Calgary Journal Online

A day at the Dawgs PDF Print E-mail
Written by ROBERT BRAGG   
Monday, 12 July 2010 14:50

Going to the dogs in Okotoks, the big rock town 15 minutes south of Calgary on Hwy 1A, takes on a whole new meaning when you consider the Dawgs of Okotoks.

The Okotoks Dawgs baseball club, the facility it operates out of, and the entertainment and services the team provides to the town are about as far removed as possible from the idea of decline associated with going to the dogs.

When three friends and I went to a game at Seaman Stadium June 25, we found a state-of-the-art baseball stadium. We also found an efficient, non-profit organization showcasing a team of college-trained players who have won the Western Major Baseball League (WMBL) championship the last three years in a row.

 

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Dawgs’ tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for students and seniors.

Photo courtesy of Okotoks Dawgs Baseball Club

As the sun slowly set over the south-facing stadium, we settled in to watch a well-pitched game with the Dawgs’ David Otterman facing arch rival Dan Rogers, of the Swift Current Indians.

 

“It’s A-level – summer collegiate level—ball,” owner-manager John Ircandia told us. It was Ircandia who accepted the invitation from the town of Okotoks to relocate the Dawgs after they’d lost a legal tussle with the Vipers for access to Foothills Stadium in Calgary.

That was in 2002. The plan was not just to build a ball diamond and see if people would come.

Said Ircandia: “We wanted to create a youth program to help kids develop their baseball skills in a real way.”

And that’s what the Dawgs have done in Okotoks.

Seaman Stadium includes an indoor, heated baseball practice field house where aspiring teens can work on their pitching, running, and hitting skills under the guidance of skilled baseball coaches. The result today are six youth Junior Dawgs teams who play at skill levels beyond their years.

It’s a system which has fed U.S. colleges with players while the U.S. colleges have players who jump at the chance to come up to Okotoks for three months of competitive baseball play during their college off-season. The Canadian and American college players comprise the senior Dawgs, who dominate the WMBL.

“Let the Big Dawg Eat” -- this slogan dominates the entrance to the stadium. It sums up the team’s winning approach and might explain why the town and surrounding Calgary communities show up in force for the 25 home games every summer.

Last July 1, Canada Day, a record 2,800 people jammed into the 1,600-seat stadium and hillside standing-room-only ‘berm’ along the third base foul line.  On the night we went, the berm was jumping with kids who chased the foul balls and the crowd happily sang Take Me Out To The Ballgame during the 7th inning stretch. The mascot Doggity Dawg kept up the energy in between baseball action.

 
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