Love is in the air.
It’s also at the ball diamond and in the dugout.
One thing that guests on Alberta Dugout Stories: The Podcast have made abundantly clear over the years is that they love the game of baseball. They love it for countless reasons and their hearts tend to swell when we ask them this simple question:
“What does the game of baseball mean to you?”
The answers range from speechless to profound replies. Many include the words “love” and “passion” and “romantic.”
We’ve shared some of these love letters in the past, but please indulge us again as we release some of these sweet nothings and tender whispers from those who love baseball as much, if not more, than we do.
Here is a look at how our podcast guests answered the question above:
“To me, it means that you get to be a kid, I guess. We’re all growing up and soon we’re going to have real jobs and real lives, a lot of us. It’s a little bit of a getaway for all of us to feel like a kid still and all that stress of real life isn’t there when you’re 20,” infielder/outfielder Logan Grant, an alumni of Dawgs and Vauxhall academies and the Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL).
“It’s always hard not being romantic about the game of baseball, but it means a lot. When I was growing up it was everything and it still is an integral part of who I am today. It’s shaped my life in many ways. It’s been a great experience,” former Team Alberta player Paige Wakefield.
“It’s really just been my life … it’s such a big part of my life. I don’t know what I would do without it. Even if I could get a good job that I wanted, I think I’d still rather be playing baseball …. I’ve been so many places. I’ve been able to meet so many new people and make so many new friends. It’s just such a cool sport because you become a family with these teams and the people around you. It’s really cool,” Okotoks Dawgs alum Tristan Peters, who was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers and is now a prospect in the Tampa Bay Rays organization.
“It means so much – it’s kind of an escape from real life, you just get to play a game for a living basically. I love it,” infielder Cleary Simpson of the Sylvan Lake Gulls.
“It’s been my whole life … you really feel the brotherhoods and friendships for life. It’s my life. Between all the plane rides and being away from home, it’s been tough at times, it’s good at times and it’s really bad at times. You’ve just got to ride with the good times, get through the tough ones and enjoy the ride. You only get to play this game for so long, so enjoy every little bit of it. I’m getting older now and you can kind of seeing the door closing a bit but just enjoy it and have fun,” Cole Tucker of the Okotoks Dawgs.
“I think for me baseball is just something I enjoy, something that’s fun for me … it just means a joy for me in the summer. I just love going to play,” outfielder Hayley Lalor of Team Alberta.
“It’s funny because it depends what day you ask me. Opening Day, I love the optimism. Every team is in first place. Now, I’m a Pittsburgh Pirates fan and that’s usually the only time we’re in first place. To me, it’s optimism. If you go 0-for-4 today, you get to come back and do it again tomorrow. You get a second chance. I love the optimism and the opportunity for redemption that’s built into an entire season … just the unlimited possibilities of the game,” Willie Steele, author of Going the Distance: The Life and Works of W.P. Kinsella.
“A lot. I’d say it’s a huge part of my life. It’s been there since I can remember. I can’t imagine being without it. I’m trying to keep it going for as long as I can because I love it,” Dawgs Academy grad Cody Hendriks.
“I love the game. I always have, since I started playing in tee ball. It’s not only something I enjoy, it’s fun. It’s also turned into part of my identity. It’s just something that I see as something that I get to do every day. I put myself in an opportunity where I get to do what I love to create opportunities for more things that I love. Whether it’s good or bad, I’m enjoying it regardless. So, to me the game of baseball works as the best part of my day, sometimes it can even be my therapy for the day, it keeps me grounded. I love it. I love everything about it, so whether I’m playing for a long time or I’ve got to hang ’em up at some point, I want to stay in the game, maybe coach, maybe have something to do in the game, but it’s definitely got a special place in my heart,” Damiano Palmegiani, prospect in the Toronto Blue Jays organization and Vauxhall Academy graduate.
“It means everything. Baseball, I guess it’s my life, but it’s definitely changed the person that I am today. If I didn’t have baseball, my life would be completely different. I owe everything to it,” former Lethbridge Bulls pitcher Bryce Oriold-Fraser.
