* INFs Matt Lloyd (Okotoks, Alta.) and Dane Tofteland (Grand Praoire, Alta.) helped the Okotoks Dawgsw win a national midget championship and now both will return from school — Lloyd from Iowa Western, Tofteland from Indiana — to play for the Okotoks Dawgs this summer.
By Jonathan Hodgson
The Okotoks Dawgs have four more homegrown players returning to the 2015 roster, in returning RHP Shawn Andersen and fellow Dawgs Academy alums Ramon Valdez, Matt Lloyd and Dane Tofteland.
Andersen returns for his third summer with the Dawgs, coming off of a 2014 season where he was an integral member of the team’s bullpen.
A sophomore at Douglas College in Vancouver, BC, Andersen appeared in 14 games for the Dawgs this past summer, posting a 2.89 ERA in 18.2 innings, allowing 21 hits with 10 strikeouts. He previously appeared in 16 games for the
Andersen was at his best in the playoffs, not allowing a run in 11 innings over four appearances. He was at the core of the Dawgs first round comeback, pitching five shutout innings of relief in the Dawgs 4-2 Game 4 win, and another scoreless inning in the clinching Game 5. He also induced the first triple-play turned in franchise history in the seventh inning of Game 3 of the second round
The native of Calgary, Alberta who graduated from the Dawgs Academy in 2012, and was a member of head coach Brett Thomas’ midget national championship team that year, did not allow an earned run in his final nine appearances of the summer, including regular season and playoffs; a span of 20 innings pitched.
“I am extremely excited to come back to Okotoks for a third summer.” Andersen says. “It is truly an honor and a privilege to play in front of the greatest fans and I am confident that we are ready to take the next step and bring a championship back to Okotoks.”
“Shawn worked hard all summer and developed so well under pitching coach Austin Brough, and was huge for us in the playoffs.” Thomas said. “I have seen Shawn pitch in many big games in his career, from age 16 to 21. He gets it done on the big stage and the Game 4 performance in the Lethbridge series might have been the best performance we had all year.”
Joining Andersen is his former battery mate in the Dawgs Academy, catcher Valdez, a junior at Barry University in Miami Shores, Fla., is another member of the Dawgs Academy’s 2012 midget national championship team. The native of Calgary, Alberta enjoyed a strong sophomore season at Barry, hitting .303 with 17 RBI’s in 37 games this past spring. He worked 28 walks, boosting his on-base percentage to a lofty .469.
“It’s great to be able to go back home to put on the Dawgs uniform again, and play with former teammates and for my old coach.” Valdez said. “From the sounds of things we’re going to have a great group so I’m really looking forward to doing big things with the squad this year.”
Thomas has glowing reviews of his catcher, saying:
“I feel blessed to coach Ramon Valdez again this summer. Ramon was undoubtedly my leader for two summers when I coached the midget team. It was no coincidence that we had a great deal of success while Ramon was leading our squad and hitting in the middle of the lineup. I look for Ramon to bring a big time left-handed bat to our lineup and continue his leadership skills to help us win a championship in 2015”
Also returning to Okotoks are freshman infielders, Lloyd and Tofteland. A native of Okotoks, Lloyd capped off a very successful tenure with the Dawgs Academy, graduating in 2014. Lloyd enjoyed great success with the Academy, and earned his way on to Canada’s Junior National Team in 2014.
The 6’2’’, left-handed hitting infielder saw action in four games with the collegiate Dawgs this past summer, and made an immediate impact going 3-for-7 with two doubles, and delivered a 10th inning walk-off base hit to lift the Dawgs over Lethbridge on June 25th.
He also appeared in one game for the Dawgs in 2013, pitching three scoreless innings with three strikeouts.
Now a freshman at Iowa Western Community College, Lloyd is looking forward to returning home next summer,
“I am very excited to spend the summer back home. It will be a great experience to wear Dawgs colors again and play in front of our amazing fans.”
Thomas expects Lloyd to make an impact next summer … since he began coaching Lloyd when he was 13 years old.
“He has developed not only into a good player, but a big game player” Thomas begins. “Matt has competed internationally with Canada, has been on the national stage for years including pitching a complete game gem to win the Dawgs the 2012 Midget national championship at just 15 years old.
“Matt’s big game ability showed in just a few appearances for us last summer when he helped win extra inning games in Edmonton and at home against Lethbridge. I am excited to have him all summer in 2015 making plays up the middle and sparking our offense.” Says Thomas.
Joining Lloyd on the infield in 2015 is Tofteland. Tofteland was a standout player for the Dawgs Academy, earning a scholarship to play at Indiana State University Hoosiers beginning this fall.
A native of Grande Prairie, Alta., the 6-foot-4, 215 lb. infielder saw action in three games with the Dawgs this past summer. Tofteland has the athletic ability to man the corner infield positions as well as play the outfield. In March of 2014, entering his final season with the Dawgs Academy, Tofteland was recognized by Perfect Game USA, being named Canada/Puerto Rico All Region 1st Team. Tofteland is looking to make the most of his return to Okotoks,
“I feel honored to come back to Okotoks and play in front of my family and friends,” said Tofteland. “I’m looking forward to playing for the fans of Okotoks and contributing to a successful and winning season for the Dawgs
Said Thomas on adding Tofteland: “Dane is another outstanding product of the Dawgs Academy Program. A raw talent, Dane blossomed into a Division 1 scholarship player and now makes his way full circle to our college team.”
“I’m excited to add such an athletic player who will be able to play corner infield or outfield, hit with some power and run the bases,” said Thomas.
With the earlier signing of Brendan Rose, there are now five Dawgs Academy graduates on the Dawgs 2015 roster, all of whom Thomas coached at the Academy.
“As a coach it is always special to have the chance to cross paths with players you have previously coached and get an opportunity to coach them again. This is very special to me to have the chance to coach Brendan, Shawn, Ramon, Matt and Dane again,” said Thomas.
An objective of the Dawgs and the Dawgs Academy is to prepare players for the next level, with an eye on potentially returning Academy graduates to Okotoks to play with the collegiate Dawgs. This objective has been a resounding success with multiple Academy graduates on the Dawgs roster every season since 2010, with a total of 22 seeing game action with the ‘big Dawgs.’
Many of these have been high impact players, such as MLB draft selections Tyler Hollick, Jordan Procyshen, and Chris Shaw.
“I am incredibly pleased and proud really, to have graduates of the ‘JDawgs’ program develop to the point they can come back and contribute to the success of the collegiate Dawgs,” said Dawgs managing director John Ircandia..
Ircandia addresses this year’s crop saying, “We saw it last year again with Brendan Rose and Shawn Andersen. We have followed Ramon Valdez’s college career and think he can be an impact hitter this summer. Matt Lloyd is a former Canadian Junior National Team player and Dane Tofteland returns after earning a scholarship to a Division 1 school, Indiana State.
“These are all quality players who have the potential to step right in and be difference makers with the big Dawgs. Honestly, I love it when former JDawgs take this next step and are able to do it right here at home at Seaman Stadium. That’s why I started the summer collegiate version of the Dawgs in the first place.”