2023 All-Stars Announced
By IAN WILSON
The Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL) has announced its selections for the 2023 All-Star Game.
The East and West Division roster of players will suit up at Seaman Stadium in Okotoks for a full slate of baseball festivities, including a home run derby, on Saturday, July 15th.
Let’s take a closer look at each lineup, based on who is representing each WCBL club from Alberta and Saskatchewan.
There are five Alberta teams in the West Division, including the Okotoks Dawgs, Sylvan Lake Gulls, Lethbridge Bulls, Fort McMurray Giants and Brooks Bombers.
The host Dawgs will have nine players on the West Division squad, including 2022 All-Star selections Logan Grant (.354 batting average, 15 runs in 16 games); Ryan McFarland (2-1, 3.80 ERA in 11 games); and two-way star Noah Geekie (.306 average, 20 runs, 5 stolen bases in 16 games; 3-0, 2.37 ERA, 14 Ks in 19 innings). Grant, a catcher and infielder with the Dawgs, was an East Division representative from the Swift Current 57’s last summer.
Joining McFarland and Geekie as available arms for the West are Brody Forno (4-0, 1.59 ERA, 27 Ks in 22.2 innings); Brady Wilson (1.35 ERA, 18 Ks in 20 innings); and Seth Thompson (0.00 ERA, 18 Ks in 13.2 innings). Infielders Cole Cramer (.342 average, 22 runs in 21 games) and Connor Crowson (.395 average, 25 runs in 20 games) also made the cut, as did outfielder Titus Dumitru (.414 average, 4 homers, 20 RBI in 16 games).
Nash Crowell (8 homers, 28 RBI in 19 games), meanwhile, will participate in the home run derby for the Dawgs.
The coaching staff of the Dawgs will also be well represented by interim manager Lou Pote, pitching coach Joe Sergent, infield coach Andy Peterson and hitting/bench coach Dave Robb.
FORT McMURRAY GIANTS
The Giants will have six players on the West roster.
Catcher Jordan Bach (.350 batting average, 21 runs in 33 games) returns for a second All-Star appearance, and he’ll be joined by first-time West Division infielders Bennett McCollow (.319 average, 17 runs in 31 games) and Alfonso Villalobos (4 homers, 8 RBI, 3 stolen bases in nine games).
Outfielder Bryson Collins (7 stolen bases, 13 runs in 30 games) of Mansfield, Texas is also among the half-dozen Giants who were selected, and right-handed pitchers Jeff Tiw (3-1, 3.37 ERA, 24 Ks in 29.1 innings) and Logan Knight (1.75 ERA, 26 Ks in 25.2 innings) will be bump options for the West.
Villalobos will get some added spotlight for the Giants as the club’s home run derby rep.
Lennon Richards, an assistant coach with the Giants, will work on the coaching staff for the West Division.
SYLVAN LAKE GULLS
A pair of accomplished pitchers for the Gulls will suit up for the West for a second straight summer.
Josh Tucker – who was named the WCBL’s Most Outstanding Pitcher in 2022 after setting a regular-season record for strikeouts with 91 Ks – will join Sylvan Lake teammate Ty Boudreau, who tossed a no-hitter for the Gulls last year, on the team. Boudreau has a 1.58 ERA through his first nine games, as well as a 4-0 record and two saves.
They’ll see a flock of familiar faces in catcher Hank Dodson (.355 average, 4 homers, 18 RBI in 23 games); infielder Jonah Weisner (.341 average, 25 runs, 26 RBI, 12 stolen bases in 34 games); outfielder Shea Bowen (.385 average, 23 runs, 18 RBI, 9 stolen bases in 32 games); and utility man Nick Groves (.343 average, 22 runs, 14 stolen bases in 28 games). Dodson will get some extra hacks in for the Gulls when he takes part in the long ball competition.
Assistant coach Wyatt McKnight will serve as the coaching selection from the Gulls.
The Bulls are offering up a balanced contingent of talent to the West Division side by sending a three pitchers and a trio of batters to Okotoks.
Righty hurlers Max Benton (3.02 ERA, 28 Ks in 41.2 innings); Cole Bormann (1.28 ERA, 20 Ks in 14 innings); and Mason Chien (3.89 ERA, 25 Ks in 37 innings) will make the trek to Seaman Stadium, as will infielders Kalem Haney (26 runs, 16 stolen bases in 35 games) and Torrin Vaselenak (.299 average, 27 runs, 7 homers, 20 RBI, 10 stolen bases in 30 games).
Outfielder Josh Kabayama (.290 average, 19 runs in 27 games) rounds out the Lethbridge selections, all of whom will be participating in their first WCBL All-Star Game.
Chance Wheatley will bring his coaching expertise to the group of skippers in the West.
All eyes will be on Eric Rataczak of the Brooks Bombers, who will pull double duty in the All-Star Game and the derby. The outfielder from Circle Pines, Minnesota leads the WCBL in homers (9) and RBI (39) in his 30 games for Brooks. Rataczak is a well-rounded hitter with a .377 batting average.
Outfielder Jeremiah Sanchez (.333 average, 23 runs, 10 stolen bases in 26 games); infielder Zander Bretza (.336 average, 31 runs in 33 games); and catcher Braize Mitchell (16 runs, 13 RBI in 21 games) will also look to pace the offence for the West.
Pitchers Justin Guzman (4-0, 4.59 ERA, 26 Ks in 33.1 innings) and Joey Mazzetti (27 Ks in 24 innings) will also represent Bomber Nation, as will late additions Nkosi Didder and Oliver Duthie.
Head coach Ruddy Estrella joins forces with the West Division coaching team after serving in the East Division in previous seasons.
