The Western Canadian Baseball League (the “WCBL”) is Canada’s pre-eminent summer collegiate baseball league. The predecessors to the WCBL date back to the early 1900s. Over the years the circuit has gone by such names as the Canadian-American Baseball League, the Western Canada League, the Northern Saskatchewan Baseball League, the Western Major Baseball League (WMBL), and since 2019, the WCBL.
The WCBL boasts a long-standing tradition of creating a showcase for top Canadian professional and college prospects, while at the same time offering American college players the opportunity to hone their skills in front of enthusiastic baseball fans in towns and cities throughout Alberta and Saskatchewan.
The WCBL is a wood-bat league in the tradition of such outstanding American collegiate circuits as the Cape Cod Baseball League, the New England Collegiate Baseball League, the Coastal Plain League, the Northwoods League and the Pacific International League.
There have been two constants over the decades that the WCBL and its predecessor leagues have highlighted: first, the quality of the baseball, which professional scouts have consistently compared to the Single-A professional level, and second, the quality of the summer experience for players.
Over the years numerous future major league players spent their summers playing in WCBL markets. Going back to the early grassroots days, old-timers will recall names like Jerry Adair, who traveled north from Oklahoma State and later enjoyed 15 major-league seasons, most of them with the Baltimore Orioles.
Before Nelson Briles was a big-league star with the St. Louis Cardinals, he pitched in Calgary, having arrived from Santa Clara University. Outfielder and infielder Don Buford came from the University of Southern California to spend two summers with the Edmonton Eskimos baseball team ahead of signing with the Baltimore Orioles and the Chicago White Sox in the 1960s and 1970s.
You gotta believe that Tug McGraw came north from California’s Vallejo Junior College to pitch in Lethbridge before enjoying several successful seasons in the bigs with the Mets and the Phillies. And a couple of pretty good Los Angeles Dodgers, Ron Fairly and Ron Perranoski, played summer college ball on the prairies before enjoying stellar professional careers.
The tradition of showcasing top college prospects from both sides of the border has continued with several former WCBL players being drafted by Major League Baseball (MLB) every year.
More recently, consider our following alumni: Shawn Wooten, who before being a key part of the Anaheim Angels championship run in 2002, starred with Swift Current; Grant Richardson joined the Okotoks Dawgs from Washington State University and earned WCBL 2003 Rookie of the Year honours before being drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers and working his way through their minor-league system; Phil Sobkow pitched for the Yorkton Cardinals of the WCBL before being selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2003 and joining their farm system; Ken Faulkner and Craig Hern played with the Lethbridge Bulls and later signed with the Seattle Mariners.
Jim Henderson and John Hurd went from being two-way players with the Dawgs to being drafted and signing with the Montreal Expos and Chicago White Sox, respectively. Hurd pitched for four seasons in the minors. Henderson, meanwhile, went on to have a highly successful career as a reliever with the Milwaukee Brewers and New York Mets. The Calgarian followed that up by taking on a role as a pitching coach, rising to the Triple-A level with the Nashville Sounds in the Milwaukee farm system.
In 2004, southpaw Andrew Albers earned the WCBL Rookie of the Year Award for his work on the mound with the Saskatoon Yellow Jackets. A lengthy baseball journey ensued, with years of college play, minor-league stints, international tournaments and time with the Minnesota Twins, Toronto Blue Jays, and Seattle Mariners. Albers also spent several seasons with the Orix Buffaloes in Japan.
Also in 2004, Kyler Newby (Mesa Community College) and Adam Burton (University of Arkansas at Monticello) were battery mates with the Dawgs when they were selected in the MLB draft. Newby was selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks, an organization he played Triple-A ball for, while Burton was taken by the St. Louis Cardinals.
More MLB draft picks from the Dawgs followed, including: pitcher James Avery, who spent seven seasons in the Cincinnati Reds system before heading south to the Mexican League; Tyler Klippenstein (drafted and signed with the Oakland Athletics); Matt Ircandia (San Francisco Giants selection who pitched for Niagara University); and Luis Roberts (New York Mets pick).
A number of WCBL grads have joined Wooten, Henderson and Albers in being impact players at baseball’s highest level.
In 2021, 10 former WCBL players suited up for MLB teams, including reliever John Axford, bullpen specialist Josh Taylor, Gold Glover Andrelton Simmons, steady rotation figure Marco Gonzales, and American League All Star Andrew Kittredge.
Even more draft picks and minor leaguers from our circuit are poised to make their MLB debuts in the years ahead.
Of course, quality players require quality coaching. WCBL franchises are committed to providing coaches that can assist players to be the best that they can be.
WCBL coaches include ex-professionals, as well as former NCAA mentors and players. A good example of the quality of the coaching is 2004 WCBL Coach of the Year David Robb, who helped guide the Dawgs to several WCBL Championships. Coach Robb has worked with the Visalia Oaks (in the Oakland Athletics minor league system), both the Canadian and Italian National Team programs and as well as students at Mesa Community College in Arizona. Robb is a member of the Dawgs Hall of Fame.
Two-time WCBL MVP Joe Carnahan followed up a stellar playing career with an equally impressive run as the head coach and general manager of the Swift Current 57’s. During 12 seasons as the bench boss, Carnahan was named WCBL Coach of the Year four times and he helped Swift Current win titles in 2010, 2016 and 2017.
Phil Curtis, who spent a decade with the Weyburn Beavers as a player and the team’s head coach, was twice named WCBL Coach of the Year and he helped the club set a franchise record for wins in 2018.
