The Weekly Dawg
By Dustin Saracini
Canadian Baseball Network
OKOTOKS, AB - A brief slice of Dawgs baseball in 2016 wasn’t enough for Justin King -- a true Okotoks product -- who returns to Seaman Stadium this summer hungry for another shot at a WMBL title.
In just 14 games a season ago, the outfielder/first baseman made an instant impact slashing a .377 average with 12 RBI, nine runs and six doubles in 53 plate appearances.
“It was definitely nice getting that first at-bat out of the way,” King reflected on his time with the red and white.
“[I was a] high school player coming up with the big team that you’ve been looking up to for the past six years, I just wanted to get that at-bat through. Lucky I got a little bloop single which kind of boosted my confidence a little bit, and after that it was really just regular baseball, the game you love to play.”
King’s talent has always been on full display -- in 2015 he earned a 9.5 rating from a Perfect Game evaluator at a showcase in Phoenix, Ariz., the highest ever for a Dawgs player.
Moving into college, the Okotokian continued to swing a hot bat with Indian Hills Community College (NJCAA Div. 1), working as a catalyst in the early parts of the campaign. Through their first 10 games, the 6’2” 215-pounder racked up 13 hits, including five home runs, four doubles and 18 RBI. All of this was on the back of his three-hit, five-RBI performance against Garden City. It has been a year of turnaround for Indian Hills this season, who have surpassed their win total from last year with a month remaining.
It was all coming easy for the freshman from Okotoks -- that was until the utility man fractured the hamate bone in his wrist. The injury has sidelined him for over a month.
“For surgery, they took the bone out because it’s actually not really needed in your body,” King said.
Despite the fracture -- and with proper rehab -- all signs point toward the youngster taking the field in the final month of the season for Indian Hills, as well as with Okotoks when the calendar flips to June. In a recent conversation, an optimistic King said he had already begun to hit and is feeling well -- exactly what fans want to hear.
When Opening Weekend arrives, the 19-year-old is looking to keep his injury in the rearview and is ready to play for the name on the front of his jersey.
“I definitely want to be one of those players that can contribute to the team in any way possible,” he said.
“[Whether it’s] on the field, or keeping a good vibe with the team if times are a little rough. I definitely want to make sure I’m always there for the team.”
Following King to Okotoks are Indian Hills teammates Ryan Humeniuk (OF) and Jared Spearing (LHP), who are both products of the Dawgs academy. Through 43 games Humeniuk is hitting .312/.366/.484 at the plate with two home runs and 32 RBI, while the southpaw is sporting a 3-4 record and a 4.27 ERA.
“They definitely know what it’s like in Okotoks and how the pressure is always on and how there’s always a lot of fans at every game” King said of his conversations with the two.
“The one thing is, they’re definitely ready to compete, that’s for sure.”
The upcoming season has been a long time coming for King. His journey to play a vital role on the collegiate team started in grade five when he was introduced to the baseball scene by longtime Dawgs coach and mentor, Dave Robb. The program clasped onto King and his family, who have now served as season ticket holders since the club moved from Calgary.
“As the years went by I got to join the bantam Dawgs, and ever since then I spent six years with the Dawgs academy.”
King spoke just three words when asked about the atmosphere when playing at Seaman Stadium.
“It’s always electric.”
First pitch is just a month away.