Holy Schmidt! Did That Just Happen?

By IAN WILSON

Well, you can’t say he didn’t warn you.

At the Okotoks Dawgs media day event, which is an opportunity for reporters to meet the team’s players and coaching staff prior to the Western Major Baseball League (WMBL) season, head coach Mitch Schmidt was asked about his “Big Bear” nickname.

He described himself as “very easy going” and a guy who gets along with everybody. Then he followed that description up with this comment: “They say that I’m in hibernation, but when I come out of hibernation, the Big Bear comes out.”

The Big Bear came out this week; Wednesday, June 27th, to be exact. Emerging from his dugout-like den at RE/MAX Field in Edmonton, Schmidt did not like what he saw in the bottom of the 8th inning.

With the Dawgs leading 3-0, the Prospects were pressing. Shortstop Zane Takhar singled. Pinch hitter Tony Olson walked. Both runners advanced on Percy Liu’s sacrifice, which was the first out of the inning, and then an errant throw by Okotoks’ right fielder Brandon Sparks got past catcher Marcus Skundrich and Takhar scored on the play.

The ball ended up under some portable chairs that were placed by the visitor dugout for the ball boys and girls to sit on between plays. It was ruled a “dead ball” (which is considered an unplayable ball) and Olson, who was still on second base, was awarded home plate for Edmonton’s second run of the game.

Schmidt disagreed with the call, discussed it at length with the umpire, and then this happened:

Not surprisingly, Schmidt was ejected from the game. The Dawgs got out of the 8th with no further damage and added three runs in the top of the 9th inning for a 6-2 victory.

Video footage of Schmidt’s outburst went viral after it was picked up by ESPN and TSN.

The response has been wide-ranging, from critics blasting his poor sportsmanship, to people cheering his Lou Piniella and Bob Knight inspired antics.

LET THE BIG BEAR EAT

At the Dawgs next home game, the chair-chucking video was shown on the big screen, along with the words “Let the Big Bear Eat.” That replaced the more common greeting at Seaman Stadium, which says “Let the Big Dawg Eat” at the ballpark entrance.

The WMBL was less receptive, handing Schmidt a two-game suspension and an undisclosed fine.

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Here’s what others had to say about the incident:

Will Hollis, Dawgs 1B/OF, who was told “Look out Hollis!” before vacating his seat

“I was right next to him on the outside of the dugout. It was awesome. You love to see a manager who is willing to battle for his guys. We knew coach was going to stick up for us, and he definitely displayed his passion and his want to win games by doing that. The chair throws are certainly something I’ll never forget.”

Okotoks 3B/DH Nate DeChaine

“I was up in the front of the dugout, so I was front and centre for all of it. Looking back on the situation, I think the call could’ve gone either way, but the ball should not have been called dead for the two-base rule. We were all pretty upset about the call since it made it a one-run game, and Schmidty just went out there to have our backs. The best part about it was that he was as calm as he could be while doing it. It was definitely one of the most entertaining things any of us have ever seen on a baseball field.”

WMBL President Kevin Kvame

“Coach Schmidt was suspended for two games and fined an undisclosed amount, plus responsibility for any damages to Prospects property. While the League appreciates the fact he wasn’t trying to injure anyone, we cannot condone a display that damages other team’s property, as well as makes an unsportsmanlike display over a call he did not appreciate.  For the respect of the game, there are better ways to handle situations like that.”

Riley Baasch, Okotoks 1B, who played for Schmidt at Bellevue University

“After the ball was dead, I made my way to the infield to join the other guys while coach Schmidt did his thing. I love that he will always have the players’ backs and will fight for us when certain events happen. I’ve seen him angry, but never to the point of getting physical like that. He knows when to pick his battles and makes sure that when he gets mad he proves a point.”

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Riley Baasch waits on deck vs. the Fort McMurray Giants … photo by Ian Wilson

Dawgs Managing Director John Ircandia

“Actually, I thought it was great. He demonstrated the passion WMBL coaches have for the game and our fantastic summer collegiate product. Fans loved it. No one got hurt. It’s just part of the game. Ask Lou Piniella.”

Ray Brown, Head Coach of the Edmonton Prospects, who was ejected in the 6th inning after arguing with the umpires

“The ejection didn’t happen until he started throwing chairs. I have no idea why he wanted to be thrown out of the game …. I think the guy is not very intelligent. I’ve been thrown out of my share of games, but I’m not there to be a spectacle. I say my piece and if I go to far, I get thrown out of the game. I’ve never been one for carrying on. I don’t see the reason in that. I’m there to make a point. I’m not there to make a spectacle of myself and to be on YouTube and go flip-out crazy. But all the coaches are different.”

Edmonton shortstop Zane Takhar

“That whole game was a joke, but both dugouts were laughing after that … I didn’t see where that throw went out of play, so I am not sure if they got that call right or not. I think their coach was just displaying what everyone else was thinking about some of the calls throughout that whole game.”

Ryan Humeniuk, outfielder for the Dawgs

“It was definitely different. I’ve definitely seen coaches get tossed before, but he was pretty upset and validly so. I appreciate him sticking up for us like that. That’s always good to see. Feels like he’s always sticking up for us all the time … I think at first he was upset about the call and then there was an opportunity fire everyone up. That really rallied us.”

Jacob Bouzide, 2B for Okotoks 

“He seemed pretty calm before he threw the chairs. Then it all went down hill … I thought it was funny, but it definitely fired me up.”

Rich Walker, who pitched two innings for Edmonton, giving up two hits and one earned run

“It’s one of those things you definitely don’t see every day, so you’ve got to appreciate it. It was wild.”

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