Victoria HarbourCats pitcher Claire Eccles, who made West Coast League history by becoming its first female player, is coming back for another season at Royal Athletic Park. Don Descoteau/Victoria News

Victoria HarbourCats to welcome Cuban nationals in 2018

Exhibition game, two pitchers part of this year’s baseball program

The Victoria HarbourCats have been extremely busy this off-season, preparing for the 2018 baseball campaign in the West Coast League.

The latest moves saw the collegiate-level club add a pair of pitchers who hail from Cuba and play on the under-23 Union de Reyes amateur team, which is also coming to play the ‘Cats in an exhibition game on July 30 at Royal Athletic Park.

Alejandro Ortega Lopez and Adriel Quesada Pena, both 20, throw in the mid-to-high 80s.

“We’re excited to add Alejandro and Adriel, and let them show us how passionate Cubans are to play baseball, especially at a level like the West Coast League — this will be good for everyone involved,” said HarbourCats managing partner Jim Swanson in a release. “Their visas allow them to be here for the full season and we’re sure our fans will be eager to see them pitch.”

Union de Reyes, managed by former Cuban national team catcher Saul Basallo Armas, is touring Vancouver Island this summer and being hosted by the Chemainus and District Baseball Association. The players are students at Universidad de ciencias de la cultura Fisica y el deporte de Matanzas (translated, University of Physical Sciences and Sports Culture of Matanzas), located near popular vacation spot Veradero.

Swanson, who has experience working with the Cuban Baseball Association, gave kudos to Rick and April Shay from the Chemainus group for developing a strong relationship with Union de Reyes and helping facilitate the visit. Some of the Cuban players will be making their second trip to Canada for baseball.

The HarbourCats will have an even more international roster this season than last when Bahamas native Chavez Fernadez and Taiwan infielder Po-Hao “Bernie” Huang played for the team.

Other internationals signed for 2018 include four players who hail from Taiwan: right-handed pitchers Hao-Chun Cheng, Po-Jui Huang and Ping-Chun Ho, as well as infielder Chang-Chih Yeh. Huang has moved on to the Taiwan national team.

And Claire Eccles, who became the first female West Coast League player ever last season, returns for another year pitching for the ‘Cats.

Victoria opens its season at home at Royal Athletic Park with games June 1, 2 and 3 against the Wenatchee Apple Sox, then plays three at RAP June 5, 6 and 7 against Yakima Valley.

Ticket and other information can be found at harbourcats.com.

editor@vicnews.com

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