By IAN WILSON
He just wants to play.
Like many University of British Columbia (UBC) baseball players, Brandon Hupe saw competitive games wiped out over the last two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the Thunderbirds outfielder is now showing what he can do as a member of the Okotoks Dawgs Red team.
Through 18 games, Hupe is batting .309, with 18 runs batted in (good for third in the Western Canadian Baseball League), 14 runs scored and seven doubles.
Hupe was kind enough to answer a half-dozen questions for us as a part of our 3 UP, 3 DOWN series. Here’s what he shared with us:
1. You’re near the top of the Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL) leaderboard in doubles and RBI. Do you typically profile as a power hitter and, if so, how much pride do you take in producing runs with a heavy bat?
I started to become a power bat when I got to college. I put on some weight and got a lot stronger. I’ve always had a swing that puts a lot of balls into the air, so adding some strength to that just allowed for my power to show. That allows me to drive in runs and help my team win and I do take a lot of pride in that.
2. You are originally from British Columbia and you play college ball for the UBC Thunderbirds, similar to a lot of WCBL players this season. How did you end up playing for the Okotoks Dawgs Red team this summer and why was playing in the WCBL important to you?
My head coach set me up with the Dawgs during the winter. UBC has a good connection with the Dawgs, and has sent quite a few players here in previous years. I’d heard a lot of great things from my teammates and coaches about coming out and that really made me eager to come play in Okotoks.
For me and a lot of my teammates it was very important for us to play in the WCBL this summer because for the second year in a row our season got cancelled due to COVID-19. So, as a team we needed to get back playing to continue our development.
3. What are your personal expectations and goals for this season?
I’m really looking forward to being able to play a full season for the first time in 18 months. I really want to knock off some rust and continue to get better as a player and teammate … but my biggest goal is to help my team win a championship this summer, and have fun doing it.
1. You don’t lead the WCBL in the hit-by-pitch stat but you are second so far, having been plunked seven times already. What’s your philosophy on getting tagged? Does it make you want to charge the mound or are you happy to take the free base?
I think that getting hit by a pitch is a great way to help your team win. You get a free 90 feet and it fires up your team. Not to mention it can get into a pitcher’s head for the next couple matchups in the order. So I’m just happy to get on base and pass the baton for the guys behind me.
2. We have seen some intense heat waves in Alberta this summer. Have you played in temperatures this hot before? Any tips on surviving such scalding conditions when you have to go out there wearing pants, cleats and somewhat heavier clothes?
I’ve had some experience playing in some really hot temperatures. I’ve played ball in Arizona and Japan during some 40 degree (Celsius) heat.
It can be really tough to stay hydrated because you’re constantly sweating, especially in a uniform. Staying in the shade as long as possible and making sure you’re drinking water are the biggest things. Trainers can bring wet towels and fans into the dugout to help cool players down, as well.
3. The Okotoks Dawgs have two teams this year – Red and Black – and you are on the Red squad. If you could add or trade for one member of the Black side, who would it be and why?
There are a lot of great players on the Black team this year, and they could be put onto our roster and help us win. But I really like our team chemistry right now and I would take the Red team every time. We have a pretty good split of players that makes for some good competitive games between both the Red and Black team right now.