Let’s Talk Baseball – Edmonton Prospects, Dr. Randy Gregg’s Team, Sylvan Lake Gulls

We are coming up on some important dates in the uncomfortable situation between Patrick Cassidy’s Edmonton Prospects and Dr. Randy Gregg’s vision for baseball that currently does not include his own baseball team. From within an article by Alberta Dugout Stories, Mr. Cassidy stated:

“…we are looking at other options, we are giving ourselves probably to August 1st to find another option. If there are no options, we will ask the league for a leave of absence until 2022”.

With August 1st being this Saturday I reached out to Mr. Cassidy and asked if that soft deadline is still in place?

“Irons in the fire.  Not looking to sit idle next year but the Aug 1 deadline may not be set in stone. Stay tuned.”

 

From that same article, these were comments made by Dr. Randy Gregg:

“We’ve been talking to a lot of people and of course you know, I…I to be honest with you, if I think possibly if I were a Prospects fan I would feel kind of betrayed that they would leave the City and want to go to Spruce Grove. You know, it sounds like they are being kicked out but they have a wonderful, wonderful option, a very financially lucrative offer to able to stay…”

To which Mr. Cassidy offered another response via Twitter:

While Mr. Cassidy has admitted the August 1st deadline he gave himself for deciding what he will do with his Prospects for the 2021 season may not be set in stone, I reached out to Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL) President Kevin Kvame and asked him when they require the definitive ‘no or go’? I also asked Mr. Kvame when the deadline is for an expansion team to put an application for a team would be.

We have a deadline of September 1st for existing franchises to confirm participation in the following season.

For a new franchise, it would be up to the Board of Governors to deal with each situation.

The Edmonton situation is very weird.  It seems that communication is and has been a challenge for months now.  I met with the City of Edmonton in February and they committed to getting the Prospects and the Gregg group together and keeping the WCBL abreast of developments.  With Covid hitting, that didn’t happen.  I reached out to Dr. Gregg on July 6 and had a discussion about the league’s vision of Edmonton.  He said he would get back to me in a week or 10 days and I am still waiting for that follow up call.

I hope that things work out in the coming weeks for the benefit of the Edmonton baseball landscape and the WCBL and its partner franchises in Alberta as well as Saskatchewan.  I do not think they are not mutually exclusive.

UPDATE:

Hours after yesterday’s re-release of this story, WCBL President Kvame tweeted out that Dr. Gregg reached out to him. Kvame’s tweet is a 1 out of 5, the first is listed above. Below is a transcript of his tweets:

“Update: Dr. Gregg called me back tonight to discuss baseball. Nothing too new to report. I expressed my view to him that the WCBL belongs at Re/Max Field long term and disappointed City of Edmonton officials didn’t follow through with meditations as they committed to me. 

We left the call by agreeing to stay in touch. My view, Provincial Capital should be key part of a long term Alberta strategy complete with bringing tourists into Alberta and show off our province as well as baseball history. Rivals yet partners, Fort Murray Giants (@FMMGIANTS), Okotoks Dawgs (@Okotoks_Dawgs), Medicine Hat Mavericks (@mhmavericks), Lethbridge Bulls (@lethbridgebulls), Brooks Bombers (@Bombers_Brooks) plus the new guys Sylvan Lake Gulls (@SylvanLakegulls), make a great geographical footprint when you add our Saskatchewan friends. Rational people can sit down when good leadership from all sides come together.

Furthermore, our All Star Game should become a major sports festival annually! It was hosted in Edmonton in 2019 & COVID-19 did it in for this year but what better place to have a annual baseball festival than Edmonton partly due to capacity for 7500 fans. Unfortunately, time is becoming the enemy on this.

Bottom line for 2021 as August is about to arrive, no firm solution to the Edmonton Prospects and WCBL playing situation in Edmonton. No matter how you look at it, especially taking away the politics, this situation is bad for baseball in the area long term unless it is fixed soon!”

 

Speaking of Dr. Gregg’s team:

“We have some great things coming. There’s a pretty big announcement we want to make in the next few weeks. In a few weeks we’ll have a good announcement to make — one that’s more than just good.

