The development of the Victoria HarbourCats in the community has allowed the West Coast League franchise to make organizational changes geared to improving operations and prepare for growth.
The HarbourCats, who took on a new ownership structure last spring when John Wilson, Richard Harder, Ken Swanson and Jim Swanson purchased the team, will play their fourth season at Royal Athletic Park – marking the first Victoria-based franchise to record such longevity in more than 50 years. The strength of the West Coast League and the support of the community goes hand-in-hand with the organizational strengths, as previous baseball teams in the city played in leagues that no longer exist.
“We are here to play, and we’re here to stay,” said Jim Swanson, now the Managing Partner of the HarbourCats. “We have seen improvements on the field, with strong coaches and players, but the truth is this organization has gotten stronger off the field each year, and our ownership is pleased with being able to go through a smooth off-season and allow stability to take root. We have taken steps forward at every position, and have truly built a ‘family’ type of support system behind the scenes. It’s a lot of fun to come to work each day, to work hard, for all of us.”
Jim Swanson is now Managing Partner, formerly Vice-President/General Manager
Brad Norris-Jones is now General Manager, formerly Assistant GM
Brittany French is now Assistant General Manager, formerly Host/Logistics Director
Richard Michaels is Director of Community Relations and Corporate Partnerships
Jonathan Hodgson is Baseball Operations and Communications Advisor
Martin Newham is Marketing Consultant
Shawn Petriw is Director of Print Properties
The team will announce the addition of a Director of Marketing shortly to support work led by Jim Swanson and Brad Norris-Jones.
Ken Swanson remains the President of the HarbourCats and guides the ownership structure and areas of league relations.
Jim Swanson will continue to lead the Baseball Operations department and Graig Merritt’s coaching staff, and oversee business functions with John Wilson, Vice-President/Business. All staff will continue to report to Jim Swanson, who has taken on the team’s seat with the Board of Governors for the West Coast League, including roles with two committees.
“This is a way to redeploy our resources and challenge ourselves to be better at what we do,” said Jim Swanson. “The people we have are the best advocates possible for the HarbourCats, and they are selfless, fiercely loyal individuals who have guided the vision for baseball in Victoria. Our ownership is proud to walk together with them. Adding in our Advisory Committee, and Team Ambassador Charlie Strandlund, there is a symbiosis and dedication that runs from our batboys and grounds crew to the Team President, and the restructuring with Brad and Brittany in particular follow a good strategy for us.”
Al Hasham (Maximum Express), Mira Laurence (UVIC), Fraser Campbell (Campbell Commercial Real Estate), Hugh MacDonald (SportHost Victoria), Steve Sinclair (Oak Bay Marine Group), Gary Beyer (Tesseract Computers), Kelly Mann (BC Games Society) and John Pollard (Rogers Media) currently serve on the HarbourCats Advisory Committee.
Brad Norris-Jones, a life-long Victorian with close ties to so many areas of the region, will begin to contribute to Baseball Operations, but will refocus the team’s attention at serving the business community’s relationship with the HarbourCats brand. He will also be at the helm of merchandising opportunities, working with co-owner/treasurer Richard Harder.
Brittany French, born and raised in Victoria and with extensive business operation experience with St. Anthony’s Pharmacy and By Design Events, and with a business diploma, will oversee office operations and will continue her next-level work arranging host families and logistics issues. Ticket sales, group ticket sales and retail merchandise sales will fall under her leadership, as well as the popular Youth Camps and Kids Club offerings.
Richard Michaels, a native of Tennessee who has lived in Victoria for 28 years, is now Director of Community Relations and Corporate Partnerships. He has been working to implement various partnership initiative opportunities, including partnerships with seniors groups, Rotary groups and business relationships that allow Victoria and area people to use HarbourCats games as a way to connect with the community.
Jonathan Hodgson, who joins the HarbourCats after seven years on staff with the highly-successful Okotoks Dawgs of the similar-level Western Major Baseball League, provides invaluable insight into areas of potential improvement in operations.
Martin Newham is well known in the community for his work with businesses, particularly in the Westshore area and with the Westshore Chamber of Commerce.
Shawn Petriw, who is experienced with major national and international events including sports and arts, will be a great asset for the HarbourCats. Shawn, President of Sponsor Impact!, will oversee major projects for the HarbourCats, not the least of which is the Baseball Canada Senior Championship, slated for the third week of August, 2017. Further news on that event will be out this spring.
ABOUT THE WEST COAST LEAGUE
The West Coast League is the premier summer collegiate baseball league west of the Mississippi. The twelve-year-old, eleven-team, professionally-operated wood-bat league located in the beautiful Pacific Northwest features pro prospects from major conferences across the nation and an unparalleled history out west of great fan and player experiences – not to mention the best summer weather in North America. In 2015, 59 players with WCL experience were selected in the MLB June draft, and over 200 WCL alums appeared in affiliated professional baseball including 25 in the big leagues such as MLB home run leader Chris Davis (Baltimore), NL Rookie of the Year runner-up Matt Duffy (San Francisco) and rising star pitchers Matt Andriese (Tampa Bay) and James Paxton (Seattle). Overall member attendance exceeded 400,000 last season. The 2016 54-game campaign opens Friday, June 3.