WINNIPEG Goldeyes fan Mickey Steen has Tom Vaeth's shirt, his season ticket stored in his Goldeyes cap and a lock on his seat for the past 14 years.
But coming to Canwest Park for the Goldeyes' 2009 Northern League home opener on Friday night bringing with them the best start to a season in team historywassomething special for the 64-year-old Steen.
"Undefeated (5-0 record coming into last night's game), that's terrific!"
Steen said, joking that he's no relation to former Jet Thomas but wishes he was. "You're always hoping that the guys are going to get off to a good start and there's so many new guys this year, I think starting the way they did is great for the fans because it builds us up a bit. It's good for the players, too, because it's going to help them mesh together."
A crowd of 6,386, including Dancing Gabe and the Champlain Flames minor baseball team as Baseball Buddies during the anthems, came out on a chilly night where temperature dipped to about 8 C to witness the Goldeyes take on the defending Northern League champion Kansas City T-Bones.
Steen said he came to games when he could the first season when the Goldeyes were still playing in what is now Canad Inns Stadium but bought season tickets the very next year.
"I love baseball, they're entertaining, I love the ballpark atmosphere and the organization treats you like gold," said Steen, who won hitting coach Vaeth's shirt last season in the "Shirt Off Their Backs" promotion. "I had heart surgery on Jan. 22 and the next day, there's a head peeking around the corner and it's Andrew (GM Collier)."
Angie and Jim Busby, married for 27 years and Goldeyes fans for half that time, said they've been coming to games since the team's inception but just bought season tickets this year.
"Last year in the playoffs, we didn't get our regular seats and we got really upset about it so we bought season tickets this year," Angie said.
"Best seats in the house!" Jim proclaimed, as their seats are in the first row down the first base line. "Nothing would have stopped us from coming here, we've been here in really bad weather. That's how I got this (Goldeyes) sweatshirt. When they had the picnic benches (at the east end), it was rush seating there and we had such good seats one time I wouldn't give it up. I sat there in the pouring rain, there was a rain delay of about 45 minutes, I was cold and Angie felt sorry for me so she bought me a dry sweatshirt."
Collier said it felt like a long winter had finally been put behind them when the park doors opened on Friday.
"With 5-0 being the best start in team history, there was a bit of an extra buzz around here and it was pretty special seeing the fans rolling in tonight," Collier said. "This was the first of our Flashback Fridays so it was great to see Troy Fortin throw out the first pitch. Throughout the season we'll be bringing in guys like (Brian) Duva, (Chris) Kokinda, (Carmine) Cappuccio for the other Flashback Fridays. We're bringing in three different entertainment acts and doing our best to keep giving people lots of reasons to come to the ballpark."
Perfect no more with extra-inning loss
AFTER winning five straight games to open the 2009 Northern League baseball season, a win during the home opener was not in the cards for the Winnipeg Goldeyes on Friday night.
Though they staged a thrilling comeback in the bottom of the ninth inning, the Goldeyes (5-1) were defeated 13-12 by the defending Northern League champion Kansas City T-Bones (4-2) in Canwest Park on a chilly night before a crowd of 6,386, many of whom had filed out after the seventh inning.
The Goldeyes came into the bottom of the ninth trailing 12-4 but fired up the bats. Fans were dancing in the aisles and seats as the home side went through the order scoring eight runs by Cory Patton, Juan Diaz, Cory Ehlers, Dustin Richardson, Adam Frost and Wes Long, Brent Metheny and Kevin West.
The excitement was silenced by the T-Bones' first batter of the 10th inning, Aharon Eggleston, who cracked a home run off Goldeyes closer Matt Davis.
The game lasted three hours and 30 minutes.
Though the T-Bones scored the first run of the game, things started off great for the home side. In the bottom of the second, the Goldeyes scored four runs started off by left fielder Dee Brown's two-RBI single. A one-run single by Frost was followed by Long's RBI double which gave the Goldeyes a 4-1 after two innings.