By: Dustin Saracini
Canadian Baseball Network
The workhorse is back.
A season ago, C.J. Lewington led the Okotoks Dawgs on the mound with 60.1 innings under his belt, accompanying his tremendous campaign with a 2.83 ERA and a perfect 6-0 record. This, of course, earned him pitcher of the year honours and a WMBL first team all-star nod.
In order to post these jaw-dropping numbers, the Calgary product says it’s a result of quality teammates.
“Being able to throw that many innings, a lot of it is having a great defence behind me,” he said.
“I obviously wouldn’t be able to do it without the solid defence behind me. They save pitches, they save long innings … off the field it’s keeping up with my post-throwing recovery stuff and trying to stay in shape throughout the whole season.”
The six-win campaign placed him second in the WMBL in terms of wins/losses, behind just Jared Libke of Medicine Hat and Bobby St. Pierre of Swift Current, who both had seven.
The 6’2”, 190-pound senior will be toeing the rubber for the third time in a red and white jersey come June, in an atmosphere he is all too familiar with. In high school, Lewington played for the Dawgs academy, but something happened before then which escalated his desire to play for his hometown team.
“I fell in love with the game at a really young age,” he said.
“I was originally a bat boy for the Calgary Dawgs when they were stationed in Calgary before Okotoks. It was really cool to get a feel for what the Dawgs were all about and I really looked up to them growing up. Being able to play on that team that I once looked up to is such an awesome feeling, being able to represent an area that I’m from is so awesome and means so much.”
Lewington joins an Okotoks rotation sporting three seniors capable of controlling a game and stealing a win on any given start. Third-year Dawg Liam Stroud of UBC and Chris Horvath of Wayne State round out the fourth-year hurlers looking to make an everlasting impression on the 2017 roster.
“We can show the new guys and the guys that haven’t played at that level yet, we can show them a different way to play the game,” he said.
“[We can show them] a more heartfelt and mature way to play the game. Especially playing in front of a lot of fans, a lot of guys might get a little nervous … it helps having a lot of older guys on the team to show the younger guys the ropes and having more leaders on the team.”
At school, Lewington laces his cleats up for the Arkansas Pine Bluff Golden Lions as one of two Canadians on the club. Pitching in division one of the NCAA has its challenges -- especially when going up against powerhouses like the University of Alabama -- but the right-hander says it’s what the Dawgs organization has instilled in him that allows him to feel like himself on the bump.
“Okotoks has helped me to be able to go into those big stadiums and be able to feel comfortable,” he said.
“Just because we’ve been there. Being able to play in a big stadium like Seaman Stadium and have all those fans and everything, it could be kind of nerve wracking, but that matures you as a baseball player and allows you to go into those other places and have success.”
Taking a step back to look at the big picture, Lewington is always amazed how tightly-knight the Dawgs are woven into the fabric of the Okotoks community. The fans will once again be able to see his five-pitch repertoire (four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, curveball, slider and changeup) on full display this year as the Dawgs look to come bursting out of the gate.
UPDATE: Dawgs in the big leagues
Jordan Procyshen - Boston Red Sox (cut March 14 -- will begin the season in double-A Portland)
1-9, 1 RBI, .111 AVG, .100 OBP
Jim Henderson - Chicago Cubs (released by the Cubs March 23)
0-1, 9.64 ERA, 4.2 IP, 3 SO