The Western Major Baseball League (the “WMBL”) is Canada’s pre-eminent summer collegiate baseball league. The predecessors to the WMBL date back to 1948. Over the past 56 years the league has gone by such names as the Canadian-American Baseball League, the Northern Saskatchewan Baseball League, the Alberta-Saskatchewan Baseball League, the Western Canadian Baseball League, the Saskatchewan Baseball League and since 2000, the WMBL.
The WMBL 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 the Prairies.
The WMBL is a wood bat league in the tradition of such outstanding American collegiate circuits as the Cape Cod League, the New England Collegiate League, the Coastal Plains League, the Northwoods League and in the nearby Pacific Northwest, the Pacific International League and the newly formed, West Coast Collegiate League.
There have been two constants over the decades that the WMBL and its predecessor leagues have been in operation: 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.
In terms of the quality of the baseball, over the years numerous future major league players have spent their summers playing in the WMBL. Going back to the early grassroots days, old-timers will recall names like Jerry Adair, who came to the league from Oklahoma State and later enjoyed 13 major league seasons with the Baltimore Orioles. Ted Bosfield pitched against WMBL competition before playing for the Red Sox, Angels, Royals and Indians.
Before Nelson Briles was a big league star with the St. Louis Cardinals over a 14 year career, he had starred in Calgary, having arrived from Santa Clara University. Don Buford came from the University of Southern California to spend two summers with the Edmonton Eskimos baseball team before signing with the Baltimore Orioles and the Chicago White Sox. Tug McGraw came north from Vallejo Junior College in California to play for 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 WMBL players being drafted by Major League Baseball every year.
In more recent times, consider the following: Sean Wooten who before being a key part of the Anaheim Angels championship run in 2002 starred with the Swift Current Indians; Grant Richardson joined the Okotoks Dawgs from Washington State University and earned WMBL 2003 “Rookie of the Year” honours before being drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers and working his way through the Brewers’ minor league system; Phil Sobkow starred with the Yorkton Cardinals of the WMBL before being selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers and joining their farm system; Ken Faulkner and Craig Hern played with the Lethbridge Bulls before being drafted and signing with the Seattle Mariners; Jim Henderson and John Hurd went from being two way players with the Okotoks Dawgs to being drafted and signing with the Montreal Expos and Chicago White Sox, respectively. In 2004, Andrew Albers (now with the University of Kentucky) was a 10th round selection of the Milwaukee Brewers who went on to earn the 2004 WMBL “Rookie of the Year Award” award while on the mound for the Saskatoon Yellowjackets.
Also in 2004, Kyler Newby (Mesa, AZ CC) and Adam Burton (University of Arkansas at Monticello) were battery mates with the WMBL’s Okotoks Dawgs when they were selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks and the St. Louis Cardinals. James Avery (Minnesota Twins draft pick and Niagara University, NCAA Division 1) Tyler Klippenstein (drafted and signed with the Oakland As), Matt Ircandia (draft pick of the San Francisco Giants, Washington State University and Niagara University) and Luis Roberts (New York Mets, LSU Shreveport and the PBA) are 4 other players drafted by MLB who have played in the WMBL.
These are merely a sample of the quality players that have and continue to play in Canada’s premier summer college league, the WMBL. And quality players require quality coaching. WMBL franchises are committed to providing coaches that can assist players to be the best that they can be.
WMBL coaches include ex professional as well as former NCAA coaches and players. A good example of the quality of the coaching is 2004 “WMBL Coach of the Year”, David Robb who managed the Okotoks Dawgs to the 2004 WMBL Championship. Coach Robb has coached with the Visalia Oaks (Oakland As minor league system), both the Canadian and Italian National Team programs and was on the staff of Mesa Community College in Arizona, a team which in 2004 went to the NCAA Juco World Series. Another example of the quality coaching in the WMBL is 3 year Lethbridge Bulls head coach Les McTavish. After an outstanding college career as a Washington State Cougar, Coach McTavish has coached with the Prairie Baseball Academy as well as Canada’s Junior National Team.
In addition to offering a consistently high level of competition and coaching, the WMBL 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 WMBL 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 WMBL 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 Major Baseball League, Canada’s premier summer collegiate league: quality competition, quality coaching and a quality summer experience in Edmonton, Lethbridge, Okotoks, Medicine Hat, Swift Current, Moose Jaw, Regina, Saskatoon, Melville, Yorkton and Weyburn.