Under new management: Victoria HarbourCats

VICTORIA, BC – There’s a new starting lineup for the Victoria HarbourCats, in terms of the West Coast League’s ownership structure.

Bhootan LLC, which has led the HarbourCats since last fall under the primary guidance of Matthew Stoudt, has agreed to terms that will transfer ownership of the WCL franchise to a company called Shwing Batter Investment Group. The four principles of that group are Ken Swanson, Jim Swanson, Richard Harder and John Wilson.

The transaction is subject to West Coast League approval at the board level, and the new group is working through that process now.

John Wilson and Jim Swanson are known in the Victoria sports and business community. Ken Swanson, Jim’s brother, and Rich Harder bring both business and baseball backgrounds from Vancouver. Ken Swanson has been named President; John Wilson is Vice-President (Business); and Harder is now Treasurer. Once approval is complete, Jim Swanson (General Manager and Vice-President, Baseball) will be designated to represent the HarbourCats on the board of the West Coast League, although all four members will be involved in major operational and league voting direction.

Terms of the transaction will not be announced, per the agreement.

“We thank Matthew and Bhootan for their commitment to not just the franchise but to the community through their work supporting the HarbourCats since October, and we know they want to see the franchise thrive in this market,” said Jim Swanson, whose title is now Vice-President (baseball)/general manager. “Local ownership is engaged ownership, and Bhootan did a lot of heavy lifting to support baseball in Victoria.”

This is a move that will localize the operation, from the top down.

“There is going to be a period of time for us to align all the aspects that are a natural part of a transaction of this nature, but we are excited for the days ahead,” said Wilson. “Rich, Ken and Jim are quality people. We are all committed to this and see the opportunity to grow the HarbourCats. This team is important to the Victoria market in that it provides profile to this region and adds to our identity through BC, Washington, Oregon and the baseball world. The way people can best get involved from this point forward is to partner with us, as fans or as corporate teammates.”

The HarbourCats led the West Coast League in attendance in 2014 with an average of 1,576 per game, or more than 45,000 attendees in total, bringing strong value to advertisers and a summer of family-focused entertainment for spectators. Sports Traders Diamond at RAP is an excellent facility, operated by the City of Victoria, and the franchise has room to grow that attendance number and approach or surpass league records in the future.

“There is nothing better than a locally-owned home team,” said Victoria MayorLisa Helps. “This local investment and the new ownership of the HarbourCats signals a strong future for the City of Victoria and the region as a sporting capital.”

This announcement will allow for a seamless transition into the 2015 season, which starts with the first exhibition game on May 31 and the regular season home opener against the Kelowna Falcons on Friday, June 5. Coach Graig Merritt and Alec Adame, pitching coach, will continue to lead the staff into the 2015 season, as previously announced, and the full coaching staff will be announced in the coming weeks. Initiatives with the advisory doard and team ambassadors will be strengthened through this transition.

“We look forward to some things that will show a new day in HarbourCats baseball, including a more dynamic look to the team’s uniforms and hats, and an energetic set of promotions that will start with the home-opening weekend,” said Jim Swanson.

“I’m proud to be walking beside the rest of the partners – this is a great group, and the right group for Victoria’s baseball future. I know I have the support, locally and at a moment’s notice from John, Rich or Ken, to operate this business the proper way, and we’ve already started with so many positive changes in the off-season, including building the 2015 staff and gameday personnel.”

Shwing Batter Investment Group 
John Wilson, Victoria – CEO of Wilson’s Transportation, part of ownership group of BCHL’s Victoria Grizzlies and VIJHL’s Peninsula Panthers, former youth player and coach, active on countless business and community committees in the South Island area. Married to Val and father of two adult children.

Jim Swanson, Victoria – GM of the HarbourCats since November of 2013, long-time media member, former Independent League (Prairie League) GM and commissioner, chair of two national senior championships and three World Baseball Challenge tournaments, coach of Team BC for 2013 13U World Series. Married to Lori with two teen children.

Ken Swanson, Burnaby – Managing partner of Murrick Insurance Services in downtown Vancouver, married to Karen with two teen daughters, baseball umpire, part of same youth baseball pitching staff as Paul Spoljaric in Kelowna, active as a high school basketball coach in Burnaby.

Rich Harder, New Westminster – Land owner/manager in New Westminster and long-time executive member of New Westminster Baseball Association, active and highly-effective in leading facility issues in that community. Youth baseball coach, married to Gwen, father of three.

The HarbourCats won’t have four previously signed players as part of the team this coming summer, for a variety of reasons. LHP Henry Baker (Washington) is taking the summer to refocus his pitching mechanics; IF Cam Santos (Chico State) and RHP Seve Romo (San Diego) are evaluating their fall school options; and OF Kacy Smith (San Diego), a two-sport athlete, has chosen to focus on football going forward.

The roster now sits at 33 players, including returning 2014 HarbourCats 1BGabe Clark (Oregon State), IF Griffin Andreychuk (Seattle U), RHP Preston Ryan (New Mexico), RHP Alex Rogers (Trinidad State/North Dakota State), RHP Alex FaGalde (Cuesta College) and RHP Mikey Wright (Consumnes River College).