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West Coast League signs development agreement with Major League Baseball

West Coast League includes Victoria HarbourCats and Nanaimo NightOwls
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The Victoria HarbourCats and MLB have teamed up for several initiatives starting next season. (DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST)

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The West Coast League, which includes the Victoria HarbourCats and Nanaimo NightOwls, has announced an agreement with Major League Baseball to “jointly pursue initiatives of mutual interest, including player and coach development, ­technology innovation related to scouting and fan experience.”

WCL alumni Brooks Lee, to the Minnesota Twins, and Gabriel Hughes, to the Colorado Rockies, were among the top-10 overall players selected in this year’s 2022 MLB draft. A total of 60 former WCL players played in MLB this season and more than 300 in affiliated pro ball.

“[The agreement] is a big step forward,” said Jim Swanson, co-owner and managing partner of both the HarbourCats and NightOwls.

“It will allow for more scouting and development and data analysis to be put in place.”

Swanson provided the background for what has transpired in baseball development.

“The minor pro leagues have dropped 40 teams through ­contraction, making collegiate summer leagues such as the WCL more important,” he said.

“We have become the Cape Cod League [leading summer collegiate circuit] of the Western part of the continent.”

John Stanton, majority owner of the MLB Seattle ­Mariners and Triple-A Tacoma ­Rainiers, also owns the Walla Walla Sweets and Yakima Valley ­Pippins of the WCL.

“There’s nothing better than having a partner like that,” said Swanson.

“It allows for a lot of creative ideas to come into play.”

The WCL has 16 teams throughout B.C., Alberta, ­Washington and Oregon.

“We continue to be impressed by Major League Baseball’s enthusiastic support of amateur baseball,” WCL commissioner Rob Neyer said in a statement.

“We take pride in the West Coast League’s status as the premier collegiate summer league in the western half of North America, so we imagine many potential fruits of this relationship and we’re eager to get started.”

Added John D’Angelo, MLB senior vice-president for amateur baseball operations: “The West Coast League is an important partner in the development cycle for amateur players. This agreement builds on an already solid foundation, and provides a framework for our work together.”

The WCL said specific details about the agreement will be announced over the next few months.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com