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They say every good party ends up in the kitchen.

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Well, baseball is a party, and in Nanaimo the gathering spot was the big wood stove down the hall from Kent’s Kitchen where former players, coaches, officials, volunteers and fans would all congregate.

The stove was the centrepiece of the Hall Of Fame Room in the bowels of Serauxmen Stadium. That stove is due to be rolled out the door this spring to make way for a new kind of baseball party – the Nanaimo NightOwls Baseball Club of the West Coast League, and the new team’s office space.

It was not sadness that trailed after that symbol of warmth and camaraderie, however. All those same players, coaches, officials, volunteers and fans had worked hard to someday attract a WCL team to their city so to see the space repurposed for such high-calibre ball was a treat, not a gripe.

“We’d have all these old guys come in and just B.S. about baseball,” said Kent Malpass, the man for whom the kitchen was unofficially named. He was one of the young guys who cozied up to that fire, when it first got kindled, and now he is the godfather of these goodfellas.

“If that room had ears, it would have lots of things to talk about. So many great people have worked to keep baseball in Nanaimo going and growing, and a lot of them ended up in that room having those conversations. So many of them have passed on now, great names, great people. Some are in a home now. That’s the way time works. And we’re in the middle of Covid and when that hit, it really shut it all down anyway.”

It was always Thursday morning that the regular gathering would happen, whether there was a ball game on that day or not.

“I’d get there at seven o’clock, and sometimes there were already people waiting to get in,” Malpass said. “They’d show up at 7:30, 8:00, trickling in, but there would often be a dozen of us just here for the conversation and seeing each other, talking about baseball and life.”

The big stove was never the point of these visits, but it was always the unspoken host. Even when there was a lull in the conversation, the crackle of the wood fire would evoke the crack of the bat.

“It’s a big stove. Huge,” Malpass said. “I’ve put wood in that thing at three o’clock in the afternoon and come back at 11 or 12 o’clock the next day and it would still be going.”

Kent and his Serauxmen Service Club members are much the same way. The Nanaimo charity group formed in 1967 over some beers and centennial cheers at the Tally Ho Pub. To this day, it is going strong and Nanaimo is its one and only chapter. They raise tens of thousands of dollars a year for all-local causes. They also pour tens of thousands of dollars worth of in-kind contributions and volunteerism into their community, and baseball is one of their chief loves.

Baseball brings people together, said Malpass, and baseball never ceases to draw in new people but never let go of anyone as they age. It’s something that grows with you no matter who you are or where you are, he said.

When Nanaimo seemed set to take a step up in the baseball world, back in the 1970s, Malpass and the Serauxmen were gleeful. Their club’s name is on the stadium because they took it upon themselves to lead the fundraising and logistics efforts to convert the former coal mine site into a ballpark that is still one of the best in B.C.

It opened in 1976 with a slate of celebrities on-site to throw the first pitches and cut all the ribbons. Malpass still glows at the memory of the top name on that fundraising ticket: the legendary superstar Mickey Mantle. Joining the Yankee Comet was another golden name from baseball’s history, Red Sox Gold-Glover and two-time all-star Jim Piersall.

“We took them fishing and showed them a good time,” said Malpass. “It cost the Serauxmen $5,000 to bring them in, which was a lot of money in 1976, but it worked really well. The place was packed.”

But that wasn’t the end of the Serauxmen commitment to Nanaimo baseball.

“Doug Rogers started the Nanaimo Pirates (of the BC Premier Baseball League) so his brother Danny and I used to do the equipment,” Malpass said, and that volunteer effort carried over into the whole youth baseball league where they would outfit up to 800 kids each year with uniforms, belts, helmets, socks, the whole kit. He would go on buying trips that needed a truck. “It was like Christmas for us, but everything was for the kids.”

A lot of the equipment distribution happened in that same room that eventually became the meeting space.

Malpass wore a lot of different volunteer caps over the years. He would paint the weathered spots on the fence, fix the broken boards on the bleachers, sweep the spilled popcorn, and he was a fixture in the concession kitchen. He grew up in the grocery industry and cooked in restaurants so this was his wheelhouse, but he also sold furniture, assembled satellite antennae, and other career moves that he always turned into a baseball double-play.

“I just love being at the stadium, being around baseball, being with baseball people, it’s a special thing,” he said. He pointed to the example of his friend Burt Lansdale who passed away and wanted his ashes scattered on the pitcher’s mound at the stadium. As the ceremony was going on, as the congregation bowed their heads in prayer, the automatic sprinklers suddenly popped on without warning. Malpass chuckled that even the stadium itself wanted to pay respects to someone who loved being there so much.

“People have a connection to this sport, because it’s more than a sport,” he said.

“Look at what Jim’s done (NightOwls General Manager Jim Swanson) with the team. The Owls were a team in Nanaimo in the 1920s which is where he dug up the name. It’s paying respect, it’s embracing tradition even when you’re doing something new.”

Malpass is excited to see the new team, the new league, and the new level of baseball Nanaimo has grown to embrace. He feels he, his friends, his neighbours, and the Serauxmen club members all had a hand in earning it. He’ll gladly sacrifice more volunteer time and work on the home stadium to make it happen. It’ll keep him as warm as any wood stove whose time has now passed.

That stove is not going to the scrap heap, though. Like the Owls name, it is just changing its context. The stove was a popular item for buildings that still could use that crackling heat, and it will be finding a home that will be fully aware of the history that comes with it.

Summer Collegiate

Victoria HarbourCats – Late runs harpoon HarbourCats in road opener in Ridgefield

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Raptors stay hot and move to 11-0 in the second half of the season.

