By IAN WILSON
Don’t change a thing.
Following the massive success of the Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL) All-Star Game in 2022, the event is set to return to Seaman Stadium in Okotoks in 2023.
The league and the Okotoks Dawgs recently announced initial plans for the mid-summer classic, which will take place on Saturday, July 15th, 2023.
The Dawgs averaged more than 4,200 fans per game this summer – tops in the WCBL – and were ranked fourth in North American summer collegiate attendance by Ballpark Digest.
They attracted a record-breaking crowd of 6,000 to the 2022 All-Star Game, which ended in extra innings in walk-off fashion.
“The 2022 game was a highlight of the season and the entire Board of Governors wanted to continue to capture the enthusiasm and positive feeling that was witnessed at the 2022 sold-out event. With Okotoks willing to do the event once again, this was a no brainer for the WCBL,” said league president Kevin Kvame in a press release announcing the decision.
“This year was a truly remarkable season for the Dawgs. Not only did they shatter previous records for attendance, but they established a new record for wins in the regular season and ultimately captured another WCBL championship.”
Added Kvame: “The WCBL is pleased to offer fans one of the best baseball experiences on either side of the border at Seaman Stadium, one of the finest facilities in all of college baseball. As the WCBL’s flagship franchise, the Dawgs showcase all that is truly extraordinary about the WCBL.”
In addition to the All-Star Game itself, the event will feature plenty of festivities for baseball fans throughout the day, including a Home Run Derby, a pre-game show at the ballpark, musical entertainment, mascot challenges, post-game fireworks and an appearance by a Major League Baseball (MLB) celebrity. Canadian Matt Stairs – a veteran of 19 MLB seasons who played for the Montreal Expos, Toronto Blue Jays, Oakland Athletics and Philadelphia Phillies – was available for photos and autographs at the 2022 WCBL All-Star Game.
This year’s showcase festivities in Okotoks were a hit for players, coaches, team officials, the WCBL and its fans.
“It’s awesome. It’s a moment I won’t forget in my life,” Sylvan Lake Gulls infielder Ethan He told reporter Kevin Glew after delivering a walk-off hit in the 10th inning to secure a 9-8 victory for the West All-Stars.
“I love seeing all of these amazing Canadians out there. I wanted to win the game in front of them, in front of an awesome crowd.”
The Utah native was selected as the game’s most valuable player.
“I would love for people to come here and see this atmosphere … this is just awesome.”
Saskatoon’s Nolan Machibroda, who played for the Weyburn Beavers and won the Home Run Derby, was blown away by the show that was put on by the WCBL in Okotoks.
“That was a good time,” said Machibroda.
“It was a really cool experience and I got to hit with some really good hitters out there … I was lucky to put on a show in front of these great fans.”
Braden DeSonia, who set a single-season WCBL record for stolen bases playing for the Medicine Hat Mavericks in 2022, enjoyed a special moment with his dad in the Home Run Derby. His father, Rob DeSonia, tossed pitches to him during the long ball competition.
“When he was a young kid watching the MLB Home Run Derby, I was like, it would be so fun to pitch to your kid and you see it on TV,” the elder DeSonia told the Medicine Hat News.
“But even at this level, the WCBL is a great league, I’ve been really impressed. Just to share this with him, even here at this level was phenomenal. It’s a great experience and something I’ll never forget.”
DeSonia’s teammates on the Mavericks who were selected to represent the East Division were equally impressed by the exhibition at Seaman Stadium.
“Coming into it, I knew I was going to have fun, but having an extra-inning game, having the crowd into it the whole time, not against each other like each team, they were all together … I thought it was a lot better than I expected,” Nate Ewing told the News.
Added Mavericks head coach Tyler Jeske: “It was extremely memorable … Okotoks were fantastic hosts, I had a lot of fun getting to interact and talk to all the teams and coaches that we’ve been playing against all summer. And for one day, we’re not trying to beat each other.”