Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fargo catchers being battered

Simunic angry at Goldeyes for bashing 2 backstops in head

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It was the afternoon after the night before and Doug Simunic was angry.

Friday night, the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks manager could only look on with concern as his catcher, Alan Rick, lay motionless at home plate at Canwest Park.

Rick was accidentally struck in the head by a bat wielded by Winnipeg Goldeyes first baseman Cody Ehlers, who struck Rick with the follow-through while swinging through a pitch from Fargo starter Broc Coffman near the end of an eight-run second inning for the Fish.

Rick crumpled to the dirt and both trainers immediately poured out of the dugouts -- and paramedics emerged from under the stands -- to tend to the stricken catcher.

It was a scary scene and one the Goldeyes know only too well, having lost their own catcher, Dustin Richardson, for much of the 2008 season to a skull fracture sustained in a similar episode.

In the end, Rick was able to walk off the field under his own power but was unable to return to the game. He was taken to hospital Friday night where he was diagnosed with a concussion.

Simunic said it was the 25-year-old Florida native's sixth concussion and he kept him out of the lineup Saturday night and will also sit him today as a precaution.

So that would explain why Simunic was concerned. But why angry?

"This is the second time I've gotten my catcher hit by one of your bats," Simunic said. "I'm getting sick of that. But there's nothing I can do about it."

When Simunic was asked if he was suggesting the two episodes were deliberate, he seemed to accept both incidents were accidents, but added: "At least warn the guy you've got that kind of backswing," said the Fargo manager.

The other incident Simunic refers to came back in mid-May during the Goldeyes first road trip to Fargo. In that incident, Goldeyes designated hitter Juan Diaