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End of summer....

September 07, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

1. The Royal Athletic Park (RAP)1. The Royal Athletic Park (RAP)Right in the middle of downtown Victoria (almost) a gem of a field.

All of a sudden, summer has disappeared, being replaced by school buses cruising the neighbourhood, though it still seems those dog days of summer are still here,  with the temperatures up there in the 30s!

I’m not sure how summer got away from me, I had grand plans for trips, visits with friends and many photo shoots. It’s not like I spent the time working on the home reno projects that should have been finished, or practicing all those sheets of musical notes sitting with my guitar in the studio…but I did manage some baseball trips to Victoria.

For me, that’s the sure sign of summer, sitting along the first base line, beer in hand, watching the home team run away with the game. And it’s not MLB I’m talking about, but those small community fields  that are volunteer driven. This summer, I discovered the Victoria HarbourCats, not that they were all that hard to find.

Every August, I tried to head over to Vancouver to catch a game or two at Nat Bailey, watching the Canadians. But really it was the atmosphere, a small crowd, many families and groups of folks from same neighbourhood getting together for a summer night. This year, I decided to head to a weekend of HarbourCat games at the Royal Athletic Park (RAP) in Victoria. I talked two friends into joining me, and we were hooked! We bought tickets for a Saturday night and Sunday afternoon game, in the grandstand right behind home plate, but we didn’t get the seats with the wait staff, maybe next season.

2. The friendly line-up2. The friendly line-upEven the security guards are smiling on the ticket line! RAP is a small field, and waiting outside, before the game starts, you see the neighbourhood drift to the field, families, grandparents and their grandchildren and groups of young folks, all greeted by volunteers keeping the ball games happening. Food trucks are lined up on both of the baselines, so you don’t miss the action while waiting on your order and drink. You are close enough to the field to hear the players, and the crack of the bat rings in your ear.

3. Gotta dump it!3. Gotta dump it!But don't let the smiles fool you, no food or liquids get through these guys! It didn’t take long to catch up on their season, this is the fifth year for the Victoria team, and we picked them up on a run for the West Coast League playoffs, one of two Canadian teams in the running. Though I have to admit I went for a different reason, they also had the only woman, UBC’s Claire Eccle, pitching relief, I kept hoping to see her start! The closest I got was watching her warm up in the bullpen, but she wasn’t called in to shut down the visitors. My friends saw her start, the game I decided to skip!

4. Marilyn's Watching4. Marilyn's WatchingLooking at Marilyn, or checking out the menu? One of many food trucks along the baselines 5. Souvlaki hotshot5. Souvlaki hotshotThese guys have fast hands, and they still look over the crowd and announce what's happening on the field! And it was a crazy end to the season, the HarbourCats clinch first place in their division, but have to wait for two US teams to make up a game postponed by the summer fires. In a twist, the two Canadian teams, Kelowna and Victoria play off for the division title, and the HarbourCats sweep the series, but no Eccles, she’s off, pitching with the Canadian Women’s National Team in their series back East. So for the first time, the ‘Cats are heading to the Division Finals, playing best of three against the Corvallis Knights. One game in Victoria, and all three of us are there, our usual seats, but I notice that my friends are now decked out in ‘Cat hoodies, ball caps and even have the required seat cushions. Discussions about 10 game ticket packs for the 2018 season are being tossed about. And it’s a tight game, and the only rain of the summer starts in the fifth inning. We’re into the bottom of the 9th, trailing 4 - 3. But a walk off double by Po-Hao Huang gave the ‘Cats game one! The crowd had been cheering for him the whole game, he’s affectionally known as “Bernie” by the fans.

6. More cowbell!6. More cowbell!A few Corvallis fans are there, what's that Christopher Walken line about "more cowbell" enough already! 7. The bunt7. The buntWasn't set up to get many shots on the field, next season for that! Here's an attempted bunt in the fifth for a start to a rally. 8. The talk8. The talkThe Knights were good at wasting time in these team meetings on the mound. The ump was always having to walk out to move them on. Just like in "Bull Durham", you wonder what they're talking about? Games two and three move to Corvallis, and we’re stuck with watching a stationary camera behind home plate record the action, broadcast on line to the voice over by a Victoria sportscaster. Reminded me of that scene from “Bull Durham” where the game is broadcast over radio from a closet, taking cues from the phone and using sound effects to simulate the hits!

In the end it was a heck of a run by the HarbourCats, but they fell just short of WCL title. Had two men on with no outs in the ninth inning, but couldn't get them home. And the season is finished, as is the summer. Almost anyway, but the Vancouver Canadians are also playing for the Divisional title in their league, and with the smoke from interior forest fires settling over Spokane, the best of three series was moved to Vancouver, all three games will be played at Nat Bailey, the Canadians took the first game 2 - 1 on Wednesday night, and the teams go again on Thursday, September 7th. Too bad for me, can’t make it over for tonight’s game, Jazz season has opened at the Avalanche, and I’m on the stage crew tonight.

Summer really is over, and hockey season opens in less than a month…..

 

 


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