Canadian baseball was played at Shaw Park on Tuesday night as the American Association and the Can-Am League's interlocking schedule touched down in Winnipeg.
The Winnipeg Goldeyes (37-25) hosted Les Capitales de Québec (42-20) in the first of a three-game set between the two Canadian-based teams. They will play again tonight at 7 and Thursday at noon.
It is an unbalanced interlocking schedule devised by Miles Wolff, commissioner of both leagues. The Goldeyes play only these three interlocking games.
"I've always thought we should have some kind of inter-league play, but this year with 13 (AA teams) and five (Can-Am), it was sort of a necessity, but we're happy with the way things are going," said Wolff, in Winnipeg for Tuesday's game. "I'd love to continue this, but it would be up to the directors of the league. Finances matter, but for a team to make one trip west or one trip east doesn't kill anybody financially."
He said five AA teams -- St. Paul, Gary, Grand Prairie, Lincoln and Kansas City -- volunteered to take road trips to play interlocking games. The five Can-Am teams -- Québec, New Jersey Jackals, Worcester Tornadoes, Newark Bears and Rockland Boulders -- are each making one 10-game road trip to meet AA teams and hosting AA teams for 10 games.
Wolff said there are discussions about Edmonton, Calgary and Fort McMurray joining the AA in the future and a possible merger of the Can-Am and AA leagues.
"I don't have an opinion one way or the other. They're just another part of the schedule. They've been really good over there (Québec) in the past couple of years," said Goldeyes manager Rick Forney, referring to Québec's four Can-Am titles in seven years.
"I love everything about it," said Québec manager Pat Scalabrini, the former Goldeyes infielder (2003-04), who hit 20 home runs for Winnipeg in 2004. Scalabrini is in his third season as the Capitales manager, leading the team to three straight championships.
"We have a five-team league, so it makes it long at times to play the same teams over and over. I'm one of those guys in Quebec trying to find a way to build a Canadian division within the league."
He said there is talk of expansion to Montreal and Trois-Rivières.
"If we could just have a few markets to create some rivalries within Canada," Scalabrini said. "Today, we are just testing the waters. Maybe we are dreaming a little bit, but maybe it is the start of something exciting."
Goldeyes pitcher Matt Rusch played for Québec the past two seasons but was granted his release last spring by Scalabrini so he could move to Winnipeg with his girlfriend ,who was transferred here.
"I think it's good to play each other, to play the other leagues. You get to see new players and that makes you better as a baseball player," said Rusch, noting he has remained good friends with Scalabrini and many of the Québec players, including catcher Patrick D'Aoust, outfielder Sébastien Boucher and pitcher TJ Stanton.
Rusch won't get to pitch against his old team, as it isn't his turn in the rotation, but joked that he could make himself useful with the French language skills he acquired to interpret some of the Québec team's signals.
"We used some key (French) terms that only we would know. So if it happens, I know their (term for) bunt play, I know what they'll call out," Rusch laughed.
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