By IAN WILSON
The campaign of the Western Canadian Baseball League’s Okotoks Dawgs Red team has come to an end, with the squad failing to advance to the playoffs after a 40-game regular season.
But the WCBL club was not without its success stories this summer, and infielder Cole Tucker was one of them.
Coming off his junior year with Niagara University in the NCAA Division I Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC), the Newfoundlander was looking to make his mark playing in Alberta.
During 27 games with the Purple Eagles in 2021, Tucker hit .391 with 17 runs, 19 runs batted in (RBI), three home runs and six stolen bases.
That strong play continued in Okotoks until Tucker saw his season cut short due to injury. We caught up with him to chat about his recent time in the WCBL and the play that sidelined him. Here’s what he told us in this edition of 3 UP, 3 DOWN …
1. You had a very good season for Dawgs Red this summer, batting .314 with 21 runs through 24 games played. What contributed to your individual success in the WCBL? What went right for you?
I’d say consistency was what led to some individual success. With the long season of the summer you don’t always feel 100 percent, so just having the same warmup and routines to lean towards everyday to get ready for first pitch was key to success for me. What went well was that I saw the ball really well all summer, took a lot of walks, and got into a lot of good hitters counts.
2. You trained at Dawgs Academy. What was it like going from being a younger guy who watched the summer collegiate WCBL team play at Seaman Stadium to taking the field for the big club with fans in the stands?
Honestly, it was a dream come true. I always looked up to the college team in high school. I also always wanted to experience playing in front of the amazing home crowds, and I’m beyond ecstatic that I got the opportunity to experience it. I was glad I got to help out the younger guys around me that were in the academy, too, because I remember asking lots of questions of the college guys who would come through. So I was happy to give back and share some knowledge and experience with those guys.
3. You led Okotoks Dawgs Red in stolen bases, with 11, and you were only caught stealing once. What was your mindset on the base paths and what prompted you to be such an aggressive runner?
My mindset on the bases is to try and see any patterns from the pitcher … if he does the same looks or has the same timing. Then, pick a good spot to steal. In other words, during an off-speed count the pitcher doesn’t typically hold the runner on well. Or maybe I can get a good jump. I’m not the quickest player, but stealing was something I started doing at school this year and I brought it into the summer. It’s been working, so I just stayed aggressive. I’m always wanting an extra 90 feet.
1. Unfortunately you suffered an injury – a torn posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) – when you were playing against Dawgs Black and your summer season was cut short. Can you walk us through the play and how you got hurt?
I had just stolen second base and I came into the bag head first hard and banged my knee on the bag. I felt discomfort but didn’t think anything of it. A few pitches later, I took off to third on a passed ball, and on the second hard step I just had an immediate grab on the back of my knee. It’s a very unfortunate and weird injury, and I suspect I stretched or even tore it on the bag and taking off running on it just made it worse.
2. What are the next steps for you? What kind of rehab are you looking at and will you be ready in time to play for Niagara this upcoming school season?
I’m currently doing rehab and physio now, just keeping the muscles around it strong. I’m in a PCL boot 24/7 for the next two to three months to let it heal on its own. Then, when the boot comes off I’ll build up strength and I’ll be good to go. It’s looking like I’ll be fully healthy at the end of the fall. I’ll be ready, but also faster and stronger for this upcoming season.
3. Moving on to more fun stuff, what was your favourite memory from playing in the WCBL this summer?
It would have to be hitting my first home run at Seaman Stadium. I never got one out in high school, so to come back and finally check that off my list felt great. But also just the lifelong friendships you develop on the field with your teammates is something I’ll always cherish and remember.
EXTRA INNINGS QUESTION:
Q: I noticed that you also played at Southeastern Community College in Iowa. That looks like it’s a short drive to Dyersville, the site of the Field of Dreams movie and the recent Field of Dreams MLB game. Have you visited the site? If not, did you watch the Field of Dreams MLB game and did it give you any incentive to go visit Dyersville?
Sadly, I never made the trip when I was in Iowa to the Field of Dreams, but I watched the unbelievable game on TV. They did a phenomenal job, and I definitely want to go back and visit it sometime soon!