* OFs Garrett and Drake Kirkwood (Sudbury, Ont.), wearing white sleeves are twin weapons for the Okotoks Dawgs and that's because they are twins -- born one minute apart. The paid are headed to Spalding University Golden Eagles in the fall. ....
By Bob Elliott
OKOTOKS, Alta. _ A long time ago in a land far away someone told me that interviewing twins was difficult.
Looking across the table at Garrett and Drake Kirkwood at the Foothills Centennial Centre before the start of the eighth annual Okotoks Dawgs banquet was different.
These guys were not Minnesota Twins.
They were identical twins.
I mean identical ... cookie cutter ... as in duplicates.
Let’s go to the roster ....
Name: Garrett Kirkwood Bats: L. Throws: R. Height: 5’ 9”. Weight: 170 lbs. Position: CF. Born: Sudbury, Ont. Uniform number: 18. 60-yard time: 6.9 seconds. Born: Dec. 27, 1996, 2:10 PM
Name: Drake Kirkwood. Bats: R. Throws R. Height: 5’ 9”. Weight: 170 lbs. Position: OF. Born: Sudbury, Ont. Uniform number: 14. 60-yard time: 6.8. Born: Dec. 27, 1996, 2:11 PM
So, there’s not much to chose between the two ... except the uniform numbers and the fact Garrett hits from the left side.
(This wasn’t going to be so tough with a large G as in Garrett on the left side of the page and a large D on the right hand side.)
Finally something funny is said and Drake smiles showing braces.
Aha! A tell, as they say around the poker table.
“I wore braces in grade 9 and 10,” says Garrett.
“... but there was a time before I put them on for grade 11 and 12,” said Drake “people struggled telling us apart.”
So do you guys root for the Twins?
“The St. Louis Cardinals,” they both said at once.
The twins explained that their father Chris, who worked for Sears in Sudbury, came west along with mom Rebecca for a better job opportunity. And Chris was a St. Louis fan growing up and so when they started playing ball, they were Cardinals fans. “We’ve been die hard fans ever since,” Drake said.
Garrett said he father visited Busch Stadium as a seven-year-old and saw Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Roger Maris and the others Cardinal greats play. Chris passed his love of the Cardinals on to the boys and Garrett says "one of the greatest moments ever came during the 2011 World Series.
“People get us mixed up daily,” said Garrett.
“I’d say it happens about half a dozen times a day,” said Drake.
(Add another one ... one twin politely says “ah sir, that D at the top of the second page should be a G, making the G on the other side a D.” ... Sorry guys.)
Garrett, we think, said his most memorable hit ever with the Dawgs was in 2009 at the provincial bantams when he was playing as an underager against the heavily-favored St. Albert team. He went 5-for-5 with two doubles, three stolen bases and three RBIs, including the walk-off hit in the 15-4 ‘mercy-rule’ win.
Drake, we think, remembers his most memorable hit ever with the Dawgs the next year in 2010 at the same tournament when his team was trailing 3-0. He hit a bases-loaded triple to tie the game and scored on a single by Nick Vickers as the Dawgs went on to win 10-3.
Now the Kirkwood twins are off to Lexington, Ky. signing Letters of Intent to attend Spadling University Golden Eagles, an NCAA D3 school.
Dawgs coach Allen Cox has a way of telling the twins apart.
“I have a tiny, tiny mole on my neck,” said Garrett searching first on the right side and then the left before he finds it. “He’ll say mole ... 'mole, holy moly guacamole ... G ... Garrett.'”
So, in the spring and fall when it’s chilly we’re guessing Cox is like the rest of us ... if he can’t see the numbers ... and neither one has a bat in his hand.
The twins were honored as the winners of the Jimmy Henderson scholarship winner.
The Milwaukee Brewers reliever and Dawgs Hall of Fame inductee presented a $500 cheque for each to put towards the cost of schooling.
“We had a novice hockey coach,” Drake said of their days with the Shaw Meadows Lightening. “I don’t think he ever got us right ... once.”
They skated for Shaw Meadows until grade 9 and that’s when they began playing ball year round with the Dawgs.
What about in the field? On a pop up do teammates ever call out the wrong name for someone to catch a ball?
Garrett tells of their days playing Cal South Little League in a game against Rocky Mountain.
