The Victoria HarbourCats make their first jersey retirement in the 2019 baseball season and it will be the No. 8 of Claire Eccles.
The knuckleball pitcher made 11 appearances in the 2017 and 2018 seasons and her jersey will be retired during the June 17 game against the Bend Elks at Royal Athletic Park.
Eccles is the first and only female player in West Coast League history, at least so far. It was the unique angle and movement on her fastball and sweeping curveball, in addition to the threat of the knuckleball, that gave lefty hitters a serious challenge.
Eccles, a left-hander, went 2-0 with two starts and nine relief appearances, striking out three batters, but it’s that and her role as a model for female baseball players and fans around the world that are the more important accomplishments, said Jim Swanson, managing partner of the HarbourCats.
“Hitters respected her, that’s for sure, tipped their caps, it was always interesting to watch the varied reactions, and I hope she taught something to us all,” Swanson said. “But it was seeing faces of fans young and old, both genders, all walks of life, connect with her in so many ways — that was special. Claire will always be a HarbourCat, and fully deserves a place in our Ring of Honour for her bravery, her courage, to step into that spotlight, and to do it with such class.”
Eccles’ commitment to Team Canada limited her time with the HarbourCats as she was part of the 2018 bronze medal winning Canadian team at the Women’s World Cup in Florida. Eccles and the HarbourCats fell a couple runs short of earning rings in 2017, losing in the penultimate game of the WCL championship series in Corvallis.
“Each one of those 11 outings brought a level of magic and a unique atmosphere to the park,” said Brad Norris-Jones, General Manager of the HarbourCats. “The first appearance was as emotional and electric a night as we’ve had in our six years in the WCL, matched closely by her last outing, getting the last out of a win over Corvallis.”
Eccles was also a star in the UBC baseball program.
Season tickets, packages and single tickets are all available online at harbourcats.ticketrocket.co or at the HarbourCats office, 1814 Vancouver St., from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.