(Victoria HarbourCats)

Three strikes may mean an out, but for HarbourCats players, no COVID vaccine jab at all means no games at all.

The owners of West Coast League teams the Victoria HarbourCats and the Nanaimo NightOwls, as well as the new CCBC team Victoria Golden Tide, are implementing strict COVID-19 protocols that includes mandatory vaccinations.

Ahead of the fall season, as of September 1, 2021 all members of the team organizations will be required to be vaccinated.

“Because our programs reach into every corner of the communities in which we are fortunate enough to have baseball teams, this is the right thing to do at this time, while we all watch the continued developments with this pandemic,” said managing partner Jim Swanson.

Swanson is GM of the Victoria HarbourCats and Nanaimo NightOwls. He also oversees the fall/spring collegiate team, Vitoria Golden Tide, which is led by head coach Cutis Pelletier.

The decision to make vaccinations mandatory for the organization is down to the widespread nature of baseball programs.

“Our programs travel — we take ferries, and cross borders — we cannot operate in a bubble, the programs are too complex,” said Swanson.

“With nearly 5 billion people now immunized worldwide, our group believes the various vaccines are proven safe and effective for those over 12, and will be the way this pandemic gets put behind us, along with developing treatments and rapid testing.”

In addition to the mandatory vaccination requirement, baseball programs will have COVID-19 protocols in place for positive test cases or for close contacts.

The HarbourCats owners say these protocols will flex depending on how the worldwide situation evolves.

Swanson pointed to ICU rates in hospitals as proof that vaccines work, citing that all those currently admitted to these units in B.C. are unvaccinated.

“We think that speaks volumes to the importance of getting your shots,” he said. “We don’t want to wade into waters that are outside of baseball, but it’s imperative that we do what’s right to keep people as safe as possible.”

If exemptions are requested to the new rule, the HarbourCats owners say they will handle these matters privately. Grounds for possible exemption could include medical reasons.

However, Swanson stressed that the priority for the organization is on safety for the majority.

“While we recognize the individual rights and freedoms of people, and celebrate those rights, we also have an overriding need to do all we can to ensure all our people, and those we come in contact with, have the utmost in safety considerations.”

In anticipation of a return to a full schedule in 2022, the HarbourCats owners say that they have not yet decided if fans will required to be vaccinated or to show proof of vaccination for stadium entry.

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