By Dustin Saracini
Okotoks, AB. – The Okotoks Dawgs are pleased to announce the award winners for the 2017 summer collegiate season, as well as the keynote speaker for the winter banquet held on Saturday, January 27, 2018.
The Dawgs award winners are:
Most Valuable Player: Kody Funderburk (INF/DH - Dallas Baptist)
Rookie of the Year: Matt Lloyd (INF - Indiana University)
Pitcher of the Year: Tyler Burdett (P - Dixie State)
True Grit Award: Eddie Sanchez (INF - Central Arkansas)
All awards will be presented at the 11th annual Dawgs Award Banquet and Fundraiser.
Furthermore, Calgary Stampeders quarterback -- 2014 Grey Cup Champion and the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player in 2016 -- Bo Levi Mitchell, will be the keynote speaker.
Mitchell burst onto the scene in his first full year with Calgary, throwing for 3,389 yards and 22 touchdown passes before ultimately defeating the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the finale of the 2014 CFL campaign. Mitchell connected on 25 of 34 passes on Canada’s biggest stage -- at just 24-years-old -- including a record of 10 straight completions, tying the third longest streak in Grey Cup history.
In 2016, Mitchell strung together his best season to date, throwing for 5,385 yards and 32 touchdowns. This summer, the Stampeder gunslinger showed exactly what he could do with a bat in his hands, winning the home run derby at the Field of Dreams event at Seaman Stadium while guiding the Stampeders to a victory over the Calgary Flames alumni.
Funderburk earned MVP honours after blasting a franchise record and WMBL-high 15 regular season home runs in his first year with the Dawgs. Funderburk demonstrated power not yet seen before at the WMBL level and quickly made himself at home in the cleanup spot. Not only has the Arizona product been named the top Dawg, but his ability at the plate also earned him WMBL MVP in 2017. Overall, Funderburk batted .339 with 62 hits -- second on the team -- while driving in a league-leading 55 RBI. On the mound, the slugger at Dallas Baptist University was just as impressive. Funderburk finished with a spotless ERA out of the bullpen, pitching nine innings of shutout baseball while striking out 11.
“An offensive force in the league this year, Kody is only going to get better,” assistant coach and Dawgs Hall of Famer Dave Robb said. “He is maturing as a hitter, becoming a professional hitter. Added to his mound presence, velocity and defensive abilities he makes an attractive professional prospect. Kody is a quiet leader in the clubhouse and was one to volunteer for community events during the summer.”
Lloyd earned Rookie of the Year following a fantastic campaign. The Dawgs Academy product was named WMBL’s Player of the Week several times, leading the pack in terms of batting average (.402) over the course of the regular season. Lloyd was instrumental in the Dawgs’ highest winning season to date, playing four different defensive positions while solidifying his role as the three-hitter. One of his biggest accomplishments during the 2017 campaign was his 24-game hitting streak, collecting 44 hits over that span. Lloyd led the club in multi-hit games as well with 22 despite missing the first week of the season. Prior to suiting up for the red and white, Lloyd continued his hot pursuit of the MLB with Indiana University, finishing second on the club in batting average (.301) and RBI (46) while earning a 3-2 record and a 2.23 ERA on the mound. Lloyd was listed at number 10 in Bob Elliott’s Canadian Baseball Network draft rankings in May.
“Matt takes a serious approach to hitting and to the game of baseball,” Robb said. “He was always a threat at the plate and came up big in key situations for the Dawgs this year. Matt is humble and hardworking, two ingredients to a successful athlete.”
Burdett was automatic at the backend of the bullpen for the Dawgs this summer. Making the transition from middle reliever a year ago to closer, Burdett showed no hesitation in accepting his new role. The Dixie State graduate earned WMBL Pitcher of the Week, racked up the most saves in the league (13) and allowed just two earned runs in 24 innings of work -- good for a 0.75 ERA. His ability to mix his pitches alongside an extremely heavy fastball earned him the Pitcher of the Year honours.
“Tyler Burdett was our guy out of the ‘pen in 2017,” Robb said. “There have not been many years as good as he had. Great numbers! ‘Mister Cool,’ nothing seemed to bother him. Burdett demonstrated to all what execution is all about. He worked at his craft and went out every night and executed the effort put in during practice. A professional approach to his trade.”
Sanchez continued to be a Dawg through and through this year, earning the True Grit Award. Flying to Okotoks from Mexico City at a young age, Sanchez excelled in the Academy before suiting up for his first full year with the collegiate club this summer. Playing at Central Arkansas in the fall, Sanchez dug himself into the top of the lineup on a daily basis in Okotoks, capping off an excellent season with a .341 batting average -- second on the club, behind Lloyd. Sanchez was an asset in the lineup, using his patient hitting approach to draw a club-high 31 walks. His quick feet earned him 11 stolen bases -- also second on the club -- and was an absolute anchor playing the hot corner.
“Eddie Sanchez is our ‘sparkplug,’” Robb said. “He ignited our offense with quality at-bats all season long, remembering the leadoff single to start the four-run ninth inning rally with two outs. Eddie also was well liked and respected by his teammates, coaching staff and people around the organization. Eddie is a quality person and tremendous asset to the Dawgs.”
Robb and Baseball Canada’s director of national teams and head coach Greg Hamilton will be inducted into the Dawgs Hall of Fame during the banquet as well.