If you build it… Giants will come

Catch You on the Rebound – Profile on Anthony “Dutche” Iannetti

By CURTIS J. PHILLIPS, Connect Contributor

Anthony “Dutche” Iannett of the Fort McMurray Giants. PHOTO: Curtis J. Phillips, Connect Contributor

Anthony “Dutche” Iannett of the Fort McMurray Giants. PHOTO: Curtis J. Phillips, Connect Contributor

Christmas came early this year and Santa Claus came in the presence of Anthony “Dutche” Iannetti.
It was announced on November 2, 2015, that Iannetti (along with baseball notables Steve Avila from Seattle, Washington and Blair Kubicek in Nova Scotia) were bringing summer collegiate baseball to Fort McMurray with the Western Major Baseball League (WMBL) putting out the home base plate for the newly named Fort McMurray Giants.

The WMBL is a 12-team-league based in Alberta and Saskatchewan with teams scheduled for 48-regular season games. The Giants will be hitting the pitch at Shell Place for their home opener in May 27, 2016, against the Lethbridge Bulls, who were awarded the Harry Hallis Memorial Trophy last year as league champion.

According to the WMBL website: “The WMBL boasts a long standing tradition of creating a showcase for top Canadian professional and college prospects while at the same time offering (North) American college players the opportunity to hone their skills in front of enthusiastic baseball fans in towns and cities throughout the Prairies.”

For Iannetti, Vice President/General Manager and Majority Owner of the Fort McMurray Giants, it is not only about “giving back to the community,” but allowing young students and athletes to pursue something they many never had – a post-secondary education.

Instead, Iannetti, a native of Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia, is a graduate of the School of Life.

“I had some friends who came up here around 1978 and 1979 and they would come home (Nova Scotia) for vacation and they would say: “Dutch, you should try it and come up. You will probably like it,”” said Iannetti, who moved here in 1980 at the age of 20.

“Like others, there was no time limit to how long I would stay when I came here to work and better myself,” said Iannetti, who worked with Stearns Catalytic from 1980 to 1996, and then 2000 Plus Limited Partnership, until venturing out on his own, opening Fort McMurray Industrial Cleaners in 2004.

It was in the late 1980s’ when his oldest son Joey, now 31, began playing T-Ball in the Fort McMurray Minor Baseball Association (FMMBA), that Iannetti started helping out behind the scenes in various roles including assistant coaching.

“As a kid, I played some hockey and some baseball, but was never a star player,” admits Iannetti.

“As a kid, I played some hockey and some baseball, but was never a star player,” admits Iannetti. “I had a passion for baseball and I enjoyed working with the (FMMBA) kids and spent a lot of time at the parks doing things like making sure the sprinkler heads were working, to making sure the field looked the best for the kids to play on, to riding the bus to out-of-town tournaments.”

It was on those out-of-town trips down Highway 63, that the bug for a future Fort McMurray baseball team was planted.

“When (Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo) city council had approved the building of Shell Place, we talked about: “Who is going to play there?” and at the time the thought was independent ball, but that fell through.”

“It was evident with player salaries, where guys are trying to make it to the big leagues, and with travel to places like California to play, that having a (pro) baseball team was not feasible… it takes a lot of revenue,” said Iannetti, who along with wife Dianne have a daughter named Feliseia.

(Side quote: Talks of pro baseball in Fort McMurray started in 1992 with a mention that we would be part of the Western Professional Baseball League. Other proposals that failed included Canadian Baseball League, Northern League of Professional Baseball, North American Baseball League, American Association of Independent Professional Baseball Clubs, Pecos League).

“So, we continued to talk about having this beautiful baseball stadium with no team and who might bring a franchise here. Not me for sure. Then, in June (2015), I had a call from Mr. Avila from Seattle who heard of me through (former FMMBA instructors) Reggie Rivard and Lou Pote. And he said: “I hear you have a beautiful stadium up there with no team, who can we get a hold of to get things started?”

The rest, as they say, is history.

Iannetti said the success of the Giants – on and off the field – will be, as is the case with a thriving business, consistency.

“When I bought a Big Mac at McDonald’s in 1980 it tasted the same way it does when I go out, the odd time, and buy it today in 2015,” said Iannetti. “Consistency.”

Iannetti said it is also important that the team is focused on student/athletes academic success: “It means a lot to me to see kids who are putting in a lot of effort and time, get to play baseball during the summer. Their No. 1 priority is their education and whatever happens later in baseball is a bonus. At least they have that degree to fall back on.”

He continued, “For me, a gentleman that never went to post-secondary education, it means a lot. It is building future leaders through sport. We need leaders.”

Some of those future leaders, may include local baseball players Ryan Dunn, Tyler Hodder, Matt McPherson and Iannetti’s own son, Josh Iannetti. who were recently named as part of the Giants 22-man roster.

Catch you on the rebound.

 – Connect Weekly –