, and he’ll always be a fan.

In the near future, hopefully this summer, he’ll head down to the Seattle waterfront and jump on the Victoria Clipper ferry for a ride north and a HarbourCats game.

If there’s ever a Michael Gretler bobblehead night at Royal Athletic Park, he’ll be there for sure.

“It would be the first time ever I’d have my own bobblehead,” he said with a chuckle. “I’d definitely have to make my way up there for that.”

Jason Peters is a freelance writer and editor based in Prince George, British Columbia. Visit his website at www.frontpagepublications.net.

Summer Collegiate

Victoria HarbourCats – You’re Invited!

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Please join us at the office on Thursday, December 1, 2022 from 12 Noon to 7:00 pm for our annual Christmas Open House!

Join us for some Christmas cheer and to grab Christmas gifts for all the HarbourCats fans on your Christmas list!  Renew or purchase 2023 season tickets, grab some 10-game flex packs, or purchase single-game tickets for 2023 which also go on sale that day too!  Plus ALL MERCHANDISE on sale for 40% off – ONE DAY ONLY!

2023 Single-Game Tickets Also on Sale!

 

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Summer Collegiate

2022 Christmas Flex-Pass Special Now Available

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2022 Christmas Special is here! You can buy a 10-Game Flex Plan for the 2023 season. Similar to a season ticket but more like a discounted Northpaws Value Card, a Flex Plan is a way to buy early and at a discount.

Purchasing Flex Plan tickets will give you the option to choose the games that you would like to attend, along with the seats that you would like to choose.

Flex Plan holders will be able to use our ticket portal to choose games for the season. Seat and game selection will be done on a first come, first served basis. Flex Plan holders will be able to choose their seats before Game Day tickets go on sale.

Spend $150.00 (plus tax) for a 10-game Flex Plan and receive credit to purchase 10 seats for the games you want.

A receipt is issued upon purchase and your account will have a balance you can use to buy future tickets.

Please contact info@northpawsbaseball.ca for any inquiries.

https://tickets.northpawsbaseball.ca/events/23828-christmas-10-game-flex-plan

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Victoria HarbourCats – In 2023, HarbourCats celebrating 10th Anniversary

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Above: Nick Pivetta throws the first pitch in HarbourCats history on June 5, 2013 (Photo David Nicholls)

For immediate release

November 22, 2023

VICTORIA, B.C. — It’s the first truly major milestone for your Victoria HarbourCats, and it’s well worth celebrating.

The West Coast League team will be marking 10 years since inception, that first season in 2013, when the team takes the field in June of 2023. And the HarbourCats will do it while both harkening back to the roots of the baseball club and officially recognizing part of what has become the fabric of the ‘Cats, along with welcoming a new twist.

“No one can say these 10 years have been boring, that’s for sure,” said HarbourCats Managing Partner/GM Jim Swanson. “From that eventful first season including hosting the All-Star Game, to setting attendance and win-streak records, to an ownership shift and welcoming new partners, to making regular trips deep into the playoffs — the list of accomplishments is very long.

“The league is now in an official partnership with Major League Baseball as well. Cap that with three of our players making the MLB level (Nick Pivetta, Andrew Vaughn and Alex DeGoti), and the HarbourCats continue to be a success in Victoria in every way.

“We look forward to the next 10 years at Wilson’s Group Stadium at RAP, and beyond.”

The team is proud to unveil a 10-year anniversary patch, that will be used on uniforms and merchandise this year — one that takes the team’s traditional HC cap logo and adds an intertwining twist with the letters. The traditional HC will remain the primary cap logo, the historic foundation, with the new twist a look to the future and another sharp option.

The HarbourCats are also officially adding the colour red to the team’s palette, something that grew out of ongoing work with Rawlings Canada in 2016 and the unveiling of the wildly-popular red CATS jerseys, originally planned to do little more than recognize Canada Day — but became such a smash with players and fans alike, they kept making their way to the field. The adoption of red replaces a spot colour of yellow that was supposed to be part of the original uniform options, but outside of one small run of caps, was never used.

