By IAN WILSON
The Cape Cod Baseball League has reeled in a big fish from Seaman Stadium.
Matt “Tugboat” Wilkinson revealed he has a line on a roster spot with the Chatham Anglers of the CCBL and will set sail from the Okotoks Dawgs and the Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL) later this summer.
“I have a little bit of a different summer planned. I’m only here for two weeks and then I’m heading out to the Cape Cod Baseball League,” said the left-handed pitcher at the team’s 2023 media day introductory event.
“It was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down. I’m going to challenge myself against the best hitters and the best players in all of college baseball, so I’m excited for it.”
Wilkinson, who hails from Ladner, B.C., has been an imposing presence on the mound for Okotoks as both a member of Dawgs Academy and the WCBL club.
The 6-foot-1 southpaw helped the Dawgs win a title in 2019 by going 1-1 with a 4.26 earned run average (ERA) in three regular season games. Through 12.2 innings, he struck out 16 batters. Wilkinson made his WCBL postseason debut that year, pitching 5.1 innings and racking up seven strikeouts in a no-decision. He surrendered just a pair of hits and allowed no runs in that outing against the Lethbridge Bulls.
He returned for a pandemic-altered season with the Dawgs in 2021. That year the WCBL was comprised of all-Canadian rosters and only teams from Alberta participated. The Dawgs entered two squads, including rosters for a Red and a Black team. With the Black pin-striped club, Wilkinson tossed 27 innings over six games and registered 56 Ks, a 1-1 record and a 2.66 ERA.
The hard-throwing lefty was back again with the Dawgs last year and was a key member of their championship ballclub. Through 11 regular-season contests, Wilkinson went 3-1 with an impressive 1.68 ERA and 55 strikeouts over 26.2 innings. He was unbeatable out of the bullpen in the postseason, allowing no hits or runs in four appearances and five innings of work. Wilkinson picked up two saves, including the final out in a title-clinching victory over the Moose Jaw Miller Express.
He’ll go from throwing the last pitch of the 2022 WCBL season to tossing the first pitch of the summer for the Okotoks Dawgs in 2023. Wilkinson has been announced as the Opening Day starter for the Dawgs.
“The fans really do treat you like gold and there’s no better place to play college baseball out here,” said Wilkinson of the Okotoks Dawgs.
“It means a lot. I’ve been here since 2018, a good five or six years now. I wouldn’t be the player I am today without this place and I can say that chest out.”
In addition to finding success in the WCBL, Wilkinson has also been a high-end performer with Central Arizona College over the last two seasons. He’s appeared in 35 games, half of them starts, and posted a 1.38 ERA in 137 innings at the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) level. Wilkinson piled up 221 strikeouts while assembling a 15-4 record and two saves.
The Vaqueros won the NJCAA Division 1 World Series in 2022 and Wilkinson was named the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference (ACCAC) Pitcher of the Year for his work on the mound this season.
“What I’ve been able to develop from a young age is just confidence and believing in everything that you do. It goes a long way. You put your mind to something you want to do and you’ll be able to do it,” said Wilkinson.
“Pitching with confidence and not being scared of anyone, no matter who you face … it comes down to just having a plan and staying true to your plan.”
The Cape Code Baseball League is an historic 10-team summer league circuit that was founded in 1885 and has graduated over a thousand players to the ranks of Major League Baseball (MLB).
Based in Massachusetts, it’s motto is “where the stars of tomorrow shine tonight.”
Wilkinson hopes to use his time in the wood-bat league going best-on-best against some of the top collegiate sluggers in the sport, while preparing for next season with the Arizona State University (ASU) Sun Devils of the Pac-12 Conference.
“Hopefully get ready for ASU next year and then if the (MLB) draft comes, the draft comes, and if not then I go to ASU and get ready for that,” said Wilkinson, who is a fan of fellow lefty Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Wilkinson will take the mound in Okotoks for a season-opening matchup against the Brooks Bombers at Seaman Stadium on Friday, May 26th at 7:05 p.m.