From the desk of John Ircandia, Managing Director, Okotoks Dawgs Baseball Program
HOLIDAY GREETINGS TO DAWGS FAMILY, FRIENDS & FANS
Hi everyone, this is John Ircandia, founding and managing director of the Dawgs. On behalf of our Dawgs Summer Collegiate Club, our Dawgs Youth Academy, our administration, coaches, management, well, our entire "Dawgs team", I wanted to wish you and yours the very best of the holiday season and provide you all with a bit of a "state of the union" in terms of the Dawgs.
Those of us who have been with the Dawgs from the beginning know how far we have come. There is much to be thankful for, including truly phenomenal fan support from Okotoks, the communities of the Foothills and the greater Calgary area. We have grown from a single youth team playing 90+ games a season "on the road", to a summer collegiate club that in 2017 averaged over 4,100 fans per game playing at the best amateur stadium in the country. From moms and dads in aluminum seats to six elite youth teams comprised of Canadian Junior National Team players, Major League Baseball Draft selections, and in keeping with the Dawgs original vision: an unparalleled, 100% track record in developing and graduating our youth players to the collegiate level.
As we approach 2018, I want to assure you that there is much more to look forward to. The Dawgs original commitment to deliver the very best in every aspect of our program remains constant, in fact, reminds me of that line by singer Neil Young, "rust never sleeps”. Indeed, the Dawgs are dedicated to providing our fans with the very best fan experience and our players with every possible opportunity to succeed. In terms of the upcoming 2018 season, you might describe our theme in these terms: "the best of the past blended with the promise of a fresh and exciting future".
It starts with the Dawgs' 2018 College Coaching Staff. After an extensive search and strong recommendations from our baseball friends in Canada and the United States, we are excited to welcome as Head Coach, Mitch Schmidt, currently the Associate Head Coach at Bellevue University in Nebraska. Bellevue is consistently ranked among the top 5 NAIA college programs in the USA, is a perennial NSAA Conference Champion and challenger at the NAIA World Series. In addition to the success of his Bellevue program, Coach Schmidt has already proven himself to be a tireless recruiter of talent for the Dawgs and perhaps most important, a consummate "team player". He gets it!
And that “team player” reference is where we blend in the best of the past as the Dawgs are fortunate to welcome back an outstanding coaching staff led by "about to be" Dawgs Hall of Famer, David Robb (Mesa JC, Arizona), Andy Peterson (Oregon State, Seattle Mariners) and Joe Sergent (Dawgs Academy, Florida Marlins).
As indicated, Mitch, DR, Andy and Joe have worked extremely hard in recruiting talent for our 2018 College Dawgs. While between injuries and the MLB Draft, summer college rosters are, in the words of Hall of Famer, Yogi Berra, "never over 'til (they're) over", Dawgs fans can look forward to the best of the past on the 2018 roster with the planned return of Dawgs and WMBL MVP, Kody Funderburk (Dallas Baptist), Dawgs and WMBL Rookie of the Year, Matt Lloyd (University of Indiana Hoosiers), WMBL All-star and True Grit Award Winner, Eddie Sanchez (Central Arkansas ), hometown standout, Justin King (University of Alabama Crimson Tide), Corey Jackson (Indian Hills, UNC Greensboro, NC), Ryan Humeniuk (Indian Hills, University of Louisiana Monroe) and JT Paterson (Bellevue).
And those familiar faces will be blended with some exciting new talent including former Dawgs Academy catcher, Cole MacLaren (University of Pittsburgh), Riley Baasch, Brandon Sparks, Junior Ramirez (all from Bellevue with Ramirez earning Pre Season All Conference honors), Patrick Chung and Jack Krauel (Gonzaga University, WA), Alex Jones (Niagara University, NY), Collin Ridout (Tennessee Wes., alma mater of Dawgs MLB player, Jim Henderson), Marcus Skundrich, Holden Bernhardt, Locke Bernhardt, Cameron Doherty, Carter Robinson, Dustin Schorie (all from Mesa JC, AZ), Craig Smith and Cody Ebert (both from Columbia, MO), Jordan Pepper (Seward Country, Kansas), Gunner Rainey and Pierce Banks (both from Adrian College, Michigan), and Nate DeChaine (Morningside College, Iowa). And the coaches are not done yet!
In addition, we must not forget the important contributions to the College Dawgs every season by an affiliate roster made up of first year Academy grads and the very best of the current Dawgs Youth Academy led by 2017 pitching standout, Graham Brunner (recently committed for the fall of 2018 to Indian Hills CC in Iowa).
Speaking of the Dawgs Youth Academy, our teams are once again coming off a season of multiple championships. In Canada, Dawgs team championships included the AAA Bantam and Peewee Alberta Championships, travelling to PEI and Quebec respectively for Canadian Nationals, and the AAA T2 Midget Championship. In addition, at showcase events in the United States, our top Midget Academy Team captured the prestigious Buckeye Elite Showcase at Ohio State as well as the Firecracker Invitational Showcase in Spokane, Wash. The Dawgs Academy also sent 2 more Dawgs players to Canada’s Junior National Team (Caesar Valero, recently committed to NCAA’s top ranked Oregon State University, and LaRon Smith, recently committed to Indian Hills, Iowa). Another Dawgs Academy player was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays (Clayton Keyes) in the 2017 MLB Draft and a record 22 players were selected by MLB scouts and the Toronto Blue Jays to attend the Blue Jays Tournament 12 Showcase at Rogers Centre in Toronto, where Dawgs newcomer, Micah McDowell was named T12 MVP.
And perhaps even more exciting as we look to 2018, our outstanding Academy Coaching Staff (now consisting of 10 full time professional coaches) has enjoyed its best recruiting season ever with elite players joining the Dawgs from Mexico, Venezuela and all over Canada to augment and "raise the bar" for a stronger than ever local base of youth talent from Okotoks and the greater Calgary area.
This blending of a phenomenal past with an exciting future will also manifest itself in the stands at Seaman Stadium as our outstanding operations staff will unveil various upgrades and additions which will make enjoying Dawgs Baseball even better. (Oops, the girls are telling me that's a secret......Okay, stay tuned. But you're going to like it...now zip!)
So while we are all bundling up against the winter chill and shoveling the white stuff off the sidewalks, find a smile knowing that spring isn't all that far off and with it, the brilliant, green grass of Seaman Stadium and Tourmaline Field, the pure, smiling faces of young Dawgs "rounding 3rd", to the delight of a full house of friends, family and fans cheering on our favourite baseball team.
On behalf of all Dawgs, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Best Wishes for a healthy and prosperous New Year.......
AND GO DAWGS!!!!
Okotoks Dawgs Baseball Club