I can picture it in my mind. The bright lights of Royal Athletic Park shine down on the ball diamond. The HarbourCats’ newest acquisition, Kyle Slavin, steps up to the plate to the roar of the crowd.
Using the barrel of his wooden bat he knocks the dirt from his cleats and takes a comfortable, balanced stance over home plate. He hawks a wad of chewing tobacco into the dirt and stares down the pitcher.
Unfazed by the intimidation, the thrower hurls the ball the 60-foot distance toward home. Slavin, confident in his abilities, swings the bat with the force of a six-year-old and misses the ball by a good five inches. Strike one.
And to be honest, strikes two and three were identical.
Fortunately the stands were empty when I joined the HarbourCats at a pre-season practice in early June. The only people watching my inabilities, their mouths agape with secondhand embarrassment, were the skilled players and coaches.
“You did great for someone who hasn’t played. This game is not easy, and sitting in the crowd, these kids and baseball players make the sport look easy. But it’s something else once you step onto the field and into the shoes. It can be a different ballgame,” says Charlie Strandlund, assistant coach of the HarbourCats.
Strandlund put me through my paces during practice. From hitting fly balls to me in the outfield (and me missing every single one) to throwing me some pretty slow pitches (and me missing most – but not all), the assistant coach saw what I was truly made of when it comes to baseball.
As for my future as a member of the HarbourCats? Strandlund is surprisingly optimistic about that – but not as a ball player.
“Those kids that are our batboys, they’re going to be out of a job,” he says.
So my dreams of stepping out onto the field to play baseball at any level above beer league are probably shattered. But the crowd would roar just as loud for a really skilled batboy, wouldn’t they?
TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME
The Victoria HarbourCats’ second season in the West Coast League is now underway. The team is made up of athletes between the ages of 18 and 22 who play college-level baseball during the school year.
The regular season runs until mid-August, with home games happening out of Victoria’s Royal Athletic Park. Single game tickets start at under $10.
For schedule and ticket info, visit harbourcats.com.