Story by: Dustin Saracini
Photo by: Amanda Fewer
In the background of every great team, there is an even better training staff.
For the Okotoks Dawgs, the unsung heroes behind the health and success of the players are Savannah Blakley and Laura Argue.
If you walk through Seaman Stadium’s gates a few hours prior to first pitch, or stick around postgame to run the bases, you may see Argue and Blakley hard at work: taping, bracing, conducting physical rehab to players who need the extra attention, and providing necessary advice in order for the team to stay healthy over a rigorous campaign. Evidently, the dedication the pair show to the athletes while ensuring peak performance has been second to none.
Each game, home or away, these two play a critical role. They may be behind the scenes, but their work deserves the spotlight.
“For me, it is definitely what I am most passionate about,” Blakley said. “I look forward to the season every year. I have worked with hockey, football, lacrosse, and several other sports, but at the end of the day, baseball is where my passion truly lies … Best part about it, is that after the treatment, we are there to help with any injuries that arise, but we also get to watch a baseball game every night in the summer.”
“Going to the stadium or on the road with the guys doesn’t feel like I’m going to work, l think it’s fair to say I’ve found my passion,” Argue added.
Not only are they baseball fans who love and enjoy what they do, but what puts their work over the top is the relationships they form throughout the summer. Becoming synonymous with a player’s – or friend’s – recovery forms a bond that is difficult to break. Not only that, but the two experience everything the team does: The ups and downs of the campaign, heartbreaking losses, but also the excitement of putting a tally in the win column. In many ways, the Dawgs wouldn’t be complete without the work of their athletic therapists.
“Each year is an entirely new group of guys and they all seem to connect in different ways,” Blakley said. “Overall, they have all been great and it is hard to say goodbye when they are seniors who are not coming back for another season. You get to know the guys really well in the two months with the team. Between traveling and the number of games that there are, there aren’t too many days that we aren’t working.”
“We are lucky, the Dawgs are a great group of guys,” Argue echoed. “They are respectful, fun, and keep us on our toes.”
For Blakley, getting into athletic therapy was something she was always interested in, looking at injuries as puzzles she can solve. Being a former athlete, she also missed the camaraderie.
“When you stop playing, you miss being part of a team and when working with the Dawgs or any team you get back in that atmosphere which is a lot of fun,” she said.
Argue has been with the Dawgs for seven seasons, and was always looking for an opportunity to help people. She, too, was a former athlete, playing fastball from T-Ball to University.
At the end of the day, there are a lot of positives that come with being an athletic therapist, especially within the Dawgs organization. A special type of personal satisfaction comes with playing a pivotal part in helping players battle back from injury to trot onto the field in front of 4000 strong. But, in dealing with myriad injuries, the news isn’t always good.
“The toughest situation from an injury perspective would probably be a couple years ago with a player who ended up tearing his ACL during the Canada Day game,” Blakley recalled. “It was tough to see him go down and out for the game and even harder given he was a senior. The positive out of it was that despite being injured, we were able to help his rehab so that he could take one more at-bat in that season to finish it off.”
“It’s never easy not allowing an athlete to play due to injury,” Argue said. “However, it is our job to keep them safe so they can play the game they love.”
In a game such as baseball, with plenty of zero-to-100 plays, injuries will happen. But, the next time a Dawg – whether it is the collegiate team or the Academy – has to take a day off to get healthy enough to play at his highest level, just know he is in good hands.