Dawgs fans out in record numbers
Baseball: More than 65,000 tickets sold at Seaman Stadium
By: Bruce Campbell
| Posted: Wednesday, Aug 06, 2014 01:23 pm
Super Mario has been overwhelmed by the support he and his teammates have received this year.
“It has been a blessing,” said Okotoks Dawgs infielder Mario Sanchez on Fan Appreciation Night at Seaman Stadium on July 30. “I can’t compare this to anything we get back home at any of our schools, we don’t get this many fans.
“It’s awesome. Every time we step on the field, you know the fans have got our back.”
The fans have been backing the Dawgs in record numbers. The Dawgs ended the regular season with a sixth-consecutive sell-out crowd at Seaman Stadium when they beat the Lethbridge Bulls 6-1 on July 30.
There was a team-record 65,012 fans go through the turnstiles this season — an average of 2,827 — for the Dawgs’ 23 home games.
In comparison, the second best attendance in the Western Major Baseball League was the Edmonton Prospects at 17,983 fans this season (averaging 856 over 21 games).
The fan support isn’t just good for the Okotoks Dawgs’ morale— it’s good for Okotoks period.
“It helps with community spirit and fosters a sense of place, that’s really what the stadium does,” said Shane Olson, Okotoks economic development team leader. “Working in tourism and economic development it is the tourists — whether day trippers or over-nighters — that we are interested in.
“Right now, most of our tourism in Okotoks is daytrips and the Dawgs would definitely be a key asset in that. People will dine out, get gas, shop in boutique stores, it is definitely a positive impact.”
He said he anticipates the Okotoks Dawgs and its Junior Dawg program to generate even more financial activity with overnight stays when a new hotel in Okotoks comes on stream in the future.
However, the biggest impact the Dawgs may have is in promoting the community.
“All the recognition the Dawgs get — the Roberto Alomar Home Run contest — it really puts focus on Okotoks,” Olson said. “If you were to buy that kind of media exposure, it would be very valuable.
“It’s free advertising for us every time Okotoks is mentioned in an article.”
Dawgs executive director John Ircandia said the large number of fans coming to the games pleasantly surprised him.
“We are really happy because we started out slow and our team had its ups and downs, but even in the face of some inconsistent play, the fan support has been better than ever,” Ircandia said.
He said the Dawgs were able to maintain its support even during a nine-game homestand with the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth taking place just 22 klicks to the north.
“Even with all those distractions the fans kept coming out,” Ircandia said. “We are lucky to have the loyalty of our long-time fans, but we are excited that we have attracted a whole new demographic — there are a lot of who have suddenly discovered it’s a nice drive from Calgary to Okotoks to enjoy a baseball game.”
He added the Dawgs were helped by Mother Nature — one rainout, and few rain delays during the 23 games played at Seaman Stadium in June and July.
Ircandia also credits the players for the spike in attendance.
“The players took the message at the beginning of the season to heart — you get a lot of love from the community and you have to be accountable to the community,” Ircandia said.
“You have to give something back which is about playing hard and politeness… I don’t have one complaint about our players this year.”
The players mingle with fans from two years of age to 90 after each home game.
As far as the Dawgs’ leading hitter, infielder Connor Crane, is concerned, the fans’ support is something to write home about. Crane had not ever been asked for an autograph before putting on a Dawgs jersey.
He’s received the Jeter-like treatment this summer.
“The most I ever played in front of before was maybe a 100 people,” said Crane after signing autographs for some young fans. “To have kids look up to me, well, I never thought of myself as a role model. To come out here and do something for these kids is really exciting.”
There really is no place like home. The Dawgs have won 14 of their last 17 games at home, including their past eight games at Seaman Stadium.