Ray Brown and Orv Franchuk helped improve and stabilize the Edmonton Prospects during the coaching duo’s five years with the squad. Brown, who also coached the Fort McMurray Giants, has a lengthy resume that includes several scouting positions and international coaching gigs. Franchuk, meanwhile, was the hitting coach for the Triple-A Edmonton Trappers in 1998, he won a World Series ring for his role as hitting coordinator with the Boston Red Sox in 2004, and he managed the Edmonton Capitals to an independent-league championship in 2011.
Les McTavish, who served as a skipper of the Lethbridge Bulls for several seasons, had an outstanding run as a Washington State Cougar before working with Bulls players and other athletes through Prairie Baseball Academy, Vauxhall Academy and Canada’s Junior National Team.
AMAZING SUMMER EXPERIENCE
In addition to offering a consistently high level of competition and coaching, the WCBL has always offered its players a first class summer experience. The summer months in Western Canada feature warm weather with long hours of sunshine. The western boundary of the WCBL is a short drive from the majestic Rocky Mountains and the spectacular mountain resort towns of Banff, Waterton and Lake Louise. Fly fishing streams abound in close proximity to our Saskatchewan and Alberta franchises. Calgary is home to the “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth,” the Calgary Stampede, which runs for 10 days every July. On top of all that as former WCBL alumni will tell you: players have not experienced hospitality until they have spent a summer playing baseball in Western Canada.
So there you have it, the Western Canadian Baseball League, Canada’s premier summer collegiate league: quality competition, quality coaching and a quality summer experience in Edmonton, Lethbridge, Okotoks, Medicine Hat, Brooks, Fort McMurray, Swift Current, Moose Jaw, Regina, Sylvan Lake and Weyburn.
The top team in the WCBL is awarded the Harry Hallis Memorial Trophy, which was named after North Battleford’s Harry Hallis, a major supporter of baseball in Saskatchewan in the 1950s.
Western Major Baseball League (WMBL) Champions
- 2018: Medicine Hat Mavericks
- 2017: Swift Current 57’s
- 2016: Swift Current
- 2015: Lethbridge Bulls
- 2014: Medicine Hat Mavericks
- 2013: Melville Millionaires
- 2012: Regina Red Sox
- 2011: Regina Red Sox
- 2010: Swift Current
- 2009: Okotoks Dawgs
- 2008: Okotoks Dawgs
- 2007: Okotoks Dawgs
- 2006: Swift Current
- 2005: Swift Current
- 2004: Calgary Dawgs
- 2003: Medicine Hat Mavericks
- 2002: Moose Jaw Miller Express
- 2001: Swift Current
REGULAR SEASON MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
- 2019: Kaleb Warden, Lethbridge Bulls
- 2018: Corey Wheaton, Weyburn Beavers
- 2017: Kody Funderburk, Okotoks Dawgs
- 2016: Alec Humphreys, Swift Current
- 2015: Brandon Bufton, Lethbridge Bulls
- 2014: Josh Johnson, Swift Current
- 2013: Michael Corso, Moose Jaw Miller Express
- 2012: Ridge Gonsoulin (Lethbridge Bulls) & Aaron Dunsmore (Swift Current)
- 2011: Jesse Sawyer, Lethbridge Bulls
- 2010: Mitch MacDonald, Regina Red Sox
- 2009: Nik Gumeson, Swift Current
- 2021: Bryce Oriold-Fraser, Lethbridge Bulls
- 2019: Tristan Peters, Okotoks Dawgs
- 2018: Carson Johnson, Medicine Hat Mavericks
- 2017: Riley Campbell, Swift Current 57’s
- 2016: Ryan Pope, Swift Current
- 2015: Dylan Dyson, Lethbridge Bulls
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
- 2019: Tristan Peters, Okotoks Dawgs
- 2018: Kaleb Warden, Lethbridge Bulls
- 2017: Blake Adams, Swift Current
- 2016: Bodie Cooper, Swift Current
- 2015: Jose Rojas, Swift Current
- 2014: Aidan Stinnett, Moose Jaw Miller Express
CANADIAN ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
- 2019: Tristan Peters, Okotoks Dawgs
- 2018: Jaret Semeniuk, Lethbridge Bulls
- 2017: Matt Lloyd, Okotoks Dawgs
- 2016: Mike Moffatt, Lethbridge Bulls
COACH OF THE YEAR
- 2019: Joe Carnahan, Swift Current 57’s
- 2018: Andrew Murphy, Medicine Hat Mavericks
- 2017: Phil Curtis, Weyburn Beavers
- 2016: Joe Carnahan, Swift Current
- 2015: Phil Curtis, Weyburn Beavers
- Home Runs: 20, Riley Macdonald, Brooks Bombers, 2018
- Earned Run Average: 0.41 ERA, Coty Saranthus, Melville Millionaires, 2009
- Saves: 15, Craig Smith, Okotoks Dawgs, 2018
- Hitting Streak: 28 games, Brandon Bufton, Lethbridge Bulls, 2015
- Stolen Bases: 40, Garrett Perez, Weyburn Beavers, 2019
- Rich Walker, Edmonton Prospects, 2018
- Hitting: Mitch MacDonald, Regina Red Sox, 2010, .476 batting average, 8 HR, 48 RBI
- Pitching: Michael Batten, Regina Red Sox, 2019, 1.53 ERA, 8 wins, 81 strikeouts