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Summer Collegiate

NorthPaws Coaches Learn Along With Players

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KAMLOOPS, BC—One of the main purposes of the West Coast League is to develop. For the second year Kamloops NorthPaws franchise, they have taken the 2023 season as a learning experience in every sense.

Not only have the players on this year’s roster learned the ups and downs of summertime baseball, but so too have the coaching staff.

For Keith Francis, Jose Bautista and Fernie Lorea, this season has had more valleys than peaks as they languish in the lower depths of the WCL North Division.

Not to look for excuses, but the coaching staff was ‘behind the eight ball’ before the start of the campaign.  Very few of the players recruited to play for the NorthPaws this season were familiar to the three coaches.   Francis took over the head coaching job March 31st, just weeks before the start of the season.

“As the season has progressed, I have learned so much about what it takes to compete at a successful level,” he says.  “We didn’t get enough pitching for this level. For those who we were expecting to produce offensively have struggled.  Add to that, some of the players who were supposed to be here didn’t show up due to injuries. They couldn’t help that.  Those who did come here tried to the best of their ability.”

Francis put the players through three days of training before the season started.  “There are whole lot of 4 o clock hitters (time for batting practice), but there are very few 7 o clock hitters.  We found that out this year.”

He and the coaching staff tried different methods to kick start the players in batting practice while at the same time, keeping a positive attitude.  “I try to be a turtle,” Francis says.  “Coming out of my shell every day as it is a new day.  In baseball, you have a chance to win every day.  That is one philosophy the players have come to accept.”

The NorthPaws did have a number of returnees from their inaugural season.  Francis praised infielder Tommy Green and pitcher Tyrelle Chadwick for their efforts.  “Tommy was a leader both on the field and in the dugout.  Chadwick led by example when he was on the mound. “

“We had some younger players who tried to step up despite their inexperience.”   Francis pointed to Cooper Neville (Glendale, AZ) and Nathan Grey as two players who have tried to make the most of their opportunity here.  “Cooper has been unbelievable and consistently our best player. He has been positive every night.  Nathan struggled offensively but as a pitcher, his skills have really come a long this year.”

Jose Bautista came back to Kamloops this season after being with the NorthPaws on their inaugural run.  He says the key difference between the two years has been the pitching.  “Pitching is key in this league. Last season we had a lot of players who had control of their pitches and were in the right way.  This year, the talent level wasn’t as deep.  A few guys were doing pretty well but overall, it was tough.”

Bautista felt many of the pitchers on this year’s club were behind developmentally for the calibre of the West Coast League.  “It is a big challenge for them to try and compete.”

During a short season, Bautista tries to build a relationship quickly.  “We try to focus in on one or two fundamentals.” He admits he had to accelerate the learning process.

“With the age of the players here, I have concentrated on getting the pitchers to believe in themselves,’ he says. “Most players get it quickly.  I just get them to focus on strikes. “

He points to the development of Tyrelle Chadwick, Hayden Walker and Christian Spitz as highlights.  “ They improved and did a good job when they were out there.”

The pitching coach also credited the development of New Zealander MacLain Roberts as well. ‘Coming from a country where there isn’t much baseball. He has been able to handle himself when he got the chance.”

Bautista feels one of the biggest challenges for himself was to have the players focus on the ‘job ‘aspect of baseball rather than them focusing on the ‘social’ aspect of summer baseball.

He agrees with Francis that patience must be a strong suit during the trials and tribulations of this season.  “I have to have patience—I have eight kids,” he laughs.  Adding that his pitching staff become his surrogate children during the summer.

Baustista coached 22 seasons in professional baseball.  He has experienced less than ideal seasons.  “The difference is in the pros, you have a longer season so there is always hope to turn it around.  Here, time is so short.”

Fernie Lorea is the third member of the NorthPaws coaching staff.  Just a year removed from playing university baseball himself, he was an assistant coach at New Mexico State before coming to Kamloops.  He believes the team has bought into ‘learn from all experiences’ philosophy.  “You need to love to learn. You lose –you learn. You win—you learn. No matter what it is a learning experience.”

Lorea believes the biggest thing he will take away from the 2023 campaign is the be patient and see how everything plays out before you jump on things.  He says it is easier said than done at times.

“What I have said to the players in the dugout is to put it (losses) behind you.  This is a new set up, a new game, new everything.  If there isn’t someone to say that to them (the players), they could lose hope. If that happens in baseball, you are just defeated”.

Lorea praised the leadership displayed by his former summer ball teammate Green. “Being able to see his leadership style, many of the guys took what he offered to heart.”