“It’ll be the best calibre of baseball that’s come to Edmonton in years.”

Booster Juice founder Dale Wishewan, a member of the Dr. Randy Gregg led corporation that won the bid for a 10-year lease of Re/Max field, made those comments to Terry Jones in an article published Thursday July 9th. The words “few weeks” are open to interpretation but coming up on three weeks since the proclamation, one presumes the announcement is coming soon.

Let’s follow this slow roller down the line…

Prospects Owner says in terms of sharing Re/Max Field “two WCBL teams in Edmonton was always posturing and never a reality”.

  • On May 20th, CTV News released the story about Gregg winning the RE/Max field lease specifically mentioning the WCBL. That story had to get updated when the WCBL was forced into releasing a statement saying no formal discussions had been had.
  • WCBL President says he has an unreturned phone call into Dr. Randy Gregg dating July 6th while Gregg’s business associate Dale Wishewan on July 9th went on the record saying there will be a big announcement soon about “the best calibre of baseball that’s come to Edmonton in years” in an article that never mentions the WCBL.

I like to believe Edmonton will have three teams in 2021 – the Prospects in the WCBL, the ECBC Trappers in the CCBC, and Dr. Gregg’s team in what’s becoming evident will not be in the WCBL. I also like to believe all three teams will play out of Re/Max Field.

Stay tuned.

Sylvan Lake Gulls

Earlier this summer I surmised that the Gulls might be Edmonton’s closest option for baseball in the 2021 season. The Sylvan Lake Gulls announced on Sunday that their first head coach in franchise history will be Jason Chatwood. Gulls General Manager & President of Baseball Operations Aqil Samuel outlined the criteria he used in selecting Mr. Chatwood in two categories. Hard skills such as knowing the game within the game and someone with connections to NCAA Division 1 and 2, Junior College ranks in the US and the Canadian College Baseball Conference (CCBC). Soft skills such as understanding and protecting the Gulls brand and someone who understood the Central Alberta demographics.

 

Tearing Down the Stigma Surrounding Roller Derby, Part 3

We have examined the stigma’s surrounding Roller Derby in respect to the pageantry/gamesmanship and perceived level of violence. Today we look at the stereotypes surrounding the crowd at a roller derby event. We also take a positive look at the inclusive nature of Oil City Roller Derby (OCRD) and the sport in general.

A) As a former ticket executive, the goal was never just to sell a ticket to Mom or Dad. The goal was always to get the whole family to come out to a game. The general preconceived notion of a Roller Derby crowd is rowdiness. What is the truth about the crowd?

Diva De Mortis

Diva De Mortis circa 2016. Credit, OCRD website.

This is just false. Misinformation. Fake news. I think this is another remnant of the derby legacy. Like the penalty wheel – which definitely was NOT family-friendly. As the sport has evolved, so has our audience.

Some of this was driven by the fact that many of the skaters and officials have children of their own. There are lots of children present at events. Some leagues even have kid-friendly activities at their games. Colouring/craft tables, penny carnivals, etc. Plus there are a growing number of kids that play derby. We support our local junior roller derby league and they have a presence at our events.

Lowkey #314

In my experience, the crowd is pretty much like any sporting event. You can have some rowdy people in the beer section. You can have a group of supporters cheering and waving signs. You can have the friends and family of a skater being there to support their loved one. You can also have a group of little old ladies wearing red hats on an outing going “oh, I saw this on tv in the 70s” (that one stands out to me). It all depends on the local and the event itself.

 Roxy Belleboa

Most people still think of roller derby from what they seen on TV back in the 1960s where skaters would fly into the crowds and there were fights and all this, but things have changed. We want this sport to be more of a family outing like an Oilers game. Yes, most places do have a beer gardens so people can have fun and get a little tipsy, but we want to promote that we are athletes and this is an actual game and not a show you would watch late night after the world goes to bed. 

