King Alberta bound … all the way home

t. King

 * LHP Tyrell King was one of the oddest recruiting calls Okotoks Dawgs coach Brett Thomas ever made when he was searching for help the 2014 season. What followed was a homecoming for King, who earned the Dawgs pitcher of the year honors at the eighth annual banquet.


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Letters of Intent

By Bob Elliott

OKOTOKS, Alta. _ You’ve heard that old line about going to a fight … and a hockey game breaking out?

In the midst of the eighth annual Okotoks Dawgs banquet it appeared as there track and field meet broke out.

First some background …

Okotoks Dawgs coach Brett Thomas made his away to the podium to present the awards from the 2014 season at the Foothills CentenThomas1nial Center.

Yet, before he did he stopped by the table of LHP Tyrell King to ask permission.

The Dawgs coach wanted thumbs up on whether it was OK to tell a story.

King was about to be presented the Dawgs pitcher of the year award, but Thomas — in a rare move seldom made by coaches — wanted part of his speech approved.

From the podium, Thomas started at the start … how Thomas had been given the name and phone number of a lefty at Paradise Valley Community College in Arizona from a coaching friend … how the pitcher would be a good fit for the Dawgs rotation … how Thomas made the cold call to Tyrell King … explained who to the lefty how he was coaching the Okotoks Dawgs … how it was 45 minutes south of Calgary … and as he waited for the usual “what’s an Okotoks?” question from a America player, he heard a strange reply.

“Oh man … back home,” King said.

Back home?

“I’ll probably get to pitch in front of my birth father … he has never seen my pitch.”

And so the Calgary-born King was Alberta Bound, like Gordon Lightfoot and Paul Brandt sing.

The Medicine Hat Mavericks eliminated the Dawgs from the Western Major Baseball League playoffs.tyrell king dugout

“I was terribly disappointed that we had been eliminated,” Thomas told the sold out crowd of 450 fans. “I did find some solace when I looked down and saw Tyrell and his father embracing … his father consoling him.”

And with that he introduced King.

The 6-foot-4 King didn’t break stride as he made like a combination high hurdler and steeple chase competitor leaping onto the five-foot stage (“I didn’t want to go around the back,” King would say later.

King hugged Thomas and then stood crying at the podium before he composed himself.t king

“I don’t have anything prepared, so I’m going to speak from the heart,” said King, putting his hand over his heart and dabbing his eye. “I had plenty of other options to play last summer … I landed in Calgary at midnight and 12 hours later I was on the mound … not my best game.

“I was born in Calgary. Okotoks is my home away from home. I love all of you.”

The lefty thanked the Dawgs organization, his teammates, the front office and the billets.

It was one bit of emotion on an emotional night as Dawgs founder John Ircandia and Dawgs grad Jim Henderson of the Milwaukee Brewers were inducted into the Dawgs-Seaman jim hendersonStadium Hall of Fame.

But back to that first start … King allowed six runs — three earned — on seven hits and two walks over three innings in an 8-4 loss to the Swift Current Indians.

Nice debut.

“Between each pitch I look over and see my birth father and my brother watching me pitch for the first time,” King would say later, about his father Chris Forbes and Tyrell’s brother Chauncey Forbes.

At age six his mom met former major leguer Ray King, fell in live and they moved to Arizona. King pitched in 593 games over 10 major-league seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers, Washington Nationals, St. Louis Cardinals, Colorado Rockies, Chicago Cubs and the Atlanta Braves. King is now the left-hander’s step father.

“I told people after the game — that was not the way I pitched,” said the lefty, selected by the Chicago White Sox in the 34th round of the 2013 round from Yavapai College.

And King was right … like Lightfoot sings:

“Oh the prairie lights are burnin’ bright
The Chinook wind is a-movin’ in
Tomorrow night I’ll be Alberta bound
Though I’ve done the best I could
My old luck ain’t been so good and
Tomorrow night I’ll be Alberta bound
No one-eyed man could e’er forget

“The Rocky Mountain sunset
It’s a pleasure just to be Alberta bound
I long to see my next of kin
To know what kind of shape they’re in
Tomorrow night I’ll be Alberta bound
Alberta bound, Alberta bound
It’s good to be Alberta bound.”

Even with the bad debut, King went 4-2 with a 2.10 ERA in nine regular-season games making eight starts. He walked 16 and struck out 37 in 47 innings.

King had a 5-1 lead after four innings in Game 4 of the WMBL semi-final with the Hat leading the best-of-five series 2-1.

A fifth and deciding game seemed certain.

The Mavericks scored twice in the fifth and two more in the seventh to tie the score. King pitched 6 2/3 innings allowing five runs on nine hits and two walks. He struck out eight.

The Hat scored two in the eighth for a 7-5 win to eliminate the Dawgs.

john ircandnidWhen it was over and after he was hugged by his father he headed straight for Ircandia.

King: “John, I’m coming back … I want the opening day start. I’m sorry. I let you guys down.”

Ircandia: “You want the opening day start? You’ve got it … as long as Brett says he’s fine with it.”

After transferring to Missouri Baptist, King felt pain in his left shoulder this fall and told his coach he had to shut things down. He has medical red-shirt status for this spring, but expects to be back on the mound this summer.

King said he didn’t throw more than 15 innings (actually 12 2/3) in 2013 at Yapavai College Roughriders

Last year his work load jumped to 135 2/3 innings (70 2/3 for the Paradise Valley Pumas and 65 with the Dawgs, counting the playoffs).

“How can you not like the facilities they have here? We don’t play on diamonds like this in Arizona — unless we get to use a spring training complex,” King said. “I tell people how good the ball here is in Canada.

“I’m looking forward to putting my Dawgs uniform on again next summer … and rattling some heads.”

And again King will be Alberta bound as Paul Brandt sings

“The Sign said 40 miles to Canada
My truck tore across Montana
Ian Tyson sang a lonesome lullaby
And so I cranked up the radio
Cause there’s just a little more to go
Before I cross the border at that Sweet Grass sign
I’m Alberta Bound.

“This piece of heaven that I’ve found
Rocky Mountains and black fertile ground
Everything I need beneath that big blue sky
It Doesn’t matter where I go
This place will always be my home
Yeah I’ve been Alberta Bound for all my life
And I’ll be Alberta Bound until I die.”

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