Lorea’s big takeaway from the year?  “Just how everything was so hard this year. Not in a bad way but something I could grasp and learn from. “

Francis on what he has learned this year. “ What I have learned the most is how the roster should be put together.  I have learned from the other teams on what it takes to succeed.  The league is very competitive. “

Message for NorthPaws fans?  “Hang in there. I think this has a real future here.  It was a less than successful season but the fans have stuck with us.  We will get the right players here next year and be successful.”

Bautista has a message for fans as well.  “They have been very supportive. I hope they will continue to do that. We will be better and the results will be better moving forward.”

Francis and and Lorea will head to Pima Community College in Arizona at the conclusion of the West Coast League season. Bautista will return home to the Dominican Republic.

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Summer Collegiate

Three returning players, one a WCL all-star, and local infielder highlight eight NightOwls signings

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Those announced today:

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OF/LHP Riley Paulino, University of Pikeville, 5-11/180, Fife, WA (returning player)

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C Sammy Torres, University of Pikeville, 5-9/200, Yuaco, Puerto Rico (returning player)

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LHP Richtter Castillo, University of Pikeville, 6-0/215, Maracay, Venezuela

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IF Lucas Laukkanen, Cloud County commit, 6-0/190, Nanaimo

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LHP Carson Jones, St. Martins, 6-0/180, Walla Walla, WA (returning player)

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RHP Christian Lucero, Arizona Christian, 6-1/190, Sacramento

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OF Sammy Kahler, San Diego State, 6-0/185, Stockton, CA

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OF Drew Rutter, San Diego State, 6-1/190, Trabuco Canyon, CA

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Summer Collegiate

Victoria HarbourCats – Manny’s hitting coach added to staff by Coach Haney

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2024 HarbourCats Coaching Staff – Front Row (L to R) Scott Anderson (Pitching Coach), Todd Haney (Head Coach), Trovin Valdez (Hitting Coach), Steve Sinclair (Bench Coach); Back Row (L to R): Ethan Fox (Bullpen Coach), Troy Birtwistle (First Base Coach).

For immediate release

April 16, 2024

VICTORIA, B.C. — An already strong coaching staff under WCL Coach of the Year Todd Haney just got stronger with the addition of Trovin Valdez, a former pro who made it to AAA in the Montreal Expos system.

Valdez, 50, was the personal hitting coach of Manny Ramirez during much of his record-setting MLB career and now works extensively with his sons Manny Jr. and Lucas, who have joined the HarbourCats for the 2024 WCL season. Valdez, who was once traded for lefthander David Wells, also works with a number of MLB players from his base in Florida, moving around the continent — and now will spend the summer exclusively in Victoria working with all HarbourCats hitters.

Haney, who has been with the HarbourCats since 2018 and Head Coach since 2019, is proud to unveil the entire staff for 2024:

  • Todd Haney, Head Coach (5th year, 4th as Head Coach)
  • Trovin Valdez, Hitting/Outfield Coach (First year)
  • Scott Anderson, Pitching Coach (Second year)
  • Troy Birtwistle, First Base Coach (Sixth year)
  • Steve Sinclair, Bench Coach (Second year)
  • Ethan Fox, Bullpen Coach (Third year, former HarbourCats player)

Under Haney, the HarbourCats led the WCL in hits, runs and stolen bases in 2023 and set a WCL record with an astounding 25-2 home record at Wilson’s Group Stadium at RAP, adding two more home wins in as many dates in the playoffs. The HarbourCats reached the WCL’s final game for the third time in five seasons.

Jaxon Williams (pictured right), part of the 2023 staff, is unable to return due to career reasons and the HarbourCats thank him and wish him all the best, he will always be a part of the HarbourCats family.

“This is a tremendous staff under incredible leadership from Todd — our players will be well served in their development,” said Christian Stewart, GM of the HarbourCats. “We couldn’t be happier with the makeup of this group, and we’re excited to see Trovin go to work. Our team set multiple team and league records on the offensive side of the game last year and that exciting style of play will be on display for our fans again.”

Valdez stole more than 250 bases as a pro, spanning nine seasons, and he joins former pro players Haney (five years MLB with Expos, Cubs and Mets), Anderson (also Expos system), Sinclair (MLB lefty with Blue Jays and Mariners), and Birtwistle (Australia). Fox played college ball and is the Head Coach of the Golden Tide CCBC team.

The HarbourCats open on the road May 31 in Kamloops, the start of back-to-back series in Kamloops and Kelowna, before returning for the June 7 home opener against Wenatchee. The HarbourCats will be on the road this summer in Kamloops, Kelowna, Edmonton, Wenatchee, Ridgefield, Port Angeles, Bellingham, and six games in Nanaimo against the Island-rival NightOwls at Serauxmen Stadium. Teams visiting Victoria this year are Wenatchee, Nanaimo, Bellingham, Port Angeles, Kelowna, Edmonton (two series), Kamloops and Corvallis, along with non-league games against the Redmond Dudes, Dub Sea Fishsticks, the SIBL All-Stars, and Victoria Mavericks All-Stars.

