* RHP Jimmy Henderson (Calgary, Alta.) and his former coach, John Ircandia, the Okotoks Dawgs founding director, were both inducted into the Okotoks/Seaman Stadium Hall of Fame. …..
Letters of Intent
Ircandia, Henderson inducted at sold out banquet
By Leigh March
The Okotoks Dawgs held their eighth annual awards banquet at the Foothills Centennial Centre. This year’s event was another outstanding success, drawing a sold out crowd of over 400 to the hall.
One of the highlights of the event was the induction of the 2nd class of the Seaman Stadium/Okotoks Dawgs Hall of Fame. A special ceremony welcomed Dawgs founding and managing director, John Ircandia and former Dawgs player and current major leaguer, Jim Henderson of the Milwaukee Brewers, to the Hall. Henderson’s mother, Marilyn Meek offered a touching tribute to Ircandia on behalf of Dawgs and J Dawgs parents over the years since the Dawgs were founded.
In addition, Dawgs director and vice president of community relations and promotions, William Gardner provided an outline of Ircandia’s accomplishments in baseball over the years.
Ircandia launched the Calgary Dawgs in 1995 as a single youth team. Ultimately every player on that club earned scholarship offers to attend US colleges and universities and several were in due course selected in the amateur draft of major league baseball.
Ircandia expanded the Dawgs program in 2003 to include a summer collegiate team that would initially play out of Foothills Stadium in Calgary. The Dawgs captured their first of four WMBL championships in their second season in Calgary before a crowd of 4,000 fans.
Ircandia spearheaded the relocation of the Dawgs to Okotoks in 2006 and served as Volunteer Project Manager for the construction of Seaman Stadium, the Duvernay Fieldhouse and Tourmaline Field, a $20 Million Dollar complex that has become a national phenomenon. Playing out of the state of the art, Seaman Stadium, the Dawgs reeled off three consecutive WMBL Championships from 2007 to 2009 and have appeared in five championship series, while playing in front of almost 500,000 fans.
In 2014, the Dawgs broke attendance records for fans per regular season game (2,827), fans per playoff game (3,214) and single game attendance (4,769 on Canada Day). As a result, Ballpark Biz, the US resource for minor league owners, executives and management, has recognized the Dawgs as the 4th top summer collegiate draw in all of North America!
In addition to the collegiate Dawgs success, Ircandia has overseen the growth of the Dawgs Youth Academy from its original 15 players to over 120 players, with players now joining the Academy from all over Canada and as far away as Mexico, Dubai and China and 12 full time, 4 seasonal coaches, including former Major League players and coaches. The on field success of the college Dawgs has been mirrored by the Youth Academy which has captured six Alberta championships, one Canadian Silver medal and one Canadian National Midget Championship over the past seven years.
With the addition of Tourmaline Field, Conrad and Riverside Bantam Fields, the Seaman Stadium Complex is the finest amateur and youth baseball facility in the country and among the best in North America.
The second inductee into the Hall of Fame was former Dawgs Youth and Collegiate player, Jim Henderson. Vince Ircandia, currently vice president of business and analytics with the Portland Trail Blazers of the NBA and for years Henderson’s teammate on the Dawgs, Team Alberta and at the Canada Cup, described Henderson as an exemplary Dawg and model for the young Dawgs currently playing in the Youth Academy.
He spoke of Henderson’s baseball background joining the original Calgary Dawgs youth team as a 12 year-old in 1995 and earning scholarships to Midland College in Texas and the Tennessee Wesleyan University before being drafted by the Montreal Expos — by current Blue Jays executive Dana Brown — off the Dawgs first ever summer collegiate club. Henderson has now played professionally for 12 seasons for three MLB organizations, becoming the first Dawg to play in the majors in 2012 when he joined the Milwaukee Brewers.
Henderson spent four seasons with the Expos/Nationals franchise and two with the Chicago Cubs organization before signing with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2009. In the midst of an all-star season at triple A Nashville, Henderson was called up to the Major Leagues and on July 26th, 2012 and became the first Dawg to play Major League Baseball. He took over as the Brewers closer in 2013, recording 28 saves and 75 strikeouts in 60 innings.
In welcoming Henderson to the 2015 class of the Seaman Stadium/Dawgs Hall of Fame, Vince Ircandia offered that Jim was a worthy candidate not only for his talent and accomplishments in the sport but also his commitment dedication and willingness to give back to the Dawgs program that helped him achieve his goals.
John Ircandia and Jim Henderson join a prestigious group currently enshrined in the Hall that includes Don Seaman, the primary donor behind Seaman Stadium and the Duvernay Fieldhouse, Bob Elliott, award winning and Hall of Fame Canadian journalist and Blair Kubicek, Alberta’s “Mr. Baseball”, who as first and long-time coach of the Prairie Baseball Academy, was responsible for developing and sending on to the next level, thousands of Canadian baseball players.
The eighth annual banquet also saw Dawgs Pitcher of the Year, Tyrell King, take the stage in an emotional acceptance speech that thanked the fans, coaches and staff; but most importantly, his family.
Also honored that night were Dawgs MVP, Connor Crane; True Grit Player of the Year, Ellis Kelly; and Rookie of the Year, Brendan Rose.
The graduating class of the Dawgs Academy was also honoured with scholarships towards their first year of college. Henderson awardrf Drake and Garrett Kirkwood with the Jim Henderson JDawg Player of the Year Award.
The night concluded in big league-fashion with the event’s guest speaker Hall of Fame second basemen Roberto Alomar. Presented in a question and answer format, Alomar gave a memorable speech with a special emphasis on the Academy players, telling them that through hard work and determination, they can accomplish their baseball dreams.
The staff and volunteers made this event possible with event coordinator, Angie Cox planning the event; as well as, Rylies Cattle Barn for another first-rate dinner.
All 100% of the proceeds from the live and silent auctions go towards the Dawgs facilities and youth programs.