“The game of baseball is my life … my family is baseball. My wife loves it, my daughter loves it, my boys love it, my parents love it, my brother loves it. Baseball is the McTavish family and it’s helped me travel the world, it’s helped my kids travel the world, and my wife travel the world. It’s something that is a huge, huge part of our family and I hope it is for my entire life. It’s something that brings joy to my voice every day and makes me want to get up and go to work and hopefully help 22 student athletes fulfill their dream and, most importantly, hopefully we provide them some direction to figure out what they love in life. Baseball is something that I love dearly and it’s given me a lot and hopefully I’m able to give a lot back, too,” Les McTavish, head coach at Vauxhall Academy.
“Baseball shaped me into who I am today. It taught me how to overcome adversity, work within a team, how to be an effective leader. Most importantly, it taught me humility and confidence. It’s been my whole life, really,” former Team Canada pitcher Heidi Northcott.
“It’s taken so much, in the sense that I never got to go on one of those May long trips going camping with everybody, stuff like that, or a true summer where you just go hang out at a lake all summer long all day, but it’s given me so much more than it’s taken and I’m so thankful for that and to me it represents family and it represents the ability to have fun, enjoy the game. I mean, I get paid to play a child’s game. I can’t really think of a better job,” Jordan Procyshen, professional baseball player and Okotoks Dawgs alumni.
“For me, it’s kind of been my whole life since I was 16 … I haven’t really stopped playing or coaching baseball ever since. The longest I’ve gone is a month. It means a lot to me and I hope to pass on some of the stuff that I’ve learned over the years to the next generation and see where we can get to,” former Chicago Cubs and Arizona Diamondbacks pitching prospect Ethan Elias, who is now a coach with Absolute Human Performance.
“For me, every time that I hop on the mound – not that it happens very much anymore – it’s almost like feeling like you’re a kid again. In a weird way with baseball I’m pretty fortunate being able to do it full time and it doesn’t necessarily feel like work … overall, I still feel pretty young because of the game of baseball,” Geoff Freeborn, former Calgary Vipers pitcher and creator of Sidearm Nation.
“Everything. It’s been around my entire life and I’m trying as hard as I can to make it a reality, make my dream come true. Baseball will be with me until I die. I’ll be watching it forever,” Okotoks Dawgs closer Matt Wilkinson.
“It’s a huge aspect of who I became. You don’t want it to be the only aspect of your life, you want to be a well-rounded person, but baseball has been a great opportunity for me to compete, to build up that type of athlete I wanted to be and it was a great opportunity to me. Baseball has been a great sport and I still think it’s a great sport. Those that are lucky to be around it long enough, we’re always very appreciative of that opportunity,” Greg Morrison, former Pioneer League slugger and owner of the Medicine Hat Mavericks.
“Man, it means so much. It means community, friendship, it means working hard, it means the grind, it’s just such a beautiful game and it’s given me so much and I’m so very thankful for it and the memories and relationships that it’s given me and all the opportunities that it’s opened up,” Luxon Glor, Vauxhall Academy graduate and star college track athlete.
“It means everything. It’s my life. I don’t know what I’d really be doing, honestly, if I wasn’t a baseball player. I’d probably be working. I’ve kinda gotta thank baseball for making sure that I don’t really have to do much. It’s amazing. It’s brought so many memories into my life, it’s brought so many friendships that I’ll never forget. It’s brought a lot of coaches that have taught me so many things. It’s just brought everything together. I can’t thank it enough,” Calgary pitcher Cohen Achen.
“It definitely means more to me than a lot of other small things in my life. It’s been a big part of my life ever since I could walk. Playing the game every day and getting to play beside people you love and with people you love, it’s definitely one of the best sports in the world for a lot of different reasons … definitely the love for the game is more than I have for anything else,” Dawgs Academy product Ayden Makarus.
