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Summer Collegiate

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 – Baseball is Back! Golden Tide Split DH with VIU

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First baseball at Royal Athletic Park in over two years

Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart

September 19, 2021, Victoria BC – The smell of hot dogs was in the air and the crack of the bat was back, as baseball made it’s first appearance at Wilson’s Group Stadium in over two years, as the Victoria Golden Tide hosted the Vancouver Island University Mariners in Canadian College Baseball Conference exhibition play.

A pretty decent crowd was on hand Sunday to witness the first baseball back at Royal Athletic Park in over two years (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

Over 300 fans came out to enjoy the return of baseball on what turned into a beautiful fall day and they got their money’s worth, watching an exciting 11-10 Mariners win in game one, with the home team rebounding for a 16-3 win in game two.

The Mariners, including Dillon Bowie were on base early and often against the Tide in game one (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

In game one, the Mariners came in with their bats hot, vaulting themselves to a 10-2 lead after three innings of play, thanks in part to a second inning grand slam from Keegan Chard-Hill, but then watched as the Tide chipped their way back into the game.

VIUs Keegan Chard-Hill (right) is congratulated after his second inning grand slam in game one (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

A big part of the Tide rally was their own grand slam homerun in the sixth inning by Alex McLauclan that made the score 10-7 at the time.

The Mariners would score what turned out to be the winning run in the seventh, and then hung on as the Tide scored two in the bottom of the eighth and another in the bottom of the ninth, leaving the tying run on base, as the Mariners escaped with the 11-10 win.

Victoria’s Alex McLauclan launches his sixth inning grand slam in game one Sunday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

For the Mariners, Chard Hill led the way with his slam and an RBI single. Trevor Nicoll also had a single, triple, home run, four RBI and three runs scored, while Ty Farwell and Max Kolopeniuk added a single and double each.

For the Tide, in addition to his big blast, McLauclan added a single and pair of runs scored. Brady Alexandre, Brendan Morrison and Brandon Green also had a pair of hits each, while Tyler Burton had a double and run scored in the losing effort.

The Golden Tide’s Brandon Craven head’s to third base during the Tide’s 16-3 game two win (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

Jaden Patrick got the start for the Mariners and was effective through six innings of work, his only real mistake being the grand slam to McLauclan. Carter Chard-Hill, saw action in relief.

For the Tide, Triston Seitz got the start and was roughed up early. Nick Lee, Cameron Dunn and Haldon Craig all saw action in relief.

In game two, the Tide kept their offence rolling, jumping into a 4-1 lead after three innings of play and then cruising to an easy 16-3 win.

The Tide’s Nate Horricks delivers a pitch in game two Sunday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

Nine of those runs came in the eighth inning, as a short staffed Mariners squad surrendered six walks in the innning, forcing the game to be called as a result of a mercy rule.

Leading the way for the Tide was Andrew Baxter with a single, double and pair of runs scored, while Austin Wall had a pair of hits and an RBI. Jaxson Cordle also had a pair of singles and a run scored.

The Tide’s Austin Wall had a pair of hits and an RBI in the game two win (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

On the mound, Wyatt Mohr-Royer got the start, giving up one run in his three innings of work. Nate Horricks and Ethan Lynn saw work in relief.

The Golden Tide are back in action next Saturday, September 25th as they host University of the Fraser Valley for a doubleheader at Wilson’s Group Stadium. First game time is 1:00 pm. Tickets are just 5.00 and 10.00 and are available at the gate or in advance at the HarbourCats office at 101-1814 Vancouver Street, or by calling 778-265-0327.

 

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Summer Collegiate

Victoria HarbourCats – Golden Tide ready to roll

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Mark Brennae named PA announcer for Golden Tide

VICTORIA, B.C. — The Victoria Golden Tide are ready to begin their 2021 Canadian College Baseball Conference (CCBC) Fall Season tonight – weather permitting – and when they do, a familiar voice will be the park voice of Victoria’s newest sports team.

Mark Brennae (photo, right), well-known from his days on the afternoon drive at CFAX 1070, is as big a baseball fan as they come — he will never give up the dream of his beloved Expos returning to Montreal. A former beat writer for the AAA Ottawa Lynx, then the farm team of the Expos, Brennae covered the NHL and CFL for The Canadian Press for 15 years, and also worked in radio covering a variety of topics in Toronto and Ottawa, including Parliament Hill.

“We’re glad to have Mark handling this key role for our new CCBC team, and he’s excited to be behind the microphone,” said Christian Stewart, Assistant GM of the parent Victoria HarbourCats.