INCLUSITIVITY

Diva De Mortis

One theme that keeps coming up is gender exclusion in roller derby. OCRD is a mixed gender league that welcomes all people. I had someone once ask me about the dynamics between the genders in the league. They wondered if the masculine-identifying individuals over-shadow those who are feminine-identifying. The answer is no. All people add their own special something to a league of individuals morphing those individuals into a team. OCRD does not put limits based on anything superficial like gender. In fact we have mixed-gender teams that play against other teams that are similar. It’s fantastic! However, not everyone feels this way. There are many who see derby as an emotionally and physically safe space for feminine-identifying people to express themselves. I truly relate and understand that.

The way OCRD manages safety is to have a robust set of policies including a social contract that guides behaviour in isolation of external-facing identity. Conduct that contravenes the social contract is subject to scrutiny and consequences. This helps to create a safe space for all people. However, we recognize that this is not the same as having feminine-only spaces and that many would prefer that type of environment. There are some leagues that are feminine-identifying only. We support and applaud this choice as there is room in derby for everyone.

Roxy Belleboa

Roxy Belleboa, circa 2016, OCRD website

Roller derby is for EVERYONE! Men, woman, non-gender, all colors under the sun, tall, short, small and large people can all play roller derby. We identify our self as an all inclusive league for this reason, because everyone is welcome here.

If you want to learn the skills of roller derby but are scared, that is fine, we have elite trainers that will teach you to be safe on your skates. Even if you don’t want to play any games and just practice and be apart of a community, we are there for you. If you want to play big games and tournaments, we are there for you. These same elite skaters who play at high levels will work with you and can train with to get better.

Roller derby is not just a sport, we are all a family. 

Thank you again to all the members of the OCRD community who openly and honestly participated in this exercise trying to tear down the stigma around the wonderful sport that is Roller Derby. Stay tuned for when events begin again, I hope to see you all there. Cheers!

Part Two of Tearing Down the Stigma Surrounding Roller Derby

Part one of tearing down the stigma surrounding Roller Derby was focused on the pageantry/gamesmanship of the sport. Part two will focus on the perception the sport is overly violent. A big thank you to the several members of Oil City Roller Derby (OCRD) who responded to the call to defend their sport.

Popular sports such as football, boxing and UFC sometimes fight the perception of just being mindless violence. Somehow that perception has seeped deeper into Roller Derby than those sports. How and what has been done to change? 

 Roxy Belleboa #09

Roxy Belleboa, circa 2016, OCRD website

In the days of the late “Skinny Minnie” Miller (1960s) roller derby was a  violent sport. They played on banked tracks and duked it out there for crowds that cheered for it. Today we have advanced in that, like most sports, we now have strategies to control the game. Some Leagues out there even have play books that they reference for certain situations.

We are about containment and working together to stop the opposing team, not destroy them physically. Sure there are the odd BIG hits that the crowds go nuts for, but we find that working as a team works better than individual mindless violence. Plus in the derby community, we all know each other and we are all friends so why would we want to physically hurt a friend on purpose?

Lowkey #314

Honestly, as I’ve learnt it, Roller Derby used to be a lot more like wrestling. It was a show with rivalries, fights (some staged and not), fantastical fierce outfits and personas, blaring music, etc. By the time I joined (about 10 years ago), Roller Derby was definitely a competitive sport that still had its fun flair with music, outfits, face paint, and derby names. And it has continued to have evolved since then. The derby clothing is a lot more practical and safe (not as many tutus or fishnet stockings), some leagues don’t play music during jams as it’s considered a distraction, some leagues only use legal names, etc. The safety aspect has definitely jumped up as a priority for leagues, at least in my area.

A significant portion of rules for playing revolve around the safety of skaters, referees, and even the spectators. There are many, many rules on how we can hit each other. Bad hits are penalized, extremely bad hits can have players immediately expelled. Injuries happen all the time just from someone falling badly that one time. One aspect of sportsmanship we have, is that if someone is down and not getting up right away, everybody from both teams drops down to take a knee in order to signify that a skater needs help.