The team will continue to proudly wear the Canada-tinged RED CATS jerseys both home and away, as that popular eye-popping alternate. White home jerseys, the highly-acclaimed all-baby blue set, the road navy HC jerseys, and the VicPD Forces Friday version will help celebrate the 10-year mark on the field in 2023. The white home jerseys are planned for the annual Odlum Brown Jersey Off Your Backs giveaway set, so a new white version will be revealed in 2024. (Early plans are for the red Cats set to be given away to fans late in the 2024 season, with a new replacement set in place for 2025.)

The HarbourCats red jerseys are being officially incorporated into the team’s colour scheme in 2023.

The bright addition of red — shown so prominently by co-owner Helen Edwards everywhere she goes, in her red/white HC cap — is also joined by the official recognition of the V-Cat hat logo as a secondary logo. The on-field cap for 2023 will be the Expos-inspired tri-colour fitted New Era cap with the V-Cat emblem (see below), a nod to HarbourCats Head Coach Todd Haney, who made his MLB debut with the Expos in 1992. Haney is the longest-serving manager in team history, in charge of the lineup since 2019 and signed through the summer of 2026.

“This is an important time to plan and get ahead of the curve, and we are excited about some of the new things that will thrill fans in 2023 — the two years away due to the pandemic have rekindled our energies, both at the field and with our online platforms,” said Swanson.

The HarbourCats have a number of special promotional days lined up to help celebrate the 10th Anniversary season in 2023.  Some of those special events, the Top 10 of the HarbourCats 2023 promotions if you will, include:

1. 10th ANNIVERSARY OPENING NIGHT, Friday June 2, 2023, 6:35pm against the Kamloops NorthPaws

2. FIREWORKS, with The Wilson’s Group of Companies, Saturday June 3, 2023, 6:35pm against the Kamloops NorthPaws

3. SCHOOL SPIRIT GAME, with Mayfair Optometric Clinic, Wednesday, June 7, 2023, 11:05am against the Walla Walla Sweets

4. FATHER’s DAY GAME, Sunday, June 18, 2023, 1:05pm against the Yakima Valley Pippins

5. CANADA DAY FIREWORKS, Friday, June 30, 2023, 6:35pm against the Bellingham Bells

6. CANADA DAY MATINEE, Saturday, July 1, 2023, 1:05pm against the Bellingham Bells

7. HARVEY’s 10th BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION, Saturday, July 15, 2023, 6:35pm against the Wenatchee AppleSox

8. BARK IN THE PARK, with Bosley’s on Yates, Sunday, July 16, 2023, 1:05pm, against the Wenatchee AppleSox

9. 10th ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION FIREWORKS, Saturday, July 29, 6:35pm against the Kelowna Falcons

10. 10th ANNIVERSARY JERSEY OFF OUR BACKS NIGHT, with Odlum Brown, Wednesday, August 2, 6:35pm against the Nanaimo NightOwls

2023 Season Tickets
Season ticket renewals and new season ticket sales are now underway for 2023, the HarbourCats 10th Anniversary season!  Lock in the best seats in the house by the end of November prior to single-game tickets going on sale. Existing Season Ticket holders should also renew their seats by the end of the month!  Contact chris@harbourcats.com or call the office at 778-265-0327 for details or to renew your existing seats!

2023 Flex-Packs
2023 10-Game and Season Ticket Equivalent Flex Pack vouchers are also now on sale! These can be purchased at the office in-person or by phone and can also be ordered on-line via The Cat Shop at https://victoria-harbourcats-official.myshopify.com/products/10-game-flex-pack-general-admission.    All flex pack vouchers will be eligible to be exchanged for games in the 2023 season once single-game tickets are available (see below).

2023 Single Game Tickets
Single-game tickets for the HarbourCats 10th Anniversary season will be available both on-line and in person at the HarbourCats office starting at 10:00am December 1, 2022. At that time, 10-game flex pack vouchers will be eligible to be exchanged for games in the 2023 season.

Stay tuned to all of our social media for updates and details as they become available.

Web: www.harbourcats.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/harbourcats
Facebook Fan Community: https://www.facebook.com/groups/harbourcats
Twitter: https://twitter.com/harbourcats
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/harbourcats

 

 

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