By Bob Elliott
Canadian Baseball Network
OKOTOKS, Alta. _ Earlier this year Dave Robb was inducted into the Okotoks Hall of Fame.
Long before this winter, Robb was held in high regard.
Not just in Mesa, Az. where he serves as a coach in the spring.
And not just in this lovely burg south of Calgary, where he spends his summers as pitching coach of the Okotoks Dawgs collegians.
Robb (Lac Le Bichhe, Allta.) is so respected because he has walked in the college players’ shoes ... all the way to Omaha and the College World Series.
On Jan. 10, 2015, the late longtime coach Augie Garrido gave a speech at Cal State Fullerton’s annual Dinner With The Titans. He left the game with a 1,975-919-9 record as the winningest coach in the history of Division I ball, coaching at San Francisco State, Cal Poly, Fullerton, Illinois and Texas. He won five College World Series and made 15 trips to Omaha.
“The biggest thing wrong with college ball today is entitlement,” said Garrido, who retired after the 2016 season.
“In 1975, my first year at Cal State Fullerton, we made it to the College World Series,” he said. “We had a guy named Dave Robb who had played second base all season and when we got to Omaha we moved him to first base. He told me, ‘Whatever helps the team coach.’
“If I did that today, the player would look at me and say, ‘Are you kidding? I’ve got four select team coaches, three pro scouts and my mailman who used to play triple-A telling me that my future is at second base. What are you doing to me?’”
George Horton was the Titans first baseman that season when Garrido switched to Robb. Horton is the current coach of the Oregon Ducks program. He has a 781–409–2 record starting at Cerritos College in 1985 and moving on to Cal State Fullerton and Oregon.
Greg Hamilton (Peterborough, Ont.) and Robb were inducted into the Okotoks Hall at the sold-out banquet held at the Foothills Centennial Centre. Their plaques will be on display behind the press box at Seaman Stadium this summer when the Dawgs college season begins.
Robb managed the Dawgs to their first Western Major Baseball League title in 2004 and was part of the decision making championship process from 2007-09. As founding director John Ircandia said in his intro “Dave envisioned what it meant to be a Dawg, before there was even a Dawgs program.”
“I’m like a lot coaches,” Robb said. “You don’t go into coaching for honours — the honour is to work with the kids. To help them improve and go onto other levels. And to think back to what those players and the contributions they make in baseball, business, their lives and family.
Garrido once told Robb, “You can’t run, you can’t hit, but you can play second base for me.”
Robb thanked his wife Dana for putting up with his gypsy life-style, coaching in Italy, in the Oakland A’s organization and with Canada. And when he returns home after the game Dana has questions:
“Why did you leave him in so long?”
“Why do you guys always swing at the first pitch?”
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Robb had words of advice to young and old in the crowd
1. Continue to educate yourself however you can. You’re never too old to learn.
2. Be humble
3. The only way to lead is through serving others.
4. Fill your circle with good people. Those people will push you to be the best person you can be so you can enrich the lives of others
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With the Mesa Community College Thunderbirds, a NJCAA division II powerhouse, he is pitching coach under Tony Cirelli.
C Caleb Lumbard (Regina, Sask.), OF Greg Student (Sexsmith, Alta.) and LHP Max Williams (Tsawwassen, BC,) are with Mesa. Previous Thunderbirds from north of the border include RHP Nikolas Cardinal (Bonnyville, Alta.) and SS Levi Larmour (Mississauga, Ont.).
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Hamilton pitched in Peterborough, then for manager Bob Nelson with the East York juniors, moved on to pitch for the Princeton Tigers. He then coached at Princeton, the University of Maine Black Bears and the Montpellier Barracudas in France. He wasn’t there long but he did make an impact. The Barracudas now play on Greg Hamilton Field.
“In the last 20 years that I have known Greg Hamilton, he has done more for baseball in Canada than anyone I know,” Robb said.
In 1998, Hamilton took its first Canadian Junior National Team on a spring trip to Florida to play first and second-year pros still at extended spring training.
C-1B Justin Morneau (New Westminster, BC) and LHP Jeff Francis (North Delta, BC) were on that team, but Hamilton said the player who drew the most attention from scouts to his team was LHP Adam Loewen (Surrey, BC). Loewen played on the 2000 team with INF Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.). And in 2002, Loewen was selected fourth over-all by the Baltimore Orioles.
Current Dawgs Academy players, Cesar Valero (Calgary, Alta.) and LaRon Smith (Spruce Grove, Alta.) have been selected to the Canadian Junior National Team by Hamilton. He coached Jim Henderson (Calgary, Alta.) who pitched 155 games majors with the Milwaukee Brewers and the New York Mets as well as INF-C Emerson Frostad (Calgary, Alta.), who played 10 seasons in the minors.
“I have watched the Dawgs from their inception to what it is today — it’s a tremendous honour to be part of this family, I watched John Ircandia keep umpires in check whether it was in Parksville, BC or in Calgary,” Hamilton said. “The Dawgs have helped the national team tremendously.
“When quality players from Alberta and across Canada come to the Dawgs, they come to the national team prepared. It makes it a whole lot easier for the national program when you have kids coming from really great coaching and development programs.”
Hamilton said he does not have a problem sending players to a program like the Dawgs.
“We kind of reinforce each other’s needs, there is a lot of mutual respect,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton also spoke of the 2016 bench-clearing brawl when Canada battled Mexico in the World Baseball Classic at Phoenix. He mentioned one of Dawgs Hall of Famer Blair Kubicek (Dibby, NS) former players LHP Jay Johnson (Sussex Corner, NB).
“Some of us hid behind the left hook of Jay Johnson,” said Hamilton jokingly. “We wound up on between periods of Hockey Night in Canada with Don Cherry that night.”
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A total of $272,000 US has been committed in scholarships for this fall ... as soon as everyone hands in their final marks.
The young graduating Dawgs have moved on to play at the next level after learning from co-head coaches Allen Cox and Jeff Duda (Surrey, BC). as well as Tyler Hollick (Calgary, Alta.), Lou Pote, Val Helldobler, Josh MacInnis (Cole Harbour, NS), Bretton Gouthro (Calgary, Alta.), Joe Sergent, Aaron Ethier- (Calgary, Alta.), Brad MacInnis, Scott Smith, Jordan Procyshen (Calgary, Alta.) and Jim Henderson (Calgary, Alta.).
And someday someone from this hard-working coaching staff could join Robb and Hamilton in the Dawgs Hall of Fame.