Okotoks Dawgs’ summer of success ignites fun at Seaman Stadium

Okotoks Dawgs’ summer of success ignites fun at Seaman Stadium



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Why not celebrate the fireworks on the field with fireworks off the field?

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It’s the least that can be done for the Okotoks Dawgs, given their success so far in the 2022 Western Canadian Baseball League season.

So Canada Day’s fiery festivities following Friday night’s game at Seaman Stadium aren’t just about wishing the country a happy birthday. It really is a salute to a magnificent first month-and-some of Dawgs ball, as well as a thanks to those supporting the boys of summer.

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“In a word … remarkable,” said Dawgs managing director John Ircandia. “Both in terms of the fans and the team record and performance.”

Currently, the Dawgs are first overall in the WCBL with a 21-6 record.

That’s helped bring people to the ballpark in Okotoks — despite the poor weather during most of June — where fans are filing in at an average of 4,200 per game. Father’s Day featured a season-high 5,237.

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And expect a number like that again for the Canada Day affair against the rival Edmonton Prospects at Seaman Stadium (7:05 p.m.).

“Fans, post-COVID, are clearly anxious for a return to positive, healthy, outdoor, family-friendly entertainment, and that basically defines Dawgs Baseball,” said Ircandia, who was proud to welcome the one millionth fan ever to the facility last Friday night. “It’s been an incredible journey of community support in Okotoks and the greater Calgary area.”

It helps to have a successful team attracting those eyeballs.

And well … that’s what Dawgs head coach Mitch Schmidt has in spades — again — this year.

“Look at the record we have — it’s pretty special,” said Schmidt, making his return to the club for the first year since the 2019 championship campaign. “Honestly, we can throw two or three different lineups out there and compete every night with the guys that are on this team from top to bottom. We can pretty much pull names out of a hat and say, ‘Go out, boys,’ and they’re going to compete. And if you look at it, half these guys are Dawgs academy alumni.

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“I can tell you there’s nothing like this anywhere else in North America.”

The names that stand out for the Dawgs in 2022 are plenty for Schmidt.

There’s his leaders — all returning success stories — such as pitcher Graham Brunner (5-0, 0.35 ERA — both league highs) and outfielders Noah Geekie (.337 batting average) and Tucker Zdunich (.284 average), of High River.

Then they’ve sprinkled in a few younger talents who have helped pace the club. The coach bills shortstop Ricardo Sanchez (.273), first baseman McCoy Pearce (371 average, three home runs) and outfielder Alejandro Cazorla (.352 average, three HR) — an Okotoks native — as “very special players.”

Added Schmidt, “It’s not only that they’re good players. They’re good kids.”

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And they’re surrounded by other “great human beings who are really good players.” Included are infielder Aidan Rose, outfielder Cesar Valero and pitchers Ryan McFarland and Seth Thompson — all Calgarians — and Okotoks arms Matt Wilkinson, Quinn Tocheniuk and Brody Forno.

Plus, infielder Brendan Luther sports the second-best batting average (.441) in the WCBL.

“We honestly had to break some hearts,” said Schmidt of the roster. “There’s some academy kids that wanted to play here that we didn’t have room for. You’ve got two or three other guys already here that are also academy guys playing at the same position and who have played here in the past. We can’t tell them to skip down the road when they’ve got seniority. It’s a tough call to make.

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“So they say, ‘OK, I’ll go somewhere else for two years, and when a roster spot opens up, I’ll come back.”

They usually do, helping to put together campaigns like this current one.

It’s not every year the Dawgs can live up to ‘championship or bust’ thoughts, but it’s always the aim.

“The first day way back in 2019, knowing what we had, I said, ‘Here’s the deal — our goal is to go 56-0,” Schmidt said. “Obviously. we didn’t do it. We won the championship in 2019. And then when we saw the guys we had coming back this year, it was, ‘Here’s the deal, guys — 56-0 and win the championship. That’s not beating our chests and being egotistical or anything like that. That’s an expectation of the Dawgs. The Dawgs are here to win.”

But really, they’re winners no matter the result …

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From the players to the fans in the stands, which are reasons enough to bring on the fireworks.

“This is an unbelievable place — that’s what I’ve told so many people that I’m involved with in baseball,” added Schmidt, stopping to praise the pioneers — such as Ircandia — of the Okotoks Dawgs Baseball Club. “The first time I brought my wife up here in 2018, she said, ‘Holy cow — that is so cool.’ The fans in Okotoks, they absolutely understand the game — they’re good fans. And it’s not just because they root for the Dawgs. It’s that they know what good baseball is. I’ve said before that one of the most amazing things I’ve dealt with is when you’ve got 4,200 people in the stands and the opposing teams makes an unbelievable play and your own fans stand up and clap and tip a hat just like the players respecting the game, and then you make a play and they’re even more rowdy.

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“So it’s something really special here. A lot of people don’t know that they’re missing out on something cool here.”


The gates open Canada Day at 4 p.m. with live music, face painting for ‘kids’ of all ages, mascot photo ‘ops’ and spectacular post-game fireworks all on the agenda … Friday’s contest is a rematch of Thursday’s game between the host Dawgs and the Prospects at Seaman Stadium (7:05 p.m.) … Saturday’s fun features a pre-game Jimmy Buffett Margaritaville Tribute Band ahead of the Dawgs-Lethbridge Bulls game (7:05 p.m.) … The follow-up homestand is a July 6-8 set against the Weyburn Beavers — Wednesday and Thursday — and the Brooks Bandits — on Friday. All games are at 7:05 p.m.


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