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HarbourCats ready for hectic road turnarounds as part of life in the West Coast League

A big part of summer collegiate baseball is teaching players about the grinding travel they will face in the minor pros when they get out of weekend-only play in the NCAA or NAIA.
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HarbourCats outfielder Jesse Brown fouls off a ball against the AppleSox on Thursday night at Wilson’s Group Stadium at Royal Athletic Park. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

A big part of summer collegiate baseball is teaching players about the grinding travel they will face in the minor pros when they get out of weekend-only play in the NCAA or NAIA.

The Victoria HarbourCats are heading for a sudden study in shaking off the ferry and bus legs as they are about to get very up close and personal with the ferries and Interstate-5. The HarbourCats closed out their West Coast League set Thursday night with a 9-2 lost to the Wenatchee AppleSox at Wilson’s Group Stadium at Royal Athletic Park. The HarbourCats travel all through the day to southern Washington state to begin a three-game set tonight against the Ridgefield Raptors. Monday is a travel day back to the Island in preparation for a three-game set beginning Tuesday against the Cowlitz Black Bears at Royal Athletic Park. Then it’s immediately back on the ferries, through border control again and onto I-5 next Friday, which will double as a travel day to Portland and game night against the Pickles.

And so it will go through the summer.

“The players learn how to take care of their bodies, eat right and sleep right,” said HarbourCats head coach Todd Haney.

The shuteye is often catnaps on the bus or ferry, the latter a mode of transport that affects only the HarbourCats and Nanaimo NightOwls in the WCL, adding several hours to each of their trips.

“You are not always going to feel 100 per cent but you’ve got to give 100 per cent of what you’ve got,” said Haney, about the travel.

He should know. Haney spent five seasons in MLB with the Chicago Cubs, New York Mets and Montreal Expos but there were many years in the minors before the cushier hotels and air travel in the majors.

MLB opening-day rosters this year featured 33 former WCL players, including former HarbourCats Nick Pivetta with the Boston Red Sox and Andrew Vaughan with the Chicago White Sox. A total of 59 WCL alumni appeared in MLB games in 2021 and 305 in affiliated pro ball. They all learned about the grind while in the WCL.

“It’s why you have enough players on the roster so that they aren’t required to play every day,” said Haney.

“The guys are getting acclimatized to playing in this league.”

ON THE DIAMOND: The HarbourCats (8-9) got off on the wrong foot Thursday, night, giving up six runs in the first inning against the AppleSox (7-11). Starter Nick Lee lasted just 2/3 of an inning. Jessada Brown hit a home run in a losing cause for Victoria.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com