July 19, 2024

RIDGEFIELD, WA — The Victoria HarbourCats were within a clutch hit of taking a big lead in the top of the seventh inning.

That didn’t materialize, and the bottom of the seventh spelled doom.

The Ridgefield Raptors scored seven times in their half of the seventh to lock down a 10-5 victory on Friday over the visiting HarbourCats to open a three-game West Coast League series in the southwest Washington community.

FULL BOX SCORE

The win pushes the Raptors win streak to 11 in a row to begin the second half of the season.

The HarbourCats were outhit 13-7. Victoria tried to rally in the ninth with three runs scored and the bases loaded, but ran out of outs.

STANDINGS

Sky Collins had two hits and Tyrus Hall had a two-run double. The HarbourCats struck out 14 times collectively, 11 of which were courtesy of Raptors starting pitcher Isaiah Magdaleno, who was dominant over six full innings of work.

Spencer Hatch was also outstanding as the ‘Cats starting pitcher, going four innings with no runs and four hits allowed. The bullpen after that ran into a lot of troubles.

The HarbourCats are on a six-game road trip to Ridgefield and Port Angeles, starting the second series on Monday across the strait from Victoria. They next return to the friendly confines of Wilson’s Group Stadium at RAP for a weekend home series with the Kamloops NorthPaws, evening games on Friday and Saturday nights (6:35pm) and Sunday afternoon. Tickets are available at the gate, online at the team’s official website, or general admission vouchers can be purchased at all Save On Foods in the South Island.

HarbourCats.com/tickets

 

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Summer Collegiate

Victoria HarbourCats – Former HarbourCats lead the way as Mavericks win 8-6

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July 18, 2024 

For immediate release 

VICTORIA, B.C. — The Victoria Mavericks held on to beat the Victoria HarbourCats 8-6 in the final exhibition game of the season,

The Mavericks took the lead in the first inning courtesy of an Austin Russell single, giving the visitors a 1-0 lead.

The Mavericks doubled their lead in the fourth inning through a Josh Walker home run, making it 2-0.

BOX SCORE

Mavericks starter Fynn Chester faced the minimum through three innings, striking out four. Chester was one of nine former HarbourCats suiting up for the Mavericks tonight, the group of ex-Cats also including Russell and Walker.

Kerim Orucevic (UCSD) drove home Sky Collins (Fresno State) with a hard-hit single in the bottom of the fourth to get the Cats on the board. Cam Schneider (Fresno State) hit into a fielder’s choice to tie up the ballgame at 2-2. A wild pitch and defensive mishap in right field added two more runs, giving the HarbourCats a 4-2 lead.

Jack Finn (Illinois State), Garrett Villa (Angelo State), Brooks Brewster (Panola College), and Jacob Thompson (Minot State) all pitched an inning each for the Cats.

WCL STANDINGS

Mavericks shortstop Jay Willow hit a two-run home run in the top of the sixth to level the score at 4-4.

The Mavericks continued piling on runs in the seventh inning adding three more to give them a 7-4 lead.

WATCH GAMES HERE

The visitors increased their advantage through a Lance Burrows double in the eighth making it 8-4.

A Josh Cunnigan (Seattle) popup dropped between the Mavericks catcher and pitcher in the bottom of the eighth which allowed two runs to score cutting the deficit in half.

Luke Hayhow (Hawaii), Mason Chamberlain (Missouri Valley), Jalen Sami (Golden Tide), Brett Harvey (Puget Sound), and Dustin Davidson (Brookhaven) also pitched an inning each for the HarbourCats.

The Cats could not rally in the ninth inning, losing tonight’s game 8-6.

The HarbourCats begin a six-game road trip Friday against the Ridgefield Raptors. After a three-game set in Ridgefield, the Cats visit Port Angeles to take on the Lefties. The HarbourCats return home on July 26 against the Kamloops NorthPaws. It’s Kids Free Weekend! Thanks to Peninsula Co-op, all children 12 and under get free tickets! Get tickets at http://harbourcats.com/tickets, by coming to the office at 101-1814 Vancouver Street in advance, or by calling 778-265-0327.

 

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Summer Collegiate

Selects Hold Off NightOwls in Friendly Battle of Local Teams

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NANAIMO, B.C. — The first college-level home run for Kurt Felix went to waste.

The Nevada high school baseball player of the year, a cacher with the Nanaimo NightOwls before he heads to Cal Poly (SLO) in fall, went deep over the left field wall for a two-run shot in the fifth inning on Thursday in a non-league exhibition game played at historic Serauxmen Stadium.

The Nanaimo Selects, a team made up of many current and former college players from the mid-island area, many of whom played for the PBL Pirates, earned a 5-3 victory in the second of two non-league games played this week to provide more baseball value to Nanaimo fans during the WCL all-star break.

The NightOwls outhit the Selects 7-6 but made the only error. The NightOwls scored their three runs in the fifth inning, almost erasing a 4-0 Selects lead.

Taiwanese second baseman Hsu He-Chieh had two hits for Nanaimo.

Former NightOwls infielder Brandon Nicoll had two hits for the Selects, who got quality pitching contributions from Jordan Moffat, Darren Kolk, Steve McKinnon, Liam Goodall and Garrett Goodall.

Cole Carmichael had a strong start on the mound for the NightOwls, with two scoreless innings, including two strikeouts.

The NightOwls now head out on a road trip that will give the team a chance to keep pace for the second half North Division championship, with three games in Kamloops starting on Friday, and three games in Edmonton on Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday before a day off next Thursday. The next home action for the NightOwls is a weekend home set against the division-rival Bellingham Bells next Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

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