Lifelong baseball fans Dave and Darlene Cockle are eager to start baseball season early.
The trip to Safeco Field (and King Dome prior to that) is an annual pilgrimage in the Cockle household (sometimes twice a season) but for the first time, the couple makes a baseball-specific trip past Seattle.
The Royal Oak couple were among the first to purchase tickets to the Victoria HarbourCats new Cactus League Spring Training group tour to Phoenix in March. The tour is organized by the West Coast Baseball League team and the Flight Centre. It includes return flights to Phoenix, hotel stays, tickets to two pre-season Major League Baseball games, meals and more.
“It’s a great tour for a baseball fan,” said Dave, known to many as the chief of the Oak Bay Fire Department. “I’ve been to AA minor league games in Myrtle Beach (S.C.) and Indianapolis (Ind.) during other trips and I love the culture. And who better to guide the tour, than former Mariners pitcher Steve Sinclair, he knows the game and the area.”
That “minor league culture” is also what the Cockles enjoy as HarbourCats season ticket holders. The two sit under the cover of the grandstand at Royal Athletic Park, just as they did for the Seals (2008 to 2010), the Royals (2004) and the Capitals (2003). Dave supported baseball in Victoria since the Mussels took the diamond in the late 1970s.
The decision to organize a tour is to “expand” the baseball season for HarbourCats’ fans, said the team’s general manager and part owner, Jim Swanson.
“We have a condensed season, so expanding the interest in the game is part or our mandate,” Swanson said. “People talk about the ideals of spring training, allure of spring training, and this will allow them to do some behind-the-scenes tours.”
The trip leaves March 18 with tickets to the March 19 matinee between the Texas Rangers and Arizona Diamondbacks and March 20 matinee between the Seattle Mariners and Cleveland Indians.
Guests will be able to play catch on the field and take some swings. The trip includes an open day for fans to shop, or take in another baseball game if they please.
“Visiting the Cactus League is a bucket list thing to do for us,” said Darlene, before shooing young springer spaniel Edgar (named for the Mariner great Martinez) down from the table.
The HarbourCats season runs from June to August. There are several spots available for the Cactus League trip. The club is also organizing a September trip to Seattle when the Toronto Blue Jays visit.