The regular season runs until August 7, with WCL playoffs running from August 10 to August 16.

Single game tickets are now available for the HarbourCats 2024 season including the home opener on Friday, June 7, 2024 at 6:35pm against the Kamloops NorthPaws. These can be purchased online through our one and only ticketing partner, Select Your Tickets, at www.harbourcats.com/tickets or at the HarbourCats office at 101-1814 Vancouver Street.

Season tickets and 10-game flex packs are also now on sale via the HarbourCats office or by calling 778-265-0327.

 

 

 

 

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Victoria HarbourCats – Manny Ramirez’s two sons sign with HarbourCats

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April 4 2024

VICTORIA, B.C. — Their father was once the most-feared hitter in the Major Leagues, a perennial all-star with a big personality who won a World Series, a batting title, and could change any game with one swing.

Manny Ramirez Jr., 21 (pictured above left), and Lucas Ramirez, 18 (pictured above right), carry the same potential — Manny Jr., a booming right-handed power hitter, with Lucas a lefty with a power stroke who has committed to the University of Tennessee for the fall.

Both outfielders who can DH, Manny Jr. and Lucas are excited to be coming to Victoria, to further develop under Head Coach Todd Haney, a former MLB player, and a coaching staff that also includes former pro player and coach Scott Anderson and former MLB pitcher Steve Sinclair.

“These are notable signings not just for us, but for the entire West Coast League — this will be exciting news for our fans and sponsors, no question,” said Jim Swanson of the HarbourCats. “They come highly recommended by our former pitching coach, Alec Adame, who is coaching Manny Jr. at ELAC (East LA College). It’s been a pleasure working with the family to set this all up, and we know Victoria will welcome them all with open arms — to the city rated the best city in the world. Alec was here in 2015 and knows how great the baseball environment is at Wilson’s Group Stadium at RAP.”

So far this spring Manny Jr. leads ELAC with three home runs and has 18 runs driven in over 20 games, adding nine doubles and walking 14 times. The 6-3/210 outfielder is a freshman who is a product of Calvary Christian high school in Clearwater, FL.

Lucas is a graduating high school senior at powerful American Heritage in Florida and is a possible high-round pick in the upcoming draft thanks to already developing power from the left side. He is already built like a pro at 6-3/200.

They have a tremendous baseball role model to aspire to. Manny Ramirez played 19 seasons and batted .312 with 555 home runs, the 15th highest total in MLB history — he starred for Cleveland, Boston, and the Dodgers, and finished with time for the Chicago White Sox and Tampa Bay Rays. He was a 12-time all-star, was MVP of the 2004 World Series when the Red Sox ended their long title drought, won the 2002 American League batting title, and was the Hank Aaron Award winner in 1999 and 2004. He was also part of a second Red Sox team to win the World Series in 2007, and hit more post-season home runs (29) than anyone else in the history of the game. He finished top-10 in MVP voting in the American League eight years in a row (1998-2005).

The HarbourCats open on the road May 31 in Kamloops, the start of back-to-back series in Kamloops and Kelowna, before returning for the June 7 home opener against Wenatchee. The HarbourCats will be on the road this summer in Kamloops, Kelowna, Edmonton, Wenatchee, Ridgefield, Port Angeles, Bellingham, and six games in Nanaimo against the Island-rival NightOwls at Serauxmen Stadium. Teams visiting Victoria this year are Wenatchee, Nanaimo, Bellingham, Port Angeles, Kelowna, Edmonton (two series), Kamloops and Corvallis, along with non-league games against the Redmond Dudes, Dub Sea Fishsticks, the SIBL All-Stars, and Victoria Mavericks All-Stars.

The regular season runs until August 7, with WCL playoffs running from August 10 to August 16.

Single game tickets are now available for the HarbourCats 2024 season including the home opener on Friday, June 7, 2024 at 6:35pm against the Kamloops NorthPaws. These can be purchased online at www.harbourcats.com/tickets or at the HarbourCats office at 101-1814 Vancouver Street.

Season tickets and 10-game flex packs are also now on sale via the HarbourCats office or by calling 778-265-0327.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  If you are a 2023 Season Ticket holder who has not yet renewed your seats for the 2024 season, please do so by April 15th, 2024 or your seats will be released and available to the public for sale. Please call Christian at 778-265-0327 ASAP to renew your seats.

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