By IAN WILSON
Hall-of-Fame journalist Bob Elliott has released his annual list of the top 100 most influential Canadians in baseball and it has plenty of links to Alberta.
Here’s a quick rundown on some of the connections we spotted among those who were selected for inclusion in the Canadian Baseball Network’s prestigious scroll, which saw Atlanta Braves General Manager Alex Anthopoulos in the top spot.
13. PAT GILLICK
Gillick earned his spot as in the Baseball Hall of Fame for his years of building championship teams as an executive. But as a player he was a fierce competitor on the mound. In the late 1950s, he thumbed his way from California to Alberta, where he pitched for the Vulcan Elks, the Granum White Sox and the Edmonton Eskimos. Earning $250 a month, he tossed a no-hitter at a tournament in Medicine Hat and struck out 17 batters in Calgary to seal first place for Granum. You can learn more about Gillick’s Alberta stint here.
16. JOHN IRCANDIA
The managing director of the Okotoks Dawgs earned praise for his hard work in getting a Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL) season to move forward in 2021, in part by fielding two teams at Seaman Stadium last summer.
“The Big Dawg kept the league alive,” noted Elliott.
Dawgs Academy and the WCBL team in Okotoks continue to produce notable alumni, including Milwaukee Brewers draft pick Tristan Peters, Cincinnati Reds infielder Alejo Lopez, and MLB All-Star pitcher Andrew Kittredge.
24. JUSTIN MORNEAU
The 2006 American League MVP and two-time Silver Slugger Award winner – who is a special assistant to baseball operations with the Minnesota Twins and a TV analyst – helped the Edmonton Trappers win a Pacific Coast League (PCL) championship in 2002. That season he made the jump from Double-A to play in the Triple-A postseason, where he batted .400 through five playoff games.
28. BUD BLACK
It’s somewhat of a surprise that the manager of the Colorado Rockies didn’t end up playing hockey instead of baseball. Black’s father, Harry, was born in Calgary and raised in Edmonton.
“He was a hockey player from the time he could walk and lace up a pair of skates. He played junior hockey in the Edmonton area and was one of the better junior players of the 1930s,” Bud told reporter Randy Schultz during a 2007 interview.
With his dad hailing from Alberta and his mother born in Melville, Saskatchewan, Black qualifies as a managerial/coaching candidate for Canada at the next World Baseball Classic.
31. CHRIS KEMLO
“Kemlo had his name aligned with 6-foot-5, 230-pound RHP Garrett Hawkins (Biggar, Sask.) who signed for a $75,000 bonus. Kemlo saw Hawkins pitch for the University of British Columbia at home and in Lewiston, Id. in 2020,” read Elliott’s report on the San Diego Padres scout, who is a pitching coach with the Toronto Mets.
“The Padres also had Hawkins scouted when pitching for the Trenton Thunder in the Draft League, where the Vauxhall Jets grad struck out 32 in 24 innings, going 1-0 with a 2.62 ERA in six starts.”
Hawkins – also known as “G-Hawk” – was a ninth-round selection of the Padres in the 2021 MLB amateur draft.
35. RYAN DEMPSTER
A pitcher for 18 MLB seasons, Dempster has become a popular TV personality in Chicago, where he played half his big-league career with the Cubs. The British Columbian made a brief but important stop in Calgary in 1999. It was there with the Triple-A Cannons that the righthander made five starts and prepared himself to become a full-time MLB moundsman. Dempster recounted his time in Cowtown when he was named to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2019.
36. CHRIS REITSMA
The Calgarian, who pitched for seven seasons in the majors, is now the senior advisor of amateur pitching for the Kansas City Royals. Last year he joined forces with Webber Academy to serve as senior advisor of baseball operations and pitching coach for the Wildcats.
39. WALT BURROWS
The Minnesota Twins scout had another busy year sniffing out baseball talent. Willy Diaz Vasquez is among the players Burrows signed to the Twins organization. The Dominican-born shortstop, who called Edmonton home, trained at Prairie Baseball Academy in Lethbridge.
42. STUBBY CLAPP
His name continues to surface as a managerial candidate for MLB teams, and that career path seems inevitable for the first base coach of the St. Louis Cardinals. Clapp was a two-time Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year with the back-to-back champion Memphis Redbirds. He finished his playing career as a member of the Edmonton Cracker-Cats in 2005 and 2006. During that second season of independent-league baseball, Clapp was a Northern League All-Star infielder who stole 32 bases. He also served as the Cracker-Cats hitting coach that year.
43. MIKE SOROKA & MIKE FROSTAD
Soroka and Frostad were listed alongside a number of Atlanta Braves personnel at No. 43 for their work in helping the team claim a World Series title. Soroka, a Calgary Redbirds product, had an injury-plagued season, but the starting pitcher was with the club when they celebrated their championship run.
Frostad, meanwhile, has also been fitted for a World Series ring thanks to his work as the assistant trainer of the Braves. The Medicine Hat native received a promotion, as well. Frostad is now the head athletic trainer and the director of sports medicine with the Los Angeles Angels, where he’ll be responsible for taking care of some of baseball’s best athletes in Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani.