“The game of baseball has been my life. I’ve done this for more than half of my life. It’s been my only career that I’ve had. I’m fortunate to be involved in what is unquestionably one of the greatest games in the world. I know everybody in Canada loves their hockey but I’ll tell you what, to try and get our players through a 162-game season, and to know that you’ve made a difference in their lives and in their careers is so satisfying. Baseball has afforded me that opportunity to be able to say that I’ve been there, I’ve done that and finally we just won that World Series. I’m living the dream, really,” Mike Frostad, former assistant athletic trainer with the Atlanta Braves, now the head athletic trainer and director of sports medicine for the Los Angeles Angels.
“It’s been my life since I was a little kid, as long as I can remember. It’s just somewhere I can go and I just don’t think about anything else in the world except for baseball. I just get to play and have fun and who knows where it will take you? It means the world to me. It’s tough to put into words what baseball means to me but it’s definitely been a fun and enjoyable ride and I can’t wait to see where it takes me,” Carlin Dick, Vauxhall Academy grad and Lethbridge Bulls slugger.
“What it means and what it meant are almost two different categories now. What it meant to me was obviously a way of supporting my family. What it means to me now is my pensions are coming in, my minor-league pension, my big-league pension … what it means to me now is everything because it’s my retirement. But those things in the middle, those relationships that I’ve established in the middle that baseball brought out to me and has given me that you couldn’t get anywhere else, you like to think that the game of baseball, because I was taught by the old generation, guys that played in the ’50s and ’60s, so baseball was always a grand old lady to me. They called it the grand old dame and to respect that game, so I was always so thankful for that. The game slowed down for me to jump on and the game slowed down for me to get off. It was like a ferris wheel and if you stay in the game too long, the next thing you knew the game threw them out, instead of you being able to walk out. Being able to walk out graciously, even as a coach, I’m so thankful for that, because I look at the guys who got thrown out of the game and no matter how good they were, they got thrown out and they can’t get back in,” former Calgary Cannon and MLB pitcher Keith Comstock.
“It really does mean the world. So many different experiences and meeting so many great people and I’ve made some great friendships. A lot of memories … and there’s so much adversity in baseball, it really teaches you a lot about life,” Tucker Zdunich, who has played for the Moose Jaw Miller Express and Okotoks Dawgs in the WCBL.
“My parents, my family have made some big sacrifices for me to play this game and that’s my drive. They got me to this place that I am … every time I step on the field it’s for them because they made all the sacrifices for me. For me, that means that I need to be a good person. Life’s not baseball. Baseball has taught me some great life lessons and I would love to continue playing past college wherever, but I can leave the game and be satisfied because, one, I gave everything I had for the people who gave sacrifices for me and this game has made me a better person. So, for me the number one thing is being a good person, being accountable for your actions and the people around you. For me, the game has done that for me. I’ll leave with a good taste in my mouth that I’ve given everything I had,” Calgarian Ty Scott, a former member of the Weyburn Beavers.
“The first word that comes to mind is ‘fun.’ Oh gosh, I feel like it’s romantic. It’s hard not to be romantic about baseball, right? But what baseball means to me is it was some of the funnest times of my life. I associate it with fun, happiness, joy … so yeah, that’s what baseball means to me,” boxer Kandi Wyatt, who played baseball for Team Alberta.
“Baseball is a way for me to get away from real life. That’s how I try to look at it. There are so many things, so many tasks that we have to get done every day as an adult and baseball is my way of leaving that and being a kid again. I’m good at it because I enjoy doing it, because I love doing it. Baseball to me is just a way of having fun and being my best self … and it just so happens that it’s what I do for a living. It’s just a win-win situation. There’s nothing like being a kid on the baseball field all over again. There could be all these things happen and you show up to the field and you’re having just as much fun hitting a double or fielding a ground ball or winning a ball game. That’s what baseball means to me. It’s just a distraction from the real world that brings out the best in me,” middle infielder Alejo Lopez, a Dawgs Academy graduate who now plays for the Cincinnati Reds.
“It means everything. It’s led me to a higher education. It’s led me to a higher level on the field. My family is also a part of it, too. They’re at every game they can be at, so that means everything to me,” Noah Or, former catcher with the Lethbridge Bulls.
