Work of Art

By JOE McFARLAND

For any artist, patience is a necessity.

Creating a masterpiece takes time and careful consideration, as every little detail is crafted to bring the entire composition together.

It’s a trait that Brendan Luther has been able to capitalize on with his graphic design work and on the baseball field.

He soaks in every moment, realizing that every at-bat or ground ball is something different, and that he has to stay relaxed if he wants to have success.

“I have to take it game-by-game,” Luther told Alberta Dugout Stories: The Podcast. “Once you start looking too far ahead, I think that’s when you start getting out of your playing style.”

The Okotoks Dawgs infielder’s approach has served him well on the diamond, as he’s hitting .400 with seven doubles, 19 runs batted in and seven stolen bases through the team’s first 25 games.

He has become an integral piece of the roster as the Dawgs hope to reclaim the Western Canadian Baseball League title, which they last won in 2019.

ALL HE DOES IS WIN

Luther has already tasted victory once in 2022.

The Mississauga, Ontario native helped lead the Okanagan College Coyotes to the Canadian College Baseball Conference title in May.

The Coyotes ran the table, posting four-straight wins including a 5-0 triumph over Prairie Baseball Academy to claim the championship trophy.

Luther went 2-for-3 with a double and two runs scored in the deciding game, finishing the tournament with a .385 batting average to go along with two doubles, seven runs scored and a pair of RBI.

“We just kept grinding all year,” he said. “We had guys in the gym and cages at all times – optional workouts were never really optional as everyone was always there.”

Several team members, including Luther, were part of the team in 2019 which lost to the University of Fraser Valley in the league final.

Instead of getting their chance at immediate retribution the following spring, the Coyotes endured two years of waiting through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We were all disappointed and didn’t want to feel that way ever again and it just kind of trickled down,” Luther said. “We had a really good group of seniors and a ton of freshmen and sophomores that were willing to do anything they could to get us as many wins as possible.”

The 6-foot-1, 185-pound shortstop did his part to get them there, hitting .426 with 14 doubles, two triples, two homers, 26 RBI and six stolen bases en route to being named the league’s co-MVP alongside PBA’s Nick Gravel.

OFF TO OKOTOKS

Before the Coyotes made their way to Lethbridge for the CCBC World Series, Luther already had his bags packed as he was planning for his summer season in the WCBL.

His drive would be a little shorter though, as he was heading to Okotoks to suit up with the Dawgs after two seasons with the Edmonton Prospects.

“Always being the villain, you could tell they didn’t like you here,” Luther laughed. “So now getting on the good guys’ side, I’m really excited to be playing in a beautiful park in a great city.”

In the pandemic-shortened 2021 season, he hit .347 with 12 doubles, 25 RBI and 44 runs scored for the Prospects, as they made it to the league championship where they fell to the Lethbridge Bulls.

While he thought about coming back this summer, he also had a few Okanagan teammates heading to the arch-rival Dawgs and couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

“I really loved it there in Edmonton,” Luther said. “The coaching staff was amazing and they really helped take me to a new level, but I saw this as an opportunity and decided to roll the dice and see what happens.”

A few others, like Kody Funderburk, have made the move to the opposition dugout in the past. For Luther, he knew how his now-former teammates would react.

“I’ve already received texts from my buddies that I played with in Edmonton, telling me to get ready,” he said. “I’m excited for it: I’m a gamer and they’re gamers. I’m just excited to get out there and play them.”

BACK-TO-BACK…TO-BACK?

A defense-first kind of player like his childhood idol, former Toronto Blue Jays infielder John McDonald, Luther is hoping to round out his game this summer.

He wants to be a sponge, learning from his teammates and the experiences they share from all parts of North America.

“Everyone can teach you something,” Luther said. “We have a lot of great infielders and great hitters, so I want to pick up on what they’ve learned and learn more from the staff here in Okotoks.”

While the obvious goal in the short-term is to help the Dawgs win the WCBL championship, he also wants to bring that additional experience back to Okanagan College in the fall.

Luther says the CCBC was noticeably better this spring, meaning it’s only going to get tougher for the Coyotes with the target now squarely on their backs.

“We still have a really good core group of guys,” he said. “Our young group is just outstanding and I’m really excited to get back and hopefully bring another ‘ship back to the Okanagan.”

While the summer provides a new pallet of colours for the budding graphic designer, Luther clearly still has his eyes on creating a winning baseball portfolio.

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