62. JAMIE CAMPBELL
A familiar face to Toronto Blue Jays boosters, the Sportsnet host has devoted himself tirelessly to the game of baseball and it’s fans. Whether it’s geeking out over baseball cards, or taking phone calls from Jays supporters across Canada to lift their spirits, Campbell loves to give back. In the 1990s, Campbell was a sports anchor with CBC Edmonton. As he told Alberta Dugout Stories, it was a posting that helped re-ignite his passion for the sport.
64. VINCENT IRCANDIA
The founder and CEO of StellarAlgo – a fan data solutions provider for the sports and live audience industry – was an original player with the Okotoks Dawgs program, dating back to its early days in Calgary. The company’s customers include the Portland Trail Blazers, L.A. Galaxy, Vancouver Canucks and Durham Bulls. StellarAlgo ranked 209th on the Globe & Mail’s Report on Business list of Canada’s top growing companies.
68. SHARI REINIGER
“Shari (Sherwood Park, Alta.) moved from being grounds keeper at Legion Park, which hosted the bantam Nationals, coached, ran coaching clinics, coached Team Alberta, relaunched Baseball Calgary, sat on the Baseball Alberta board, and supervised the inaugural Women’s World Cup at Telus Field before taking on her Olympic role,” wrote Elliott of Reiniger’s resume, which includes her job as Olympic Baseball Technical Coordinator.
“As technical director, Shari checked passports, made sure the field was game ready, settled all protests and handled any scheduling disputes. Baseball Canada asked Shari to be both the technical commissioner for the U18 Baseball World Cup in Gijang, South Korea and the Premier12 Pool A in Zapopan, Mex. As well, Shari attended the 2008 Women’s Baseball World Cup in Matsuyama, Japan.”
75. DR. RANDY GREGG
The former Edmonton Oiler and current managing director of the Edmonton Riverhawks hopes to finally see his team take flight this summer after the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the West Coast League’s 2021 campaign. RE/MAX Field, the nest of the Riverhawks, recently saw upgrades made to the infield turf, scoreboard, dugouts and clubhouses.
82. LES MCTAVISH
McTavish saw two of his pupils at the Vauxhall Academy of Baseball selected in the MLB draft. Right-handed pitcher Garrett Hawkins was a ninth-round pick of the Padres, while slugger Damiano Palmegiani was taken by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 14th round. Both players have credited Vauxhall Academy and head coach McTavish, who is a scout for the Philadelphia Phillies, with helping them achieve success.
83. DANA BOOKMAN
Canadian Girls Baseball was created by Bookman with the aim of allowing all girls who want to play the sport to do so. The organization is offering eight weeks of indoor baseball training this winter at Edmonton’s Enoch Recreational Centre for girls between the ages of four and 16 years old.
85. KORY LAFRENIERE
The coordinator of amateur scouting for baseball operations with the Toronto Blue Jays started his journey with the club as an intern with the Bluefield Blue Jays.
“During the July draft in 2021, the Jays went 1-for-2 signing Canadians. They signed 14th rounder INF Damiano Palmegiani (Surrey, BC) from the College of Southern Nevada and drafted RHP Micah Bucknam (Abbotsford, BC) of the Abbotsford Cardinals who did not sign and will be eligible in the 2022 draft,” noted Elliott.
88. STU SCHEURWATER
A veteran MLB umpire, the Regina product worked the Western Major Baseball League circuit – the predecessor of the Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL) – before the majors came calling. The summer collegiate league with teams in Alberta and Saskatchewan helped Scheurwater hone his craft. He worked 114 MLB games, 28 of them behind the plate, during his fourth season in The Show last year.
92. MICHAEL BONANNO
The partner with BallplayersAgency represents over 40 players, including a number from Alberta. Included on the agent’s roster are St. Albert’s Erik Sabrowski, Spruce Grove’s LaRon Smith, and Prairie Baseball Academy grads Willy Diaz Vasquez and Andrew Case.
95. SCOTT MITCHELL
Before he was delivering some of the best television coverage of the Blue Jays through TSN, Mitchell spent five years in Calgary (2011-2016) as a football reporter with the Calgary Sun. Fun fact: Mitchell was clearly a ringer when he was called up to play for the Rad News Beers, a Calgary Sport and Social Club slo-pitch team alongside Alberta Dugout Stories co-founders Ian Wilson and Joe McFarland. According to coach/pitcher McFarland’s scouting report: “Scott was a slick-fielding middle infielder with good pop in his bat. He was too good for our team.”
96. SAMMIE STARR
Sammie lived up to his last name when he played the infield for the Okotoks Dawgs in 2009. The defensively sound shortstop was an effective hitter for the Dawgs in his college days. From there, he was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles and climbed the minor-league ladder to Triple-A during his pro playing career. Starr is now an assistant coach with the University of British Columbia (UBC) Thunderbirds.
97. KEVIN GLEW
In addition to being a friend of the program here at Alberta Dugout Stories, Glew is a baseball treasure who contributes to the history and the fabric of the game with his Cooperstowners in Canada blog and as the chief editor at the Canadian Baseball Network. The scope of Glew’s work is national, but baseball fans from Western Canada can often find interesting content about the history of the sport in this part of the country.
The Top 100 article also took time to honour those who passed away over the last year, including Canadian Women’s National Team mainstay Amanda Asay, and Albertan Helen Nicol Fox, the winningest pitcher in All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) history.