By IAN WILSON
When he watched Sesame Street as a kid, Matt Wilkinson most certainly must have been a big fan of the letter K.
Early in this Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL) season, Kermit the Frog would be proud because the southpaw pitcher has produced a lot of Ks and he sits among the circuit’s strikeout leaders.
During his first 2021 start against the Edmonton Prospects on June 23rd, the 18-year-old logged five innings for the Okotoks Dawgs Black squad and struck out 12 batters in a losing cause. Wilkinson’s second outing came during a June 27th relief appearance against the Sylvan Lake Gulls at Seaman Stadium, and the sun wasn’t the only thing that was blistering hot that afternoon. No. 43 struck out the side for two straight innings to seal a 15-4 win for Dawgs Black.
With a total of 18 Ks through seven innings, and just three earned runs allowed, it was no surprise when Wilkinson was named the Dawgs Black Pitcher of the Week recently.
In this chapter of THREE UP, THREE DOWN we get to know the lefty a bit better. The White Rock, British Columbia native was kind enough to answer a six-pack of questions for us. The first three investigate more serious baseball-related topics, while the last three are a little more easygoing.
1. You were a member of the 2019 WCBL champion Okotoks Dawgs team, pitching well in both the regular season (1-1, 4.26 ERA, 16 Ks in 12.2 innings) and the playoffs (5.1 innings, 7 Ks, no earned runs). With that experience, how do you view your role on Dawgs Black this year? Do you want to be the ace of the rotation and a leader on the team?
It was a great experience being on the 2019 WCBL championship squad. With the majority of my teammates being in high school still, this will be the first time they have played in front of fans like this and they will be nervous. I’ve just got to remind them it’s just another game and to go out and do what they can do.
I do see my self as the ace of the Dawgs Black team. I believe I’m a leader to this pitching staff and hopefully my teammates think that to.
2. It’s obviously a unique season, with the league down to five Alberta teams in 2021 and two of them playing out of Okotoks. How do you see the competition on the Dawgs Red team and is any chirping taking place?
It’s a very unique experience for the Dawgs Red and Black teams. The Red team is a very good team and I expect them to do well in this league. And, yes, the chirping is in full swing when we see the Dawgs Red team in the other dugout.
3. Give us the rundown on you as a pitcher. Describe your arsenal a bit (without giving too much away). Do you have a favourite pitch right now?
I’m a pitcher with a tonne of confidence in all four of my pitches – fastball, curveball, slider and changeup. I’ve been up to 92 miles per hour (mph), but usually sit between 88 and 90 mph. My favourite pitch is all of them – I’ve just got so much confidence in all four of them.
1. Your nickname is “Tugboat.” Can you give us the origin story behind that handle?
Tugboat has been with me since I was seven years old. My dad and his best friend were coaching me when I was in tee-ball, and after each game we had base races, and my dad’s friend would always just yell, “Tugboat, go get ’em!” It stuck with me ever since.
2. Who is your favourite Major League Baseball player and why do you like him so much?
I have always been a huge fan of Clayton Kershaw. I like how he carries himself as a person and a player.
3. How about your favourite baseball movie? There are so many classic baseball films but if you had to pick one, what would it be and why?
The Sandlot is one of my favourite movies. I’ve watched it so many times I almost know every word to it.