Okotoks Dawgs pitcher Seth Thompson grew up cheering for the team he’s now hoping to win a second-straight Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL) championship with.
Thompson spent multiple birthdays as a kid in the crowd at Seaman Stadium in Okotoks. Now in his third season with the Dawgs, he understands how important the home fans can be to on-field success.
“Everybody knows we have the best fans in the league,” Thompson said in a phone interview. “They make it really easy for us to play there, while making it very hard for opposing teams to play there. It’s pretty daunting,”
Okotoks has home-field advantage in a best-of-three series against the Medicine Hat Mavericks. Game 1 is scheduled for Tuesday night.
The league championship is at stake, with the series winner taking home the Harry Hallis Memorial Trophy.
Okotoks finished first in the league’s regular season standings. The Dawgs and Mavericks played each other four times during the season, with the Dawgs winning three of those games.
Despite Okotoks being favoured on paper, team general manager Tyler Hollick is not taking anything for granted.
“In baseball, a lot of random things can happen,” he said. “Especially in playoffs where they’re best-of-three series, but we’ve felt really, really good about this for quite some time. I’m glad it’s all working out.”
‘I’ll take our pitching over anybody’
According to Hollick, winning and losing starts on the pitcher’s mound. Pitching has been a team strength all season, and it’s something Hollick focused on when building the roster.
“We’ve had really good starting pitching and we’ve gone really deep into the bullpen. We’re twelve or fourteen guys deep down there. Everybody when their number is called, they’re doing a really good job.”
Interim on-field manager Lou Pote spent five years as a pitcher with the Anaheim Angels and Cleveland Guardians. He won a World Series ring with Anaheim in 2002. Pote knows pitching matchups can play a major role in a playoff series, and has confidence in his rotation.
“That’s been our strength all year,” said Pote. “Going into any series, I’ll take our pitching over anybody.”
Last opportunity for some
The WCBL is a collegiate summer league, which means players will be headed back to play for and study at their respective post-secondary schools in the fall.
To be eligible for a roster, players need to be enrolled in school for the following academic year. Due to this rule, there’s typically lots of team turnover each summer.
This will be the last opportunity for some Dawgs players to win a WCBL title. It’s an opportunity Seth Thompson and his teammates do not want to let slip away.
But no matter how the series goes, Thompson says having the chance to play in front of fans — especially kids — has been rewarding, in itself.
“I would go to games when I was younger. I remember thinking that we [the Dawgs] were the coolest thing that I had ever seen. So getting to give back and do the same thing for kids that I see — that I once was — is really, really cool.”
Opening pitch in Game 1 of the championship series is set for 7:05 p.m. on Tuesday at Seaman Stadium in Okotoks.