There are five WCBL clubs in the East, including four from Saskatchewan and one based in Alberta. They include the Moose Jaw Miller Express, Regina Red Sox, Swift Current 57’s, Weyburn Beavers and Medicine Hat Mavericks.
MOOSE JAW MILLER EXPRESS
The best hitter in the WCBL, Dawson Tweet, will look to lead the East Division to an All-Star Game victory. Tweet is batting .485 with a .547 on-base percentage and 14 stolen bases through 32 games. He and his brother, catcher Wyatt Tweet, are formidable foes in the batter’s box. The backstop is batting .403 with three homers and 18 RBI over 17 games.
Infielder Austin Gurney (25 runs, 17 RBI, 2 homers, 9 stolen bases in 30 games) has his eyes on the home run derby title, while outfielder Dougie Delacruz (.325 average, 27 runs in 32 games) will add another Miller Express bat to the East lineup.
Pitchers Brayan Villar (2.42 ERA, 22 Ks in 22.1 innings) and Haldon Craig (2-1, 2.66 ERA, 24 Ks in 20.1 innings) will also represent Moose Jaw at the midsummer classic. All Miller Express selections are first-time WCBL All Stars.
Head coach Eric Marriott and assistant coach Michael Gonzalez get the nod as Moose Jaw’s coaching representatives for the event. Marriott will be the head coach of the East Division roster.
REGINA RED SOX
The six-pack of players representing the Red Sox include a pair of pitchers, two infielders, an outfielder and a catcher.
Adding to the arm strength of the East are Zane Pollon (2.31 ERA, 39 Ks in 35 innings) and Cameron Hood (3-2, 4.60 ERA, 19 Ks in 29.1 innings), who are both lefties.
Infielders Justin Simard (.311 average, 23 runs in 35 games) and Kyle Revere (14 runs, 3 long balls in 25 games) will rep Regina next to catcher Jackson Alaniz (.343 average, 21 runs in 30 games) and outfielder Anthony Sharkas (.314 average, 11 stolen bases in 28 games). The Red Sox players are all first-time WCBL All-Stars.
Joining the East Division’s collection of skippers will be Cole Warken from the Red Sox.
SWIFT CURRENT 57’s
Kenny Jinks – who is 3-2 with a pair of saves, a 3.89 ERA and 33 Ks in 34.2 innings – returns for his second tour of duty at the WCBL All-Star Game.
The southpaw pitcher will oppose Logan Grant, now a standout with the Okotoks Dawgs. Grant and Jinks were 57’s selections in 2022.
Making the trip with Jinks are two-way players Luke Addison (6 Ks in 11.2 innings; 10 RBI in 19 games) and Gabriel Watson (8 Ks in 5 innings; 13 RBI, 3 homers in 20 games), along with infielder Carter Hinds (.302 average, 12 stolen bases in 29 games) and righty pitcher Dawson Schultz (26 Ks in 26.1 innings).
The big bat of outfielder Ethan Murdoch – who has a .347 batting average, 25 runs, 24 RBI and four round trippers through 32 games – will represent Swift Current in the home run derby.
Will Iannacone will rep Swift Current’s pitching staff at the All-Star Game.
MEDICINE HAT MAVERICKS
Plucked from the Mavs roster are a half-dozen players who have turned heads around the league this season.
Dylan Esquival, a lefty from California, leads the WCBL in strikeouts midway through the season. He’s picked up 45 Ks in nine games and 36.1 innings of work. He also has a 3-2 record and a 4.70 ERA.
Joining Esquival on the East roster is righthander Kyle Calzadiaz, also from California, who has a 3-1 record, 4.60 ERA and 26 Ks in 29.1 innings. Righty pitcher Dylan Weaver brings a 2-1 record, two saves, 25 strikeouts and a 4.15 ERA in 21.2 innings to the table.
Medicine Hat hitters who were given All-Star honours include infielders Brady Bean (.300 batting average, 32 runs, 11 stolen bases, 4 homers, 36 games) and Nathan Tarver (.296 average, 24 RBI, 36 games), as well as outfielder Brody Gardner (.344 average, 23 RBI, 35 games). Tarver will slug it out for WCBL homer supremacy in the derby.
Meanwhile, Kevin Mitchell will serve on the East coaching staff.
The East will add another six players from the Beavers.
Shortstop Ryan Dauphinee (.303 average, 18 runs in 33 games) will try to defend Weyburn’s hold on the derby championship, which was captured in 2022 by Nolan Machibroda. This is a return trip to the All-Star Game for Dauphinee, who had a front-row seat for Machibroda’s ability to outlast the other long-ball competitors.
Cheering Dauphinee on will be outfielder and Calgarian Trent Lawson (.297 average, 17 RBI in 30 games) and infielder Ryan Muizelaar (.288 average, 14 stolen bases, 19 runs in 32 games).
He’ll also have the support of pitchers Luke Zimmer (2-3, 4.11 ERA, 31 Ks in 39.1 innings), Jacob Clark (3 saves, 28 Ks in 19.2 innings) and Jamin Smith (20 Ks, 4.02 ERA in 15.2 innings).
Head Coach Cam Williams will also represent the Beavers.
ALL-STAR GAME DETAILS
Both rosters are expected to have at least three catchers to handle the steady stream of pitchers who will take the mound.
Each pitcher will throw a maximum of 30 pitches or one inning, while position players will play a minimum of two innings or long enough to get one plate appearance.
In the event that All-Star players are unable to attend or participate, teams must select someone to replace them on the roster. The WCBL All-Star Game and Home Run Derby takes place at Seaman Stadium in Okotoks on Saturday, July 15th. Gates open at 3:30 p.m., the derby starts at 5 p.m. and the game is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. Autograph sessions will take place with former Major League Baseball (MLB) star Matt Stairs and National Baseball Hall of Fame journalist Bob Elliott. The matchup will be followed by fireworks displays.