“Honestly, for me growing up it was my entire life and now it’s just something that I can incorporate with my family and with all of my friends and everyone. It’s my life, it’s everything to me. Pitching is my main focus and when I’m on the mound and I can just focus in and throw to all the batters. That’s what it means to me,” Helaina Appleyard of Team Alberta.
“I think it’s everything. It’s given me an outlet to meet some great teammates and coaches. Whether I’m stressed out or just need somewhere to go I can always pick up my glove and go play catch with somebody. It’s just a great outlet for me and it’s brought me to where I am today,” Vauxhall Academy graduate and San Diego Padres prospect Garrett Hawkins.
“To me and to my family and to anybody who is close to me it means everything. Words can’t even describe how much I love the sport and how much I look forward to going to ball every day. Just being able to play at the next level is very exciting and to know that I’ll have a career, hopefully, in baseball and be able to play it every day professionally, hopefully, as well as just in college and even in high school, it just really means a lot to me, means the world to have the facilities that I have in Okotoks and the coaches that I have here and even my past coaches. It means everything,” Dawgs Academy outfielder Max Hartman, who played for Baseball Canada’s Junior National Team (JNT).
“I think the game of baseball for me is just the whole journey and everything that’s been involved in it. My path is like a lot of guys from Western Canada, just playing all over the place, playing in the States, playing in Canada. The game itself has taught me how to handle adversity and how to just move forward and enjoy the game and work hard and take those big life messages and put them into every single day,” Jake Lanferman, head coach of the Edmonton Riverhawks.
“It’s part of who I am. It’s part of who my family is. My family knows that a lot of times baseball has to come first because of the position I’m in and they understand that and supported me through all these years … I’ve lived the perfect life, I guess. When it comes to my work, I get to come to the yard every day and whether that’s fixing the field or working with a kid or talking to a scout or a coach in the U.S., it’s crazy that there’s a handful of us in Canada that get to do that and I’m one of them. I’m so grateful that I’ve had that opportunity … it’s a way of life and I wouldn’t want anything else,” Prairie Baseball Academy (PBA) Head Coach Todd Hubka.
“It means everything. It’s consumed most of my life and I wouldn’t be where I was today with work ethic, school, anywhere without it. I owe it everything, really,” Conor Bronson, former outfielder with the Edmonton Prospects.
“I think at times growing up it takes over. Everything is so focused on you’re wanting to go here or you’re wanting to accomplish this or you’re wanting to make this team and you want to make that team. I think the game of baseball has done a tonne for me personally, like meeting my wife and doing all that, so it means the world to me but I think as I get older it’s something I get to do. I get to work and it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s who I am, if that makes sense. As I’ve gotten older, it’s hard to put into words what the game means to me because it means so much on so many different levels, whether that’s friendships or people you look up to or admire or maybe younger kids that you get to coach and mentor, but it is a game and I think that at times I need to remind myself it is a game, and it’s supposed to be fun and you’re supposed to enjoy it,” Jason Chatwood, head coach of the Sylvan Lake Gulls.
“It means so much. It’s been my life for a really long time. It’s made connections for me that I’ll never forget. It helps me not only become a better person, not only for myself but I think people around me, too. It helps me deal with relationships better, not only on the field but off of it as well. It’s just helped me as a person in so many different ways,” Dawgs Academy grad and JNT alum Boston Warkentin.
“It means a lot. It means a lot more than just going out there and swinging a bat … it’s helped me develop a lot of skills off the field, too: time management, work ethic, competitiveness, and so on and so forth. I just feel like these skills mean the world to people as you get older. There’ll be a time where you can’t play the game no more … and you’re going to have to go back to real life and those skills that you’ve learned along the way are important to how you live the rest of your life,” Wetaskiwin native Matt Coutney, who was drafted by the Los Angeles Angels.
“The game of baseball means a hell of a lot to me, excuse the language, because it made me grow. It made me become a human being and a father and a family man. As far as everything goes, it built my house. I have a family, I have two vehicles, I don’t owe anybody anything, I have money in the bank,” former Montreal Expos pitcher Bill Atkinson, who played for the Edmonton Trappers in 1981.
