HarbourCats field boss Rogers to return for 2014 baseball season

The Victoria HarbourCats will stay the course in the dugout for the 2014 West Coast League baseball season with Dennis Rogers returning as field boss and Bob Miller back as lead assistant coach. Also returning as assistant coach is Ben Jackson.

“Both Dennis [Rogers] and Bob [Miller] have an incredible network of contacts in [U.S.] college ball,” said HarbourCats owner John McLean.

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That’s what it’s all about in the WCL, a summer league featuring top-rated NCAA prospects. U.S. collegiate connections are crucial in this league. A total of 57 players who have performed in the WCL were selected in the 2013 MLB draft.

Rogers is a former Vancouver Canadians manager for two seasons, who also managed in both the Oakland A’s and Pittsburgh Pirates pro minor-league organizations and is now field manager at Riverside Junior College in California.

“Dennis brings the kind of experience from the pro ranks these WCL players are looking for in a coach — someone who can tell them what it’s going to be like in the minor-pros and to prepare them for that,” said McLean.

“Based on the foundation Dennis laid in our opening season, we believe we’re in good shape.”

Rogers has certainly been around a few dugouts, pro and collegiate, in his time.

“The situation in Victoria is primed to support a playoff and championship team,” he said in a statement.

“I’m overjoyed to return.”

The HarbourCats were 22-32 in their inaugural 2013 WCL season and well adrift of a playoff berth. They were, however, a smash hit with the Royal Athletic Park faithful and finished second in league attendance with a per-game average of 1,437 fans over 27 home dates. What’s even more impressive is that total does not include the WCL all-time single-game record 4,210 fans who turned out for the 2013 WCL all-star game in Victoria.

“We’ve had a proven year under our belt, and with that we believe we are able to recruit very good players,” said McLean.

Miller, in his 10th year of guiding Cuesta College in California, also co-coached in the Alaska Collegiate League with the Anchorage Glacier Pilots, where his teams won three Alaska state championships.

“The goal is not just to be competitive, but to bring a playoff team and a championship team to Victoria,” said Miller, son of former Saskatchewan Roughriders CFL head coach Ken Miller.

“The challenge we willingly accept is to find that right mix of talent and character to win that last game. Victoria deserves a championship and we take that responsibility to heart.”

McLean said more than 30 players have committed to play in Victoria next summer and added the roster will be unveiled in December. The HarbourCats open the 2014 season with three road games June 6-8 in an all-Canadian derby in Kelowna against the Falcons. The home opener at Royal Athletic Park is June 10 against the Cowlitz Black Bears from Kelso/Longview, Wash.

Veteran B.C. baseball administrator Jim Swanson was recently named off-field general-manager of the HarbourCats. He replaces Holly Jones, who departed the team after being named 2013 WCL executive of the year. The club said Jones left for family reasons.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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