Dawgs introduce Peewee program

Baseball: Okotoks Academy adds newest member to AAA ranks

By: Remy Greer

  |  Posted: Wednesday, May 07, 2014 06:00 am

Okotoks Peewee Dawgs head coach Josh MacInnis instructs his players at a practice session at the Duvernay Fieldhouse on April 30. The Peewee Dawgs are the newest addition to the vaunted Dawgs Academy.
Okotoks Peewee Dawgs head coach Josh MacInnis instructs his players at a practice session at the Duvernay Fieldhouse on April 30. The Peewee Dawgs are the newest addition to the vaunted Dawgs Academy.
Jordan Verlage/OWW

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One of the top baseball academies in the country is adding another layer to its programs.

The Okotoks Dawgs Junior Academy introduced a Peewee team to join the wildly successful Bantam and Midget programs, who’ve been provincial and national contenders on an annual basis.

“The whole idea with bringing the Peewee AAA program in was to try and enhance development for the players as they get older,” said head coach Josh MacInnis. “Instead of having kids come into our program at the Bantam age level, getting the kids two years earlier, we’re getting that extra time for development to work on their fundamentals.

“Hopefully that strengthens the program all the way through.”

Since the end of March, the team has beat the cold of the persistent winter weather by holding biweekly practice sessions at the state-of-the-art Duvernay Fieldhouse where sharpening the fundamentals have been the order of the day.

“Our strengths are definitely going to be our hitting and our pitching,” the coach said. “Defence right now has been a work in progress. That would be the case with most kids at the age of 12 or 13, but we have a pretty strong core group.”

The Peewee Dawgs include a number of players who’ve grown up together through Okotoks minor baseball including twin sisters Alexis and Taylor Galloway, two of three girls on the 18-player roster.

“We actually have three pretty strong girls on this team, the biggest thing with (girls) is their growth, they tend to grow at a younger age compared to guys,” MacInnis said. “For the girls it’s easier for them to grow and strength-wise fit in at a younger age level.”

For longtime Dawgs supporter Braeden Asuchak, putting the Peewee red-and-white uniform on for the first time felt like a natural fit.

“It’s awesome, I felt like I was actually a part of this team,” said Asuchak. “I didn’t feel like I was uncomfortable to be here now. I felt like I could be here and now feel weird about being here.”

Teammate Tanner Zdunich from down the road in Nanton echoed the sentiment.

“It’s special,” said Zdunich. “It’s what I’ve dreamed about for many years.”

The Dawgs tradition was passed down to third baseman/outfielder Ben Gagnon who’s tickled pink to be on the inaugural roster of the Dawgs Peewee program.

“My grandparents are really big fans and have always told me stories in the past and it just seemed like good inspiration for me to try and make this team,” said Gagnon. “I think I’ll look back at this when I’m older and think wow that was the first team ever.

“It’s a pretty big honour.”

The Dawgs will compete in Baseball’s Alberta Peewee AAA league against teams from Calgary, Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Red Deer, Sherwood Park, St. Albert, Spruce Grove and South Jasper Place.

“We’re mostly focusing on our groundballs, our hitting,” Asuchak said. “We’re not getting into too big of stuff because it’s the start of the season and we need to get to know each other and how we play.”

The first-month of action is developmental in nature, with games not counting in the standings. Through June and July, the teams transition into the provincial round.

“Those count towards your standings, you’re batting nine, playing nine,” MacInnis said. “It becomes a little more difficult to get everyone in the lineup, but at this young of an age level it goes back to we’re trying to develop these players, teach them fundamentals.

“Players need to get on the field in order to get better so we do our best to get them in the lineup as much as we can.”

Other season highlights for the Peewee Dawgs include tournaments in St. Albert, Kamloops and Kelowna. The provincial finals run at the beginning of August.

For more information on the Peewee Dawgs program go to jdawgsbaseball.ca


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