The Weekly Dawg
By Dustin Saracini
Canadian Baseball Network
Okotoks, AB - Peter Hutzal is back with a vengeance this year.
Walking into Seaman Stadium, one may recognize the 5-foot-11, 170-pound agile infielder with the white sleeve nonchalantly bouncing balls off the wall during batting practice.
A season ago, the Okotoks Dawgs Academy product made an instant impact with the collegiate club. It was a solid step up from the J-Dawgs, a team he had suited up for since he was 12-years-old, but if you were to take a quick glance at the numbers, you will notice he made the transition look quite easy.
Hutzal began the 2016 campaign with a six-game hitting streak, four of those contests with two or more hits, while blasting a home run in his debut.
“I took the first pitch and I mean I was kind of thinking, ‘that is the best pitch I’m going to see this at-bat,’” he laughed.
“I ended up swinging at the next one and ended up hitting it pretty hard, so that was exciting, kind of eased me into the season.”
He recorded 17 base-knocks in eleven games, giving the fan base a glimpse into the Dawgs future.
“It was fun,” Hutzal grinned.
“You get to go out here and just have fun in front of a bunch of people and just play baseball. I was lucky enough that I got to play with Team Canada for awhile, so I got to play against pro competition and college guys a lot, so it wasn’t a crazy jump [in terms of skill level] but it’s still a big deal playing in front of all these people against a good level of competition.”
In grade 10, Hutzal became the youngest player on the Canadian roster as the team travelled across the globe to various tournaments in the Dominican Republic and Japan.
Two years later and just 11 games into the 2016 Dawgs season, however, things took a turn for the worse. Fielding a ball in the hole on his backhand, Hutzal stepped on a sprinkler head in Brooks, breaking his ankle and derailing what was a promising start to the season.
“It was tough, that was the first time I’ve ever been seriously injured at all in my life, so it was tough taking that much time off baseball,” he said.
“But it was also really good to give my body a full break, just to heal everything. It was a long road to recovery, it was tough, but it’s good to be back.”
Hutzal can now say he is 100 percent healthy after a strong freshman season with Iowa Western. The Calgary product enjoyed a .292 average in 40 games, and seemed to have spread the word of the Dawgs program throughout the year. Joining him from the division one NJCAA school will be catcher John Hawk, fellow infielder Kobe Hyland and outfielder Zach Hanna.
Accompanying Hutzal from the Academy is Justin King, Nick Vickers, Ryan Humeniuk, Jared Spearing, Matt Lloyd, CJ Lewington, Brendan Rose, Zach Demchenko, Graeme Cherry and Eddie Sanchez. In a short but action-packed season, Hutzal said it helps to have familiar faces around the facility.
“It’s awesome, it’s incredible, all these guys I grew up playing with, we had the time of our lives in the high school Academy.”
To Hutzal, the Dawgs program means more to him than learning under some of the great instructors the province and country has to offer. It’s about giving back to the community and making himself a better person away from the game.
“The coaches push us to be the best we can be off the field,” he said.
“We did a lot of stuff in the community, doing camps and helping little kids, that helps us get back down to earth when we get up too high. I owe a lot to this program.”
Hours away from first pitch, you can bet Hutzal and the rest of his teammates are set to begin their WMBL journey and break the eight-year championship drought, not only for themselves, but for the program that continues to develop their talents, and for the people of Okotoks who support them.