By IAN WILSON
When it comes to the Edmonton Prospects, Erik Sabrowski has been “The Dude” all season. He really ties the team together.
The fresh-faced Edmontonian batted .339 in 35 Western Major Baseball League (WMBL) regular season games this summer, collecting three home runs, 20 RBI and 21 runs.
Those numbers earned him first team WMBL all star honours as a designated hitter and his strong play on the mound also resulted in second team all star status as a starting pitcher.
“It’s certainly exciting and it makes you feel good knowing you’ve contributed to your team,” said Sabrowski in advance of his Game 2 playoff start against the Okotoks Dawgs.
“It has to do a lot with the team that we’ve got in Edmonton and just the guys that we have. Everyone’s picking each other up and we make sure everyone gets the best out of each other. Just so happens I happened to have a good year.”
His good regular season continued into the playoffs. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound lefty picked up the win in Game 2 in Okotoks, pitching 6.2 shutout innings and striking out nine Dawgs batters. He pitched his way out of trouble early and despite being locked in a pitching duel with Justin Vernia – who threw a complete game for the Dawgs – came out on top in a 2-1 victory.
“I’ve had a look at their lineup. I know what I want to do with each guy. I just need to make sure I’m in the right mindset to throw strikes,” said Sabrowski before the game.
Facing elimination in Game 4, Sabrowski came up big at the dish, going two-for-four with two RBI and one run scored en route to a 9-8 Prospects win at ReMax Field.
WMBL MVP and Okotoks Dawgs slugger Kody Funderburk – also a two-way threat who can beat opponents from the batter’s box or the mound – knows Sabrowski all too well, having played with him in Edmonton in 2016 and now against him this year.
“Erik’s a really good guy, really good baseball player,” said Funderburk, who hit a three-run home run in Game 4.
“He’s a really good pitcher, so you just have to grind him out. He swings well, too. Swung well last year, but he’s doing better this year.”
The 19-year-old Sabrowski joined the Prospects last year after dominating the Midget AAA Norwest League.
“My high school coach pulled me aside and, I had won MVP in my third year, so really there was nothing left to do. He said, ‘I have an opportunity for you. Do you want to go play in the WMBL?'” recalled Sabrowski.
“I jumped at it. I’m happy I did it. It’s so much fun playing in Edmonton in front of our hometown fans. Brings back memories of going to watch Trapper or Capitals games way back when and watching those pros and former pros play on the field that I get to step on now.”
Sabrowski – whose walkup song on the bump is AC/DC’s For Those About to Rock – has been fortunate enough to pitch in two Canada Day games at ReMax Field in front of crowds exceeding 7,000 people and he considers those games career highlights.
“It’s amazing. They are the best fans in baseball because they’re the smartest fans in the league. They get on you when you’re doing bad and they pick you up when you’re doing good. We love them. We love their support,” he said.
While he doesn’t have any far out pre-game routines, Sabrowski considers a Tim Hortons bagel and a coffee a must. Other than that, he just tries to have fun and not overthink things.
“If I think too much about the game I get ahead of myself and then some stuff goes downhill,” he said.
“I guess my routine would be just be as loose as possible. Have a good time.”
After playing for Cisco Community College in Texas last school year, Sabrowski will head to Cloud County Community College in Kansas when WMBL playoffs wrap up. Once there, he expects the baseball to be a bit different.
“It’s a lot smarter baseball up here. Pitchers know how to attack hitters as opposed to just throwing it over the plate. The metal bats versus wood bats are a big difference, too,” said Sabrowski, adding it’s hard to top the fan participation in the WMBL.
No matter where he plays, The Dude will stay loose, have fun and – of course – abide.