“It’s a fraternity. It’s family, it’s brotherhood, that kind of thing. I’ve met so many amazing people from the time I was five years old when I started playing tee ball, or even younger, when I was at my brother’s games, until now. It’s been so many relationships, so many good friends, a lot of them that I’m still in touch with and that I still talk with … that’s what it’s all about. For every in-game memory that you have, or practice that you have, there’s half a dozen, if not more, off-field memories from guys that you shared time with or lived with … that goes way further than any baseball accomplishment,” Cam Williams, head coach of the University of Calgary Dinos and Weyburn Beavers.
“It’s life. I love it, can’t give it up. It’s everything,” Dax Wandler of the Brooks Bombers.
“It was a passion early on. It turns into a job, but it’s still a game, right? It’s a game that you get to go to every day and see something new. There’s always unexpected things. There’s a grind to it. Baseball is a game that you play every day and you have to be able to pick yourself up and love it to play it every day, but there’s also stuff that you might be able to learn about each day that you play it. There’s a lot of failures in it … it picks you up and it humbles you sometimes, and let’s you know that you’ve got to work hard for everything you want in the game,” Jim Henderson, an original member of Dawgs Academy and former MLB reliever, now the bullpen coach of the Milwaukee Brewers.
“I’d say baseball means working hard, having fun, being really close to your teammates and just grinding. Baseball is a game of failures, so you just have to keep grinding and stay tough in your head and it will all work out,” AHP Academy product Amar Mahmood.
“Baseball is my whole life … it’s responsible for giving me the best relationships of my entire life – friendships, relationships with coaches, just everything. Baseball has given me an outlet and an opportunity to pursue something that I’m passionate about. The biggest thing for me is that it’s provided me with relationships and friendships that will last a lifetime. I’ll never be able to repay the game for that but I’m eternally grateful for that. Hopefully, it continues to be a part of my life for a long time,” Philadelphia Phillies prospect and former Lethbridge Bulls infielder Ty Penner.
“It’s just been fun, that’s how I can describe it. It’s always been somewhere I could go after school to practice and hang out with all my friends. That’s where I’ve met all of my best friends pretty much … couldn’t ask for anything more out of it,” Fort McMurray Giants pitcher Sean Dunn.
“It means so much. I think it just means an open door. There’s so many opportunities through sport, in general, and I think it means relationships, it means growth, it’s an open door to anything that you want to achieve. I’ve learned so much through this sport that’s not even related to the athletic side of it. It’s taught me so many life skills and met so many people. I have friendships that I’m going to have for life. It’s been a great opportunity, that’s what softball is to me,” Edmonton ball player Cassie Matlock.
“I wouldn’t trade an experience I’ve had, you know rooming with every guy that I’ve roomed with, dinners with teammates, the hours of practices, I wouldn’t trade any of that. At the end of the day, it’s made me who I am and it’s just such a special thing. I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” 2022 WCBL Playoff MVP Brendan Luther.
“It means a lot. I met my wife while playing winter ball in Venezuela and have a couple kids for it, and I met people from all over the world. It’s experiences that you’ll never get back and lots of good memories, some that you’d like to forget. When you’re on the mound it can be a lonely place at times, but all in all meeting so many different types of people and seeing so many different places … it’s shown me a lot of different things and it helps shape who you are as far as dealing with so many different people in different situations and trying to stay positive,” Reggie Rivard, former pitcher with the Calgary Vipers and Edmonton Cracker-Cats.
“It’s given me everything that I’ve needed, great friendships, great experiences, great development … I’m so grateful for it. These opportunities and these experiences are something that I’ll never forget and I’ll really cherish for the rest of my life,” Nathan Stark, Medicine Hat Mavericks pitcher.
“It’s funny, a little bit less than it used to, I would say. If you asked me that five years ago, ten years ago, I would’ve said it’s my whole life. I obviously still love it so much. It’s given me so much, so many great friendships, incredible memories. I think it’s the best game in the world for learning who you are, for developing, all that stuff. I don’t really know how to answer that. I think back to being 15 or 16 and making that decision that that’s what I wanted to do and being obsessed and I’m probably still obsessed,” AHP Academy President & Founder Taylor Burns.