The first game for the Golden Tide, operated by the HarbourCats, presented by Hub International Insurance and led by Head Coach Curtis Pelletier, is slated for tonight (Friday), 6pm first pitch against the Thompson Rivers University Wolfpack at Wilson’s Group Stadium at RAP — the first baseball at the historic sports facility since August of 2019, when the HarbourCats played in the WCL final. The Golden Tide also have a doubleheader slated for 1pm on Sunday vs. the Nanaimo-based VIU Mariners. Gates for all games open one hour before the scheduled game time.

Some notes for the first home weekend of Golden Tide baseball:

FOOD TRUCKS AND TIDE GEAR

For a number of reasons, including COVID, there will be no beverage service and less-than-usual food options, but we are glad to announce that Greek on the Street and Little Piggy hotdog stand will be on site on Friday. Fans are welcome to bring their own food to this weekend’s games, or take advantage of the food options. Limited merchandise will be available, Golden Tide and HarbourCats.

TICKETS

There will be tickets sold during the day at the HarbourCats office (1814 Vancouver St. or call 778-265-0327), and at the door (gates open 1 hour before game time), for $10 in the covered Main Grandstand, or $5 in the blue seats. Golden Tide Booster Club members have priority seating in the Campbell Club and Diamond Club (front row) seating area. Booster Club memberships are $200 and include admission to all fall and spring 2022 games, plus a free hat and t-shirt (contact chris@harbourcats.com to set up).

COVID CONSIDERATIONS

The Golden Tide and City of Victoria, owner of the facility, will follow the PHO guidelines for outdoor events. Masks are recommended, and vaccination cards are not required. All Golden Tide staff, volunteers, coaches and players are vaccinated, as required internally by the organization. We ask people to act with kind courtesy — we recommend that masks on when not actively eating or drinking, pay attention to distancing, and respect those who may have some discomfort in crowds as the pandemic is now in its 18th month.

WEATHER

Yes, the forecast is iffy. As none of us can control the weather, we wait, watch, and react — and hope the system moves over and douses someone else. In the case of a rainout, all tickets will be honored at a later Golden Tide game.

GOLDEN TIDE FALL HOME SCHEDULE

SEP. 17, 6PM – TRU WOLFPACK
SEP. 19, 1PM – VANCOUVER ISLAND UNIV. (DH*)
SEP. 25, 1PM – FRASER VALLEY (DH)
SEP. 26, 3PM – MID-ISLAND PIRATES (DH)
OCT. 2, 6PM – VICTORIA MARINERS
OCT. 16, 1PM – VAN. ISLE PREP (DH)
OCT. 17, 1PM – UBC (DH)
OCT. 23, 1PM – TBA (DH)
OCT. 24, 1PM – PARKSVILLE ROYALS (DH)
OCT. 26-31 INTERSQUAD WORLD SERIES
*DH = Double Header

 

 

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Summer Collegiate

Victoria HarbourCats – Rain wins, Friday game cancelled

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VICTORIA, B.C. — Unplayable field conditions and an unfavourable forecast have combined to cancel tonight’s planned home debut of the Victoria Golden Tide collegiate baseball team.

The Golden Tide’s fall home schedule, presented by HUB International Insurance, was slated to open Friday at 6pm at Wilson’s Group Stadium at RAP, vs. the Kamloops-based Thompson Rivers University Wolfpack, another team in the eight-team Canadian College Baseball Conference.

The Golden Tide, operated by the Victoria HarbourCats and with Head Coach Curtis Pelletier at the helm, will play a doubleheader on Sunday, Sept. 19, starting at 1pm vs. the Nanaimo-based Vancouver Island University Mariners. Gates open at noon, a hotdog stand will be at the games, fans are welcome to bring their own food.

NOTE — Masks are recommended, distancing will be respected, and all Golden Tide personnel are required to be vaccinated — the organization is following PHO orders for outdoor events, cards will not be required but it is highly recommended that all attendees be vaccinated.All tickets for tonight’s game (Friday) will be able to be used at a future Golden Tide game this fall.

SUN SEP. 19, 1PM – VANCOUVER ISLAND UNIV. (DH*)

SAT SEP. 25, 1PM – FRASER VALLEY (DH)

SUN SEP. 26, 3PM – MID-ISLAND PIRATES (DH)

SAT OCT. 2, 6PM – VICTORIA MARINERS

SAT OCT. 16, 1PM – VAN. ISLE PREP (DH)

SUN OCT. 17, 1PM – UBC (DH)

SAT OCT. 23, 1PM – TBA (DH)

SUN OCT. 24, 1PM – PARKSVILLE ROYALS (DH)

OCT. 26-31 INTERSQUAD WORLD SERIES

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