When it comes to Canada Day, nobody does it better than the Okotoks Dawgs.
The Dawgs put on another fantastic show in honour of Canada’s 151stbirthday, just like they have for the past 11 years in Okotoks.
But not everyone knew what was in store in the events leading up to, during and after the first pitch against the Regina Red Sox.
Of the 35 men on the Dawgs roster this season, only 14 of them have experienced Canada Day on Canadian soil and even fewer have witnessed the spectacle that is Seaman Stadium on July 1.
Cole MacLarenis part of the Canadian minority on the roster. Despite playing for the Dawgs Academy in high school, he still didn’t have a solid understanding of what to expect.
“I heard stories about what it was like to play here just by being around the college team a little in high school. Coming over from the Maritimes, summer leagues would need seven or eight games to get the same attendance of what we had here the other night,”said MacLaren, a product of Morell, P.E.I.
The Canada Day Game is easily the Western Major Baseball League regular season highlight for the players and fans. This year, the stands were packed an hour before the game and the final head count was 4,889. There wasn’t even standing room on the concourse or out on the berm. Every seat was spoken for.
For many Americans on the roster, most of them never spent July 1 in Canada before and didn’t know much of the history behind the big day.
“Honestly, I didn’t really know a whole lot about Canada Day. I figured it was going to be something like Independence Day, but that was about it,” said Nate DeChaine, a Brainerd, Minn., native. “We usually do fireworks and my hometown throws a concert at the football field on July 4. I’ve never got to play baseball on Independence day, so it was great to experience this. This was so awesome to be apart of.”
Even with the heads up from fellow Canadian teammates that have played in the iconic game before, the energy in the stands still caught certain Americans off guard.
“I spoke with some guys that played in the game in the past and they told me that it was going to be a packed house and that it was going to be the best game of the year,” said Richard Mascarenas, a product of Las Vegas, N.V. “I was still blown away by the crowd. When you play in front of a group like that, it makes you want to go hard all the time and do something cool. Sometimes, it was a little hard to calm down at the plate, I was having too much fun.”
Typically, for the past eight Canada Days, the Dawgs kick off the evening by bringing home a win for their supportive fans.
This year, the Red Sox had different ideas and shaved the Dawgs 4-3 in the 10thinning.
That didn’t take away from the enjoyment of the evening, as fans were treated to a well-played, back-and-forth ball game by the local team under near-perfect weather conditions.
And of course, the Dawgs put on a fireworks show for the ages after the final out was recorded.
“Canada Day here in Okotoks is all about baseball and celebrating the country with all our friends and family,” said Dawgs Head Coach Mitch Schmidt, a native of Billings, Mont. “The reason that day was a success — other than the result — was because of all the work everyone put into it. From everyone in the front office, to the concession workers that had a huge crowd to feed and to the interns working in the press box, they all put a great effort in and made Canada Day a great success.”
The superlatives used to describe Canada Day were endless.
“So awesome. That was one of the coolest games I’ve ever been apart of,”said DeChaine.
“I loved it. I’ll remember that game for the rest of my life,”said Mascarenas.
“Words can’t describe how great of a feeling it was to be part of that game,”said MacLaren.
“It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen out of a college summer league,”said Schmidt.
The Canada Day event at Seaman Stadium has become so popular that coaches don’t hesitate to bring it up with prospective players during recruiting calls.
“I’ve already spoken with two players today and that was one of the main things we talked about for playing here next year. It was incredible,”said Schmidt.
Canada Day at Seaman Stadium definitely left an impression with everyone involved. To a man, they all said that when July 1 rolls around next year and the years to come, they will fondly remember the celebration, the atmosphere and playing baseball at Seaman Stadium.
“The Dawgs do Canada Day right. Every July 1 from here on out, wherever I am in the world, I will make a quick call or text to someone in Okotoks and celebrate Canada Day with them. That was one of the coolest games I’ve ever been apart of,”said Schmidt.