Ivana Kischmoo

 I think that particular perception of derby has come primarily from movies that have shown it in that light, but it is no different than other contact sports. MOST hits are not that hard, and always for a game purpose. Sometimes someone gets hit hard but the intent is not to hurt each other violently, derby players try to ONLY hit hard enough to stop the other player from getting their points.

What they DON’T show in the movies is how often after opponents hit each other they help them back up with an apology, a hug, a high five, and they chat on the way back to the bench. Derby teams and leagues are a family! Not just within our OWN league but other leagues too. We often play on the same mixed teams in scrimmages, we help each other to make full teams when one cannot but wants to play. We all know each other and look out for each other.

So there is far more love than violence, and there is never mindless violence. Every hit is for a purpose, and with love (lol). If more people came out to games, and watched how we play they would see that we are family and we do everything we can to not hurt each other.

Bruise Cruise #77

Roller derby is a contact sport absolutely, but certainly not mindless violence. Aside from the media hysteria in movies and comics, I haven’t actually heard this association, especially in the later years of my involvement. Roller derby utilizes so much strategy in it’s various positions creating a complex web of athleticism and wit. You need the ability to anticipate moves, react to plays, and alter course in a split moment in order to fluidly play the game.

I would say in my own experience the game has gone from being seen and played as entertainment to more sportsmanship. It began with the emphasis on outfits, alter egos and big hits to draw in spectators and give players a place to become whoever they wanted to be. Now I see it being more about building up the team with athleticism, competition, and cohesion.

Players and officials still are able to harness their inner cool kid and have the derby name and accessories, but more focus is on the team rather than the self. This I believe has reduced the perception about heightened violence (which so many penalty codes eliminate as well) and hopefully allows more viewers to see it for the great sport that it actually is. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m still a sucker for those big knock downs but watching a team come together to outwit the other team is just as satisfying to watch. 

PSL aka Pumpkin Spice Latte 

100% it all depends who you play against. Like any contact sport their are dirty players, friends that go harder on you to push you around. But like any contact sport there are rules, non bias referees, safety measures taken to assure safety to make sure we can keep playing as long as we can. Practicing basic skills to make sure you don’t injure yourself. Needing to work up to a skill set to to be able to play. 

Tex Rexem #357

Mindless violence will get you nowhere in derby. Aside from the fact that it doesn’t have a place in the larger derby community – being someone who deals “dirty” hits is the lowest i have seen anyone considered – it’s simply not going to help you succeed. Someone who goes in for mindless aggression will quickly be outdone by skilled, precise players who work as part of a team.

Yes there can be big hits! That’s part of what makes it fun. It’s cathartic to pit your strength against a willing opponent, even when you don’t succeed. We often lack an outlet for physical aggression and hitting people who are in on it is an absolute blast. Like Ivana mentioned, there is a code of conduct among derby players and nearly everyone is happy to congratulate each other on dramatic hits, both during and after the game. (and to compare bruises when they happen!)

Diva de Mortis

http://ocrd.ca/2016/10/skater-spotlight-diva-de-mortis/

Again, I think this speaks to the “legacy” of derby that was televised in the early 70s. We recognize that the sport began with some dark roots. An example of this is the “penalty wheel” which was a wheel that an audience member could spin when one of the players received a penalty. Some of the penalties on the wheel included “spank alley” where the girls had to skate by a bunch of audience members and get a spank from each of them. Can you imagine? Since the #metoo movement began, this would never be considered.

The same thing goes for game play. The game has changed significantly. There are rules, which morph to promote safer game play. When OCRD trains their skaters, they train them to hit and take hits, but the focus is on positional blocking, getting in another skater’s way to frustrate the hell out of them. This ties into your previous question too, as since the game has changed, the demand for high athleticism has changed (increased) too. Positional blocking takes more finesse and skill (and athleticism) than simply hitting someone hard. The “big hits” look dramatic, but from the skaters’ perspective, they can be a waste of energy and are only used when absolutely necessary. Skaters must focus on the objectives of the game in a way that is most efficient and most effective. This usually isn’t a big hit.  

Stay tuned for part two!

EDITOR’S NOTE: All professional head shot photos were taken by Cellar Door Photography.