The 2022 Western Canadian Baseball League season is upon us! We've been showcasing the Alberta teams with previews on our website, and the architect who has been writing them, ADS co-founder Ian Wilson, joins us to talk about what has him excited about a full slate of games and teams for the upcoming season. We also check in with WCBL president Kevin Kvame, and chat about some of the other big storylines heading into the summer.
Cassie Matlock has been willing to do anything and go anywhere to play softball. Growing up in Edmonton, there weren’t a ton of options for her, so she went wherever she could to get noticed. Eventually, Matlock landed on her feet at Lindsey Wilson College, where her team made it to the NAIA World Series and she was named to the All-Tournament Team, amongst a host of other honours. She then moved onto the University of West Alabama, where she continued to dominate. The 5-foot-9 outfielder just put the wraps on her senior season, and is on her way back to Alberta. We caught up with Matlock earlier this week to talk about her award-winning season, the trials and tribulations of being a student-athlete, and her hopes of helping grow the game in her home province.
Athletic excellence is in the genes of the Geekie family. Three brothers – Morgan, Noah and Conor – grew up playing hockey in the winter and baseball in the summer. While Morgan and Conor stuck with hockey when it was time to follow one path, Noah decided to chase the baseball dream. He moved to Okotoks to attend Dawgs Academy, is about to play in his third summer with the Western Canadian Baseball League Dawgs, and after a successful two years at Barton Community College, just wrapped up his second season with the NCAA Division II Emporia State University Hornets. He’s a two-way threat, going 6-2 with a save and a 5.04 ERA in 14 outings, starting the year as a reliever before excelling as a starter. He also hit .315 with a homer, 13 runs batted in and six stolen bases in 33 games. The 6-3, 195-pound junior took some time this week to chat about his journey, growing up in that athletic household and coming back to his home away from home this summer with Okotoks.
There’s a new home run king at Old Dominion University and he’s from our province. Wetaskiwin’s Matt Coutney went yard twice against Florida Atlantic on April 24th, hitting his 21st home run to break the school record. Everyone knew Coutney had some pop in his bat, after a standout two years with Colby Community College, where he hit .426 with 26 home runs and 116 runs batted in. He was solid through his first two seasons with ODU, but has really hit another level this spring. As we recorded this episode, he was hitting .361 with 22 homers and 48 RBI, as the Monarchs take aim at an NCAA championship. Coutney took some time out of his busy schedule last week to chat with us about his baseball journey, the record, and how one small tweak has made a world of difference.
Like Erik Sabrowski, Aidan Huggins, Evan Wilde and several other Albertans over the last few years, Tom Poole is making a name for himself this spring with the Cloud County Thunderbirds of the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference. The Calgary product was originally recruited as a pitcher, but has instead put together a mammoth season at the plate, hitting .369 with 18 home runs, 59 RBIs and 17 stolen bases heading into the final weekend of the regular season, where his Thunderbirds will take on Barton in four games. Not only is Poole leading the conference in homers, he’s just two off the school record of 20. The 6'1", 205-pound freshman took some time out of his busy schedule recently to chat with us about his amazing campaign, growing up in Calgary, and how he considers himself a bit of a late-bloomer.
There is plenty to get excited about in watching Alberta-born and trained athletes excel at major US programs. Matt Coutney is hitting everything he sees at Old Dominion University, Cesar Valero has been on fire with Sacramento State and Tom Poole has dominated at the plate for Cloud County College, among many others. One player who has been a force on the mound is Matt Wilkinson. Originally from Ladner, BC, the Dawgs Academy and Okotoks Dawgs product is a key piece of the bullpen for Central Arizona College. Through his first 13 games, Wilkinson has a 3-1 record with two saves, a tiny 1.52 ERA and has struck out 58 batters in just 29+ innings of work. But strikeouts are nothing new to "Tugboat", who fanned 16 in just five innings to open up the 2015 Little League World Series. We talked about that and much more in the latest #ADSPodcast.
We put the wraps on our Canadian College Baseball Conference preview episodes this week by chatting with University of Calgary Dinos bench boss Cam Williams. Originally from Coquitlam, BC, Williams moved to Calgary to study kinesiology and play baseball. We first met the infielder back in 2018 when he set the Dinos all-time record for career hits. He stayed in Calgary, joining the Bucks coaching staff before taking the top job with the Dinos. It's been a weird start to his coaching career, doing it all during a pandemic. But he's had some early success as the team finally got to play some games over the last couple of weeks, guiding them to a .500 record. What's the transition been like? What are his coaching philosophies? And what kinds of advice is he passing onto his players? We chatted about it all recently.
We continue our look at the three Alberta-based teams from the Canadian College Baseball Conference this week and we’re going from the seasoned veteran in Todd Hubka at Prairie Baseball Academy last week, to the new kid in town, Edmonton Collegiate Hawk coach Jake Lanferman. The Sherwood Park native was born the same year Hubka joined PBA: 1996. Fresh off a solid playing career including stops at Fort Hays State University and UBC as well as the Edmonton Prospects and Sylvan Lake Gulls, the outfielder is now diving into the coaching realm headfirst as part of Absolute Human Performance as well as the Collegiate Hawks. How is he finding the transition? What does he expect out of the team? And what are his coaching philosophies? We talked about that all and much more last week.
The Canadian College Baseball Conference kicks off its first spring season since 2019 this weekend. The 2020 season was turfed in the initial aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the logistics for the 2021 season meant they would have to wait for another day. And that day has finally come for those Western Canadian college teams, including Prairie Baseball Academy. At the centre of that program is Todd Hubka, who has seen it all since joining in 1996, first as an assistant coach to Blair Kubicek, before taking the reigns in 2010. He and I actually share the same hometowns, originally being from Carmangay, then going to high school in Claresholm, and randomly crossed paths again while he was coaching the Lethbridge Bulls while I was a young reporter in Medicine Hat. We’ve been able to share a few laughs over text and phone calls over the years, so it was only a matter of time before we had him on the podcast. We talked about his upbringing, including throwing a no-hitter, his coaching philosophies and his expectations of his young PBA club this spring.
March 31 marks the anniversary of the debut of Alberta Dugout Stories. It was years in the making, thanks to several stops at Calgary pubs talking about baseball's yesteryear in our province. To celebrate the occasion, we wanted to reminisce about the stories we've told and say a special "thank you" to everyone who has supported our vision for creating something unique to baseball in Alberta and across Canada.