By Bob Elliott
Canadian Baseball Network
OKOTOKS, Alta. _ First baseman Kellen Marruffo was back in southern Alberta to pick up some hardware.
Yet, Okotoks Dawgs fans can still see him play again this summer. It’s only a 12 hour, 50 minute drive according to Mapquest and everyone knows how people of the Prairies don’t mind driving. The Western Major Baseball League summer college league’s MVP has signed with the Winnipeg Goldeyes of the independent American Association.
Marruffo will join INF Wes Darvill (Langley, BC) a former Langley Blaze, with the Goldeyes. Marruffo, 23, turned pro after playing for the University of Utah last spring. Marruffo hit .314 with three homers and 27 RBIs in 51 games while helping the Utes win the Pac-12 Conference.
Former Goldeye Tyler Graham, who coached the first baseman last summer recommended Marruffo to the Goldeyes’ manager Rick Forney.
The 2016 Dawgs awards from the WMBL ,,,
_ MVP: 1B Kellen Marruffo, Utah.
In his second season with the Dawgs he led with a .378 average with 14 doubles, six homers and 32 RBIs earning WMBL first team honors.
Marruffo thanked his billet family Suzanne and John Lines saying he took to Okotoks like a “cow to pasture.”
“You deal with the college game and you come here and you re-discovered how you love to play the game,” Marruffo said. “Thank you, thank you.”
He had a successful trip back except for when a clumsy oaf nearly slammed a car door on his ankle.
_ Rookie of the Year: Michael Gretler, Oregon State.
In his first season with the Dawgs Gretler played third, short and caught, but mostly he played, He earned first team all-star honors batting .336 with 36 RBIs.
_ Pitchers of the Year: Anthony Balderas, Lewis-Clark State and CJ Lewington (Calgary, Alta.) of Arkansas Pine Bluff.
Coming off winning the NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Id. Balderas joined the Dawgs for his first season and had a 0.85 ERA as the Dawgs closer. He walked four and struck out 27 in 20 innings. He earned WMBL first team honors as well.
Balderas thanked his mother and sister for “pushing my buttons every day.”
“I wasn’t a summer ball guy, I wasn’t going to play, but my family suggested I should,” said Balderas. “They told me ‘go to Canada, go and experience things.’ It was the best summer of my life. I had a summer to remember. You’d show up in the weight room, practice, play and eat.”
Lewington was 6-0 with a 2.83 and whiffed 35 hitter in 60 1/3 innings. He was a WMBL first team all-star as well.
_ True Grit Award: Brendan Rose (Calgary, Alta.) UBC.
The product of the Dawgs Academy became one of the best and most consistent player on the Dawgs in the WMBL. He batted .359 leading the team with 51 hits, with a .454 on-base mark and driving in 17 runs.
Rose said it was easier to wear a uniform in front of fans than to stand in front of the podium. He thanked his coaches and founding director John Ircandia. He thanked Academy coach Allan Cox saying “I once went a couple of rounds with him, I thought I was taking a slap shot.”
He then went on to thank coaches Dave Robb and Brett Thomas and former broadcaster Jon Hodgson for “making the Dawgs experience so special” and all the people in the room “for making it so special.”
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And the Academy awards went to
_ The Jimmy Henderson scholarship award, presented by Jimmy Henderson: OF Danny Donnelly.
_ The Jerry Bender character award, presented by Aaron Bender: Mikey Clapperton.
_ The Cam Christian Memorial scholarship awarded to the returning Dawgs Academy peewee player who most exemplifies characteristics and spirit of former Dawgs summer collegiate player, Cam Christian, presented by Dawgs original broadcaster Jon Hodgson: Owen Pote.
Hodgson explained how Christian played the outfield for the Dawgs in 2008, coming from Washington State and how he was named a WMBL All-star, rookie of the year, and most importantly to him, led the Dawgs to a championship. Christian brought passion and a relentless energy to the game. He was a presence on the field, in the clubhouse, and most importantly, he made an impact in the lives of his teammates.
The Christian family sends their regards to Okotoks, and the scholarship recipient, with this message: “Cam deeply loved the Dawgs. From the fans to his teammates and coaches, to the volunteers and management. His time with the Dawgs became the standard by which he measured the quality of other programs. Cam grew in both self-confidence and experience with the Dawgs and the memories he made in Okotoks were some of his best. He considered the Dawgs family.
We know that if he was still with us today, he would be following the team and visiting whenever he could. His life’s dream was to give back to the game that gave him so much. The Cam Christian Memorial Scholarship is in recognition of the difference the Dawgs organization has made in not only the lives of young ball players, but every fan and person connected with it.”
Dawgs academy scholarship winners (and those who have committed to schools already): RHP Andrew Asselin (Winnipeg, Man.) who signed to attend Colby Community College; RHP-INF Shaun Atamanchuk (Beaumont, Alta.) Indian Hills Community College; INF Jacob Bouzide (Calgary, Alta.) Colby; RHP-INF Michael Clapperton (Calgary, Alta.) Chandler-Gilbert Community College; SS-2B Nate Doleman (Courtenay, BC) Elllsworth Community College; OF Daniel Donnelly (Okotoks, Alta.) Chandler-Gilbert; 1B Soren Graversen (Calgary, Alta.) Indian Hills; OF Clayton Keyes (Calgary, Alta.) Central Arizona Community College; LHP Ryan Morgan (St. John’s, Nfld.) Colby; INF Brett Platts (Searletown, PEI) Southeastern Community College; OF Greg Student (Grand Prairie, Alta.) Mesa Community College; OF Will Undershute (Okotoks, Alta.) Southeastern; as well as Ben Tighe (Okotoks, Alta.), Scott Waterman (Calgary, Alta.), Tanner Bercier (La Salle, Alta.), Logan Cameron (Spruce Grove, Alta.), Adam Little, Tate Morrell and Hakeem Yatim (Okotoks, Alta.).