* The Perfect Game Showcase made its Canadian debut in Oshawa in 2011 and returned to Guelph in 2012. Now PG is coming back to Canada and in a big way with the Perfect Game Super25 Mother`s Day classic in Okotoks, Alta. May 7-10. The winner advances to the super regional.
Okotoks Dawgs Academy to host Perfect Game ‘Super25’
By Jonathan Hodgson
The Okotoks Dawgs and the Dawgs Baseball Academy will host a Perfect Game USA “Super25” regional tournament this May at the Seaman Stadium Complex in Okotoks, Alberta.
The 17U/18U Wood Bat Mothers’ Day Classic takes place at the Seaman Stadium Complex on May 7-10, 2015. It will be a qualifier tournament in Perfect Game’s ‘Super25’ series, with the winner of the Okotoks tournament advancing to the Super25 super regional.
Among the seven accepted teams for the four day tournament are the Dawgs Midget Black & Red teams, who will compete against Coquitlam Reds and North Delta Blue Jays of the BC Premier League, as well as the Spruce Grove White Sox, Team Saskatchewan, and the Vauxhall Academy.
The Okotoks Mothers Day Classic is the lone Super25 event scheduled to take place outside of the United States or Puerto Rico.
Since relocating to Okotoks in 2007, the Dawgs Academy has enjoyed a literal and figurative rebirth, growing into one of the elite destinations in Canada for youth baseball development, and hosting this Perfect Game event can be seen as another high water mark in the growth of the program.
After four years in Seaman Stadium, the state of the art, minor-league calibre home of the Dawgs’ summer collegiate, Western Major Baseball League team from 2007-2010, the Dawgs Academy expanded across the road in 2010, into ‘the home of the JDawgs’, Tourmaline Field. The Academy now enjoys the benefit of playing out of both stadiums as well as Conrad and Riverside Fields, while training year round at the indoor Duvernay Fieldhouse. Together, the facilities comprise the Seaman Stadium Complex, which is home to arguably the finest amateur baseball facilities in Canada, and on par with top facilities in the United States.
Dawgs Academy teams have always been a breeding ground for elite young talent, dating back to the original Dawgs youth team in 1995 that featured the first Dawgs’ Major Leaguer, Jim Henderson, along with 12 future MLB draft picks including Matt Ircandia (San Francisco Giants), Emerson Frostad (Texas Rangers) and James Avery (Cincinnati Reds). That tradition has continued with multiple additional draft picks and the 2011 Midget National Championship in the new facilities.
A pipeline has also developed between Okotoks and Canada’s Junior National Team with Dawgs Academy products regularly suiting up for Greg Hamilton’s Canadian juniors, like catchers Jordan Procyshen (2010) and Chris Shaw (2012), and most recently infielder Peter Hutzal (2015).
Procyshen and Shaw are two of 34 Dawgs Academy players to be drafted by Major League Baseball. Procyshen, a 2014 14this currently in his second season in the Red Sox organization, while Shaw was taken by Milwaukee in the 38th senior season with the Dawgs, and again in the 14th Louis Cardinals. Both times he elected to return to college, and he is now the starting catcher as a junior with the Oklahoma Sooners in the NCAA Div. 1, Big 12 Conference.
Tyler Hollick was another Dawgs standout and received a scholarship to Ohio State University and was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in 2011, and is currently playing in their organization.
The Dawgs can now add 2015 Perfect Game Super25 host to the program’s resume. Perfect Game USA is the largest and most complete amateur baseball scouting service in baseball, and hosts over 100 showcases and tournaments annually. Their showcase events that take place across the United States –and now Okotoks- feature many of the best young players in the game. Simply put, Perfect Game is the elite youth baseball showcase in North America.
John Ircandia, managing director of the Okotoks Dawgs, says hosting a Perfect Game Super25 tournament is another confirmation of what the organization is doing, and will provide youth players with a unique opportunity to be seen by some of the top evaluators in baseball.
“From the beginning, the Dawgs formula has been: facilities, coaching and competition, and with the Seaman Stadium Complex, there is no question our players have the facilities,” said Ircandia, who as testament to the Dawgs successes, is named annually one of the most influential Canadians in baseball by the Canadian Baseball Network.
“With 11 full time and eight seasonal coaches, all from professional or collegiate ranks, the coaching is there, and showcase events like the Perfect Game Super25 supplement the highly competitive schedule that completes that formula for success,” Ircandia said.