Garrett was playing centre and Drake was playing shortstop.
Garrett: “There was a bloop into shallow centre. I was charging. I believe I was calling it. And I caught it as he was running out.”
Drake: “I was running back on the ball and it went off the top of my glove.”
Garrett: “Yeah, I back-handed it for a snow cone.”
Drake: “The ump told my father at the end of the half inning it was the greatest catch he’d ever seen.”
Fastest bus boy: The quickest man moving like a blur in his white Dawgs No. 8 uniform during the annual Dawgs banquet was Peter Hutzal (Calgary, Alta.). Hutzal showed a spring in his step bouncing from table No. 5 to No. 16 to the bar for Diet Coke to No. 5.
Such is life at a lot of banquets: graduating seniors are honored and dine, while the players from younger teams serve food -- in this case smoked sterling silver Alberta Prime rib from Rylies Cattle Barn -- and collect the empty plates.
Of course bouncing around is nothing new for Hutzal (Calgary, Alta.). Consider one recruiter watching from the concourse during September’s Tournament 12 at the Rogers Centre: “He played third and caught for Alberta at the Canada Cup, got up on the mound and I had him at 88 MPH off the mound. Now, here he’s playing shortstop. He’s a great athlete. How many guys here can pitch, catch, play a corner and play the middle?”
The Hutzal of all trades played third base, caught, was at shortstop, played second, played the outfield and pitched playing for coaches Gord Gerlach, Allex Cox and Rob Boik. He could be Bert Campaneris: nine positions in nine innings. His best position? Shortstop according to his coaches.
And he has bounced around the recruiting trail as well attracting interest and making visits to the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers, Michigan State Spartans, Ohio State Buckeyes and the Indiana Hooisers amongst four-year schools, as well as the Chandler-Gilbert Coyotes and the Central Arizona Vaqueros.
“I liked Michigan State -- being in Michigan was like being in Canada,” Hutzal said.
Hutzal spent his early days playing Little League in Cal West with the Orioles. With the Rockies was a RHP named Mike Soroka who is the best right-handed high school arm in the country. Hutzal is a year younger.
“Some days he got me, some days I got him,” said Hutzal.
Soroka recalls playing for the Rockies one year, then the Orioles the next.
“The year I played for the Orioles Hutzal moved up,” Soroka said. “I think it was a bit of both. Our best days in Little League were on the Cal West All Star team. Those were the times we remember the most I’m sure.”
They were teammates with the Canadian Junior National Team, with Hutzal playing second alongside SS Royce Ando (Mississauga, Ont.).
The longest homer Hutzal ever saw either Gareth Morgan (North York, Ont.) or OF-1B Josh Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) hit?
“When Gareth came up coaches would stop hitting ground balls to watch him hit,” the infielder said. “I saw him hit one well over 400 feet.” Morgan was the top Canuck selected in June and was given a $2 million US signing bonus.
And this year either Demi Orimoloye (Ottawa, Ont.) or Naylor will be the top high schooler selected.
“Josh hit one about 450 feet against the Dominican All-Stars at the big stadium in Santo Domingo,” said Hutzal, his eyes growing wide, “There were about 8,5000 people there ... about 15 were Canadians.”
Bats, not pucks: 3B Brett Esau (Meadow Lake, Sask.), 17, is a grade 11 student.
Esau was born in Milwaukee ... since mom Pamela gave birth while her husband Len Esau, a fifth round draft choice of the Toronto Maple Leafs, was patrolling the blue line for the Milwaukee Admirals during the 1997-98 season. Len played 11 seasons including 27 games in the NHL with the Maple Leafs, Quebec Nordiques, Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers. When the hockey life was over Len and Pamela returned to Meadow Lake.
“I like baseball, I’m probably a better ball player than a hockey player,” said the former right winger.
Esau hit .579 (11-for-19) with a double and nine RBIs at the Canada Cup in his home province in Saskatoon. He walked once and struck out twice. The best high school hitter in the tourney earned the top hitter in the championships.
