The summer of 2022 was an extraordinary season for the Okotoks Dawgs, Canada’s premier summer collegiate baseball club, on a number of levels.
By way of background, the Dawgs burst on to the summer collegiate scene in 2007 when after constructing a $22-million facility, the Seaman Stadium Complex, entirely dedicated to a youth development academy and a summer collegiate baseball program, the club welcomed almost 3,000 fans per game.
In the 15 years that have ensued, the Dawgs continued to raise the bar to the point where, pre pandemic, the club was averaging 4,000 fans per game and was consistently ranked in the top three of summer collegiate draws in North America.
With COVID-19 hopefully in the rear view mirror and fans anxious for a return to positive, healthy, outdoor, family entertainment, the Dawgs were looking for this season to be a breakout year. As it has turned out, breakout is an understatement. Fans have flocked to state of the art Seaman Stadium in droves, with the Dawgs averaging 4,216 fans per game and total attendance reaching 113,835 fans during the regular season.
In June, the Dawgs welcomed their 1 MILLIONTH fan to Seaman Stadium and at the annual Canadian Breast Cancer fundraiser game in July, the Dawgs raised over $42,000 by auctioning off player jerseys to bring the total for funds raised for this worthy charity to over $500,000.
In addition, the club hosted the Western Canadian Baseball League all-star game on July 23, an event which attracted an over capacity crowd approaching 6,000 fans. Canadian major league legend, Matt Stairs (Fredericton, NB) — who has hit more home runs in the majors than any other Canadian, except for Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, BC) and Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) was on hand to offer players a few hitting tips and engage with fans of all ages.
Dawgs founding and managing director John Ircandia, had this to say about the historic season:
“We were thrilled in 2021 with all of the challenges of the pandemic to be one of the few leagues to provide fans with baseball. And we had a sense going into the 2022 that fans in our market communities were anxious to get ‘back to normal’ and embrace activities that were healthy, positive and family friendly. That perfectly describes the Dawgs Baseball at Seaman Stadium experience.”
To prepare for the 2022 season, the Dawgs undertook a number of upgrades to Seaman Stadium with a view to enhancing fan experience. This included:
In-game ceremonies during the all-star game, which drew roughly 6,000 fans
_ New drink rails running the entire length of the Family Berm from third base to the foul pole in left field.
_ A mobile ordering concession system.
_ A streamlined Point of Sales system.
_ A new and improved online ticketing system,
_ A high quality broadcast network,
_ Three pergolas to hospitality patios; and perhaps most impactful, an iconic, two-level hospitality section which in homage to the original Dawgs Youth Team and private donors was named “Kore 4 (+14) Corner” (Kore 4 was a $1.5M project which added additional patios, concessions and washrooms, a new visitor’s clubhouse and VIP seating overhanging the outfield fence in left field somewhat reminiscent of Fenway Park.)
On the field the club has also chased history. The Dawgs started the WCBL season on an impressive 9-0 run and recently concluded the regular season with a record of 43-13, breaking the all-time record for wins in the WCBL.
“The phenomenal success of our summer collegiate club really is a testament to the hard work our coaches led by head coach, Mitch Schmidt (Bellevue, Neb.) in recruiting. Mitch and his staff assembled an extremely talented roster. What makes it so satisfying to me and I think loyal Dawgs fans everywhere, is that the heart and soul of this 2022 team is built on Dawgs Youth Academy graduates, now performing at a high level at colleges and universities throughout the United States.”
The amateur draft of brought another highlight of the 2022 season as former Dawgs standouts, Jacob Melton and Gavin Logan of Oregon State University were selected … Melton was selected in second round by the Houston Astros and Logan (Oyen, Alta.) in the ninth by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Melton and Logan, the latter being a graduate of the Dawgs Youth Academy, helped lead the Dawgs to a pre-pandemic WCBL championship in 2019.
The success of Melton and Logan put an exclamation point on an outstanding Dawgs Academy season which saw the Dawgs 18U travel team win the championship of the Perfect Game World Series in West Palm Beach, Fla.
Dawgs Academy players were rewarded over 2022 with scholarships to such prestigious NCAA Division 1 colleges and universities as Oregon State, Oregon, Washington, Tennessee, Washington State, Gonzaga and Utah.
The 2022 season is not yet over for the Dawgs. The club swept the Brooks Bombers in the West Division semifinals and Sylvan Lake Gulls in the West Division finals in the playoffs to claim the West Division Championship and await the winner of the East Division to challenge for the WCBL championship.
While Dawgs coaches and players are determined to capture another WCBL Championship, one cannot help but think that this season has already been a phenomenal success story for the Dawgs.