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League confident Victoria HarbourCats will play in 2015

The West Coast League is operating under the premise the beer will be flowing and hot-dogs sizzling next summer at Royal Athletic Park and that the Victoria HarbourCats will play ball in 2015.
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HarbourCats founder John McLean has lost control of his WCL baseball club to a former business associate in a civil suit.

The West Coast League is operating under the premise the beer will be flowing and hot-dogs sizzling next summer at Royal Athletic Park and that the Victoria HarbourCats will play ball in 2015.

“We are committed to Victoria,” said WCL president Dennis Koho on Tuesday, from Keizer, Oregon.

HarbourCats founder John McLean confirmed Monday he has lost control of his WCL baseball club to a former business associate in a B.C. Supreme Court civil suit. But the now ex-owner insisted it was solely a technical corporate transaction that occurred because a claim was made on the HarbourCats due to a larger legal dispute with a former business partner. McLean, a private equity investor from Vancouver, said it was not a team operations issue and the HarbourCats would return for their third season at RAP next year.

“We are confident this will be resolved and there will be WCL baseball back in Victoria,” said league president Koho.

“We have a schedule that includes Victoria.”

Koho said no alternative schedule excluding Victoria has been drawn up.

“We’re not in a rush. We’re biding our time. We have no particular deadline [in which to release the schedule].”

The WCL features top U.S. collegiate NCAA players in a summer season running from the first week of June to late August. It can be a jumping off point. WCL alumni, catcher Andrew Susac and infielder Matt Duffy, won World Series rings this year as rookies with the San Francisco Giants.

Victoria led the 12-team WCL in attendance last season with a per-game average of 1,576 fans over 27 home dates. That is a fact not lost on the league.

“Victoria is our most successful franchise in terms of attendance and we would hate to lose that,” said Koho.

“Victoria is important to us. There are too many important things going on in Victoria to have this non-baseball event interfere.”

McLean said the team is now in the hands of California- and Delaware-based holding company Bhootan LLC. The registered agent for Bhootan LLC, located in Santa Monica, is Matthew Stoudt. Calls to Stoudt were not returned by deadline Tuesday.

McLean said the day-to-day operations of the club are running normally under general-manager Jim Swanson.

“There are two or three potential buyers,” said Koho, without elaborating.

There are reports that staff and businesses, including coaches, have not received payments that are due from the HarbourCats. Both McLean and Swanson confirmed that, but added it was because of the nature of the dispute, and the situation is now being resolved.

“We will insist creditors get paid,” said Koho.

“We want to keep faith with our business community.”

Koho said the league operates with individually-owned franchises that are responsible for their own budgets.

“We [the league] don’t pay the teams’ debts,” he said.

Swanson said the HarbourCats operate on a budget of about $550,000 per season.

Meanwhile, the team plans on continuing to sign players. More will be added today to bring to 18 the number of players inked so far for next season. Swanson added the team has 41 players committed to play in 2015 under new head coach Graig Merritt — a scout for the Tampa Bay Rays — but that not all contracts are in yet.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com