Ircandia Honoured as Influential Canadian in Baseball

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The Canadian Baseball Network (CBN) has recognized Okotoks Dawgs managing director John Ircandia as one of the nation’s most influential people in baseball.

Hall-of-Fame journalist Bob Elliott, who produces an annual Top 100 list of the sport’s biggest names for CBN, ranked Ircandia at No. 14 overall and noted his efforts to improve the home stadium of the defending Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL) champions.

“Seaman Stadium added a hospitality area called Core 4 (+14) Corner. The name pays homage to the original Dawgs team,” wrote Elliott.

“Stadium capacity has been increased from 4,800 to 5,004. A new elevated viewing perch reminiscent of the Crawford Boxes sits above the left field fence. The Dawgs, Ircandia and the town spent $1.5 million on the new additions and a visitor’s clubhouse. While many teams and facilities had layoffs, the Dawgs kept everyone on staff.”

Elliott also commended Ircandia’s work through Dawgs Academy in sending graduates to colleges and universities with significant scholarships.

A trio of former Okotoks Dawgs players were tabbed as honourable mentions on the prestigious list, as well. Tyler Hollick, who is now the general manager of Dawgs Academy; Jeff Duda, who coaches at the academy; and Vincent Ircandia, the CEO and founder of StellarAlgo Corp. were recognized.

Coming in at No. 70 on the list was Les McTavish, who played for the Lethbridge Bulls before coaching the team in the early 2000s. McTavish is now the head coach and director of operations at Vauxhall Academy.

WITH HONOURS

The honourable mentions section also includes several names that are familiar around the WCBL.

Current WCBL president Kevin Kvame and former WMBL head honcho Doug Jones received accolades from Elliott.

Franchise owners Dutch Iannetti (Fort McMurray Giants), Greg Morrison (Medicine Hat Mavericks), Pat Cassidy (Edmonton Prospects) got a shout out, as did the head coach and assistant general manager of the Prospects, Jordan Blundell. Mark Randall, who previously served as the GM of the Edmonton Big River Prospects, also got a nod.

Regina Red Sox brass – including president Gary Brotzel, executive director Sharon Clarke, general manager Bernie Eiswirth and recruiting director Rye Pothakos – were highlighted as Canadian baseball people of note. Regina assistant coaches Mitch MacDonald, the WCBL’s only triple crown winner, and former Detroit Tiger pitcher Dustin Molleken also received kudos. Rob Cherepuschak, the 2011 WCBL Coach of the Year and a former director of player personnel for the Red Sox, earned a spot on the CBN list, as did Regina Red Sox alum Morgan Reiter, now the owner of Inside Pitch Baseball Academy.

The brain trust of the expansion Sylvan Lake Gulls were recognized, as well. Graham and Jen Schetzsle – the founders and CEOs of the Gulls – and Aqil Samuel, the team’s president of baseball operations, were dubbed honourable mentions.

A pair of presidents, Jason Thomasen of the Brooks Bombers and Brad Woods of the Swift Current 57’s, got a pat on the back, too.

Cory Olafson, the GM of the Moose Jaw Miller Express and Marshall Dean, an instructor at Saskatoon’s Going Yard facility who used to play for the Miller Express, were listed. Tanner Spencer, who played for and coached with Moose Jaw, made the cut, as well. Spencer is now the head coach at the University of Mary.

Todd Hubka and Ryan MacDonald, both longtime presences at Prairie Baseball Academy (PBA) who used to coach the Lethbridge Bulls ball club, were acknowledged.

Thumbs up were given to Phil Curtis – who was twice named our league’s best skipper when he was with the Weyburn Beavers – and former MLB relief pitcher John Axford, who suited up for the Melville Millionaires in 2006, and has shown promise as a TV analyst.

WCBL umpire Jon Oko, the president of Baseball Alberta, caught Elliott’s eye. So too did Matt Korman, who represented the Yorkton Cardinals in the 2019 WCBL All-Star Game and now coaches with the Calgary Bucks program.

Meanwhile, Sidearm Nation founder Geoff Freeborn, an All Star on the 2003 Calgary Dawgs roster, made the list and was joined by former Dawgs broadcaster Jonathan Hodgson.

Congratulations to all those who were noticed by Elliott and received praise for their efforts!