Courtesy of Victoria HarbourCats
VICTORIA B.C. – The 2018 roster is starting to take shape – strong, veteran shape at that.
The Victoria HarbourCats are pleased to announce the first four signed players for the 2018 season, and it’s a group that should have the team’s devoted fans very excited for what could be on the horizon at Royal Athletic Park.
The first signees are Victoria-bred infielder Jason Willow, left-handed pitcher Ethan Fox of Campbell River, another returning player in catcher Tanner Rempel of Abbotsford, and all-star outfielder Hunter Vansau of Mississippi State, a left-handed hitter who put up huge numbers as a WCL rookie in 2017.
“This is a core group that gives us a tremendous base to start with, and we’re excited about the other players that are lining up to be announced in the days, weeks and months before we hit the field again in June,” said Brad Norris-Jones, the team’s general manager.
“Hunter was an absolute stud for us, a leader in every way, a legitimate WCL all star. Willow is maybe the top baseball prospect to grow up in Victoria and it will be interesting to watch how he develops in the UC-Santa Barbara (UCSB) program, which is a huge step for him. Rempel is a feared power-hitter who fits our program perfectly, a quality human being, and Fox had great success for us in a limited role that we see expanding this summer.”
Willow, a Victoria Mariners product who earned scout notice through his time with the Canadian junior team and was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles last June (did not sign), is a freshman at UCSB. Willow saw brief duty with the HarbourCats as an underaged player in 2016. Rempel also played for the national junior team. Fox has moved to NAIA Avila University in the Kansas City area, and Vansau will be watched closely this year by scouts as he enters his junior season.
“We’re excited with the talent and track records of the players we’re close to announcing. Graduating to the college ranks and then to the HarbourCats and West Coast League, the game gets even tougher. The cream of the crop plays at this level. This isn’t high school baseball anymore, guys have to focus and adjust quickly,” said Norris-Jones.
Jason Willow (UC-Santa Barbara, Freshman) – The 6-foot-2, 185-pounder batted .333 (12-36) for Canada at WSBC U-18 World Cup in September in Thunder Bay, with one home run and 10 RBIs in seven games. Willow hit .394 with four home runs in the PBL in 2017. Only the second player in Victoria baseball history to go straight from high school to a Division-1 college baseball scholarship (Kelly Norris-Jones went to Illinois in 2010).
Hunter Vansau (Mississippi State, Junior) – Native of Crawford, Texas, 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, hit .359 with eight home runs and 17 extra-base hits, along with 34 RBIs, in 33 games for the HarbourCats in 2017. Named to WCL all-star game and WCL’s second-team all-star post-season list.
Tanner Rempel (Colorado-Mesa, Junior) – 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, Abbotsford Cardinals product, injury limited him to 16 games, but batted .250 with two doubles, a home run, and five walks.
Ethan Fox (Avila Universitym, Sophomore)—6-foot-3, 215 pounds, former Douglas College two-way player started season with HarbourCats, then went to Okotoks of WMBL. Returned for playoffs and won first WCL playoff game in Victoria history, six dazzling shutout innings of Kelowna in relief in Game 1 of North Division final. Has attention of scouts for 2018 draft.
These players will be led by head coach Brian McRae, and assistants Todd Haney, Jason Leone, Ian Sanderson and Troy Birtwistle – the group announced last week. McRae and Haney are former MLB players.