“To me, it’s honestly like a stress reliever for me now. When I have an off day all I can think of is, when can I get to the baseball field again? … It’s just nice being at a baseball field. At the end of it all, it’s basically just kind of what I want to do every single day. I can’t take any of it for granted. I’m just happy for where I am,” Dawgs Academy grad Justin King, a prospect in the Milwaukee Brewers organization.
“This game means a lot to me. I lost my brother to cancer and he’s kind of the reason I play. I play for all the kids who can’t, and just every day I get to step on the field it means a little more because he’s not able to anymore, so I get to play for him and that’s kind of what baseball means to me is, you know, I’ve got a little more reason behind it and I get to play for someone who doesn’t anymore,” Kyle Froehlich, former Sylvan Lake Gulls player.
“It’s my whole life right now. Waking up, hanging out with the baseball team, going to practice, come back, hang out with the baseball team. It’s baseball 24/7. It’s my life right now. It’s given me a lot of opportunities to meet a lot of good people. It’s given me a lot of options to talk to people and make an impact on people I wouldn’t have gotten to make an impact on before,” Calgary power hitter Tom Poole.
“I don’t think I could pinpoint one meaning of the game to me. It means absolutely everything to me. It’s given me some of my best friends, it’s given me some of the best life lessons, it’s given me some of the best coaching experiences and things that I will carry with me when I’m wanting to make an impact on the next generation. When I’m done I want to be able to make an impact on the next generation and make sure that the experiences that I’ve gone through doesn’t happen to them, like making sure that my failures or negative experiences don’t happen, so they can learn from some of the common experiences,” Okotoks Dawgs two-way player Noah Geekie.
“It’s providing me with a tonne of opportunity that I never dreamt of. As a kid it was just a place that I loved to be, especially after my dad passed away. There were some tough times with my family and my mom did her best, she was amazing, but it was hard. It wasn’t always easy and every time we went to the ball field it was fun. That’s just something that I’ll never take for granted,” Vancouver Canadians coach Ashley Stephenson.
“That’s a pretty good question. It’s basically my life. I was thinking about it a few weeks ago, like what would my life be like without baseball? I have a few little things that I could say but it’s basically sponsored my whole life. I probably wouldn’t have went to school in the U.S. if it wasn’t for baseball. I wouldn’t have the crazy amount of friends that I would never have met without baseball. You just have to take a step back once and a while and say thanks for it because it’s actually incredible,” Arizona Diamondbacks prospect Gavin Logan, a former catcher with the Okotoks Dawgs.
“Besides my faith, in this earthly world we’re in, baseball is it for me. Obviously, my relationship with my kids and my wife, those take precedent over baseball, but baseball is my life and it’s been my life for 40 years. I love the game, I respect the game and I think I played the game in a way that showed respect for the game and that’s what I asked for my players. So, the game of baseball basically is my life. Anybody that knows me and they mention my name, baseball has got to be right there with it.,” Kash Beauchamp, member of the 1982 Medicine Hat Blue Jays and 1995 Edmonton Trappers.
“I think it’s been such a large part of my life that I’m starting to realize now that it’s part of my personality. I’ve made so many life-long friends over the years … guys that are eventually going to be invited to my wedding and such. I think to me it has been a large portion of my life, partially because I love the game and how much it means to me but also the connections I’ve made over the years,” Edmonton Riverhawks outfielder Clayton Loranger.
“Baseball gave me an opportunity when I was 15, 16 years old to go play the game I love as long as I possibly could. Obviously, I wish that was longer, but without that opportunity I wouldn’t be where I am today. I like to think I attempt to give back to the athletes that I get to work with and just make sure that they understand that this game can be taken away from you at any point. I promise you it will humble you quickly, so don’t take it for granted, continue to put in the work and enjoy the moment, really enjoy the moment. That’s something I wish I did more of,” Dawgs Academy alum Brett Platts, who is now a minor-league strength and conditioning coach.
Stay tuned to future episodes of Alberta Dugout Stories: The Podcast for more roses from the baseball world. And Happy Valentine’s Day!