WCBL Embraces New Saskatoon Team
By IAN WILSON
The arrival of a new Saskatchewan franchise in the Western Canadian Baseball League has been met with enthusiastic support from across the summer collegiate league.
The Saskatoon Baseball Club, which will be given a more long-term name following further public consultation, was unanimously approved by the WCBL’s Board of Governors, and since the media announcement this week individual teams are stepping to the plate to voice their excitement about the Sask Entertainment Group (SEG) expansion team.
“It has been far too long since we have had a Saskatoon franchise in the WCBL. It is extremely encouraging to have a new franchise whose ownership has the depth of experience that the SEG brings to the table,” said Okotoks Dawgs founder and managing director John Ircandia in a statement.
“The positive profile of the WCBL has been growing by leaps and bounds in the past several years among our fans and business partners, and adding Saskatoon only enhances that profile. Welcome aboard, Saskatoon!”
Regina Red Sox president Gary Brotzel also applauded the ownership group responsible for bringing a new on-field rival on board.
“SEG’s depth of experience in the sports market through their ownership of the Saskatoon Blades and the Saskatchewan Rush will be a great addition to the WCBL,” said Brotzel in a press release.
Ryan Switzer, the president of the Swift Current 57’s, welcomed the new club with open arms.
“As a Saskatchewan-based franchise we are very excited to have a WCBL team back in one of our major Saskatchewan markets. The added profile that a team in Saskatoon brings to our league is great for all our Saskatchewan teams,” stated Switzer.
“The SEG has done a great job with their marketing and fan experiences at their hockey and lacrosse games. I’m excited to see what they will bring to the WCBL.”
The Sylvan Lake Gulls were the last expansion team to join the circuit, beginning play in 2021.
“It’s exciting to see a group with the background of the SEG be a part of our league,” noted Aqil Samuel, the president of the Gulls.
“To have a team back in a great sports market like Saskatoon solidifies our league’s claim of ‘Canada’s premier summer collegiate league.’ We are now in every major market in Alberta and Saskatchewan. We look forward to working with SEG in the offseason, and competing against them in-season! Welcome!”
Medicine Hat Mavericks Owner/General Manager Greg Morrison called it “an exciting time” for the WCBL.
“With facility improvements in several markets and the expansion teams of Sylvan Lake (2021) and now Saskatoon, the league continues to establish being a sought-after league for players, coaches and fans,” said Morrison.
“I especially look forward to learning from the Saskatoon Entertainment Group’s vast sport industry experience in hockey (Blades) and lacrosse (Rush).”
Other positive sentiments were shared by officials with teams from across the league and Steve Hildebrand, the vice-president of SEG and the president of the Saskatoon Baseball Club, was glad to hear it.
“SEG really appreciates … the opportunity to join an already growing and great league. It definitely has been too long since Saskatoon has had a team and we are looking forward to bringing exciting Western Canadian Baseball back,” said Hildebrand.
“We believe this team is the missing piece to baseball in Saskatoon and look forward to providing some great experiences for our city and baseball community.”
Added Hildebrand: “With the likes of Swift Current, Weyburn, Moose Jaw and Regina, the Saskatoon Baseball Club helps to round out our province’s rich history of baseball and look forward to helping develop new baseball fans and players alike.”
The Saskatoon Baseball Club will spend this year implementing a coaching staff, determining a full-time name for the team and making upgrades to Cairns Field, their home ballpark. They will begin WCBL play in the summer of 2024.