He was 2-for-3 with three RBIs in a 12-2 triumph over Manitoba in the opener, was 3-for-3 with an RBI in an 11-2 win against Nova Scotia, was hitless in an 11-1 loss to Newfoundland, was 3-for-4 with a double and two RBIs in a 7-4 win over PEI and singled in his only at-bat a 9-8 win over New Brunswick. He singled in a run in a 3-1 loss to BC in the semi-final and singled in a run in an 11-2 loss to Quebec, in the bronze-medal game.
Arriving in the fall, he admitted he was “a little homesick” at the start. His best friend is Regina’s John Duff recently decided to return home to the newly opened Martin Academy in Regina which opened in the fall.
Greg Brons is credited by Esau for making him the player he is today.
“Greg got me into baseball -- showed me what to do with it, he recruited me for Team Saskatchewan two years before when I was a bantam,” Esau says. “I really like the atmosphere here at Okotoks. It’s friendly, it’s a second home.”
Esau had a pair of doubles in the game off December at the Perfect Game National Underclass showcase at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Az., spring home of the Chicago White Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
HOFer up next: Blue Jays Hall of Famer 2B Robbie Alomar was asked what advice he had for the young Dawgs in the crowd.
“Stay away from the girls,” Alomar deadpanned as the teen-agers laughed and giggled. “No seriously I see myself in you. You have the same dreams I had. The game won’t come to you. You have to go to the game.”
And then being inducted with Blue Jays former GM Pat Gillick in 2012 and visiting Cooperstown the previous two Julys to sit on the same stage as Ryan, Robinson and Aaron.
“If it wasn’t for my mother and father I wouldn’t have made it,” Alomar said.
Alomar stayed for the 45-minute live auction and then signed autographs and posed for pictures for an hour before heading to Edmonton and a signing on the next day.
Dot dots: In his acceptance speech Dawgs inductee Jim Henderson looked at guest speaker Alomar and said “how he looked up to Robbie ... I broke keys off my brother (Scott) piano doing the leg kick after making diving stops.” ... Whatever happened to Chad Marshall? Last we saw former Ontario Terrier Brent Marshall (Paris, Ont.) he was working at the Badlands Baseball Academy in Oyen. Now, he took over for Lou Pote, hired by the Dawgs, to run the sandlot program in Fort McMurray. And Marshall guided his Fort team to victory in the provincial tier-II level ... The Dawgs began in 1995 with 15 players. Now managing director John Ircandia has almost as many coaches looking after 126 academy players and the 32-man summer roster: Brett Thomas, Allen Cox, AJ Fystro, Dave Robb, Jeff Duda, Val Helldobler, Brad Macinnis, Frank Ingram, Greg Wolfe, Lou Pote, Bruce Walton, former Blue Jays coach from 2002-2012 (and before that in the Jays minor-league system), John Grana, Scott Smith and Josh MacInnes. Plus Tyler Hollick, Jordan Procyshen and Jimmy Henderson on a part-time basis ...
And the award winners: The winners from the Dawgs Western Major League’s summer team ...
SS Ellis Kelly - True Grit Award .269, six doubles, two triples, one HR, 16 RBIs, eight steals
OF Brendan Rose - Rookie of the Year .282 average, 3 doubles, 16 RBIs, 3 SBs
LHP Tyrell King - Top Pitcher 4-3, 2.77, 12 G, 11 GS, 21 BBs, 53 Ks in 65 IPs.
INF Connor Crane - MVP .300, 18 doubles, 2 triples, 4 HRs, 32 RBIs, 25 steals
2013 Pitcher _ Hayden Cleveland. True Grit _ Jordon Procyshen MVP _ Thomas Rodrigues Rookie _ Josh Meyers.
2012 Pitcher _ Matt Thornton True Grit _ Rylan Chin MVP _ Austin Voros Rookie _ Jarod Bartnik
2010 Pitcher _ Desmond Sullivan True Grit _ Danny Britton MVP _ Jeff Harkansee Rookie _ Andrew Kinder
2009 Pitcher _ Jeff Duda True Grit _ Jeremy Shelby MVP _ Anthony Cros Rookie _ Mac Sullivan
2008 Pitcher _ Mark Hardy True Grit _ Manny Kumar MVP _ Brett Thomas Rookie _ Cam Christian
2007 Pitcher _ Jeff Duda True Grit _ Brett Thomas MVP _ Manny Kumar Rookie _ Jake Bottari