|(L-R) Austin Russell, Nick Pivetta and Connor Russell sign their contracts|
The three local players signed by the HarbourCats are Nick Pivetta, Austin Russell and Connor Russell (no relation). All three played premier baseball in the city: Austin and Connor Russell were teammates on the Victoria Mariners and Pivetta played for the Victoria Eagles. These guys are not token local content either -- they can all play the game.
Pivetta is a flame-throwing right-hander who will pitch for New Mexico Junior College this season. He was recently awarded a full scholarship at the University of New Mexico, so he'll suit up for that NCAA Division I school beginning in September of 2013. According to the scouting service Perfect Game USA, Pivetta's fastball was 88-92 MPH last season but recently jumped into the 95-97 MPH range. If that's the case, he could have a monster 2012-13 season and be a high draft pick in next June's MLB draft.
Austin Russell is a speedy outfielder who played two seasons at Colby Community College (Kansas) before recently transferring to Southern Polytechnical State University (NAIA Division I). He hit .402 last season at Colby CC and received first-team all conference and first-team all region honours. You may see Austin hitting near the top of the HarbourCats batting order and stealing more than his share of bases at RAP next June.
Connor Russell is a right-handed starting pitcher in his third season with the Vancouver Island Baseball Institute (VIBI) Mariners, a team that plays in the Canadian College Baseball Conference (CCBC). Last season, Connor broke school records for innings pitched (77), strikeouts (76) and ERA (0.90). He pitched for the Okotoks Dawgs in the Western Major Baseball League (WMBL) during the last couple of summers, registering a 1.88 ERA in 2011 and a 5.25 ERA in 2012. Fans of the defunct Victoria Seals may remember that Jeff Duda also played for the Okotoks Dawgs just prior to becoming a solid pitcher with the Seals.
The HarbourCats also announced the signing of three American players who were recently drafted by MLB clubs out of high school. In all three cases, the players did not sign a professional contract and chose to play college baseball instead. However, they will be eligible to re-enter the draft in the future.
Casey Schroeder, a switch-hitting catcher from Ohio, was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 22nd round of the 2012 draft. Schroeder is a freshman at the University of Kentucky, a solid Division I school that is currently ranked 18th in the country.
Connor Baits is a freshman right-handed pitcher at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB), another NCAA Division I school. Baits was taken by the New York Mets in the 23rd round of the 2012 draft after being named as a Rawlings 2nd Team All-American. He was one of the top-ranked high school pitchers in California and he can throw in the low to mid 90's.
I would expect that we'll learn of additional signings periodically over the next few months, but for now it's good to know at least some of the players who will be wearing a HarbourCats uniform in the team's inaugural season. The college baseball season begins in February, so we'll be able to post updates on the progress of our HarbourCats as we get closer to opening day. Only one hundred and sixty-eight more days...
For additional information on the signings, check out the official HarbourCats site.