The Dawgs robust roster of coaches continues to grow stronger with each season, now having several ex professional and Major League veteran players, supplementing a staff of former collegiate standout players and coaches.
Pitching is a particular area of strength in this regard. Bruce Walton coached in the Toronto Blue Jays organization for 17 years, including three seasons as Blue Jays pitching coach, before joining the Dawgs in 2013. Walton has served as pitching coordinator and has assisted the Dawgs coaches in developing a leading edge pitching program.
Jeff Duda enjoyed a decorated playing career pitching collegiately and professionally before returning to Okotoks where he led the summer collegiate Dawgs to three consecutive WMBL Championships in 2007-09, and became head pitching coach of the Academy in 2013. Finally, five-year Major League veteran right-hander Lou Pote, owner of a 2002 World Series ring from the Anaheim Angels, was added to the Dawgs staff as a pitching coach in 2014.
Milwaukee Brewer Henderson returns to Okotoks as a seasonal coach each offseason alongside other former Dawgs and current professional players like Procyshen and Hollick who return to help raise the next generation of Dawgs position players.
Allen Cox is the Dawgs program head coach, and is serving as the director of the Mothers Day Wood Bat Classic. He says hosting a Perfect Game event is a sign of just how far the Dawgs program, and baseball in Western Canada in general, has grown in a relatively short period of time.
“This is going to be an exciting weekend for our program,” Cox said. “This is a tremendous opportunity for our players to gain valuable exposure by playing in front of many new eyes from around the baseball world, and you can be sure that they will be at their best.
“The chance to host a Perfect Game event in Okotoks speaks to the calibre of player found in Okotoks and western Canada, and is a confirmation that, as a program, our relentless pursuit of ‘the Dawgs vision’ is on the right track, and is being validated by top baseball powers.”
Perfect Game USA produces “the very highest national level individual player showcases and team tournaments all over the United States.”
According to Perfect Game, “close to 85% of players in the National Showcase end up signing with the top conferences and top programs in the country. The National has also seen more draft picks and first round draft picks than any other individual event in baseball over the past seven years.”
Participating in a Perfect Game event comes with significant advantages for participating players, notably the opportunity to be seen by collegiate coaches and recruiters, as will as pro scouts. Coaches from all levels of college ball attend Perfect game events, including NCAA Div. I as well as Div. II, Div III, NAIA and NJCAA (junior college). All 30 Major League teams send scouts to Perfect Game events.
Perfect Game USA also produces a comprehensive scouting notebook, known as “PG Crosschecker”, which is complete with lists and rankings of all the top college and high school players in the upcoming draft classes and underclassmen, broken down nationally and by state. PG Crosschecker was made famous by Canadian Allan Simpson, who himself has changed the way the game is studied and analyzed.
Simpson (Kelowna, BC) is the founder of Baseball America, the single most influential publication in baseball. He hatched the concept for Baseball America while living in White Rock, BC in 1980 and watched it blossom into the trusted baseball publication as editor-in-chief until 2006, when he joined Perfect Game USA. Simpson was recognized for his contributions to baseball as a 2011 inductee into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame alongside former Major Leaguer Tom Henke, who recorded 311 saves in a 14-year Major League career, 11 with the Toronto Blue Jays, and was a member of the 1992 World Series champion Blue Jays.
The staff of Perfect Game includes approximately 50 full-time employees spread across the US, all with extensive experience in pro and/or collegiate baseball. At any one given time, nearly 100,000 high school baseball players are being followed on the PG Database.
Perfect Game events are attended by a who’s-who of baseball coaches, scouts and executives, as demonstrated by the numerous testimonials on their website, like this one from New York Yankees general manager, Brian Cashman:
“Perfect Game is a leading resource for anyone interested in amateur baseball, running top-notch events throughout the year which are followed closely by our scouts. Organized and efficient, Perfect Game is on top of their game. Perfect Game player information and rankings are a valuable resource for us.”
Many of baseball’s biggest names and brightest talents were given their start, or big break, thanks to attending a Perfect Game event. Mike Trout burst into Major League stardom with the Los Angeles Angels, being named 2012 American League Rookie of the Year at 20 years of age and shortly thereafter was the unanimous selection as 2014 AL Most Valuable Player.
He offers this testimonial to the Perfect Game website: “Those were great experiences. Just to get out of (New) Jersey and see the competition from all across the country and to compete against other players that were doing the same things you were trying to do — get to the professional level. It was just good to get that exposure.”
Okotoks is at the forefront of giving exposure to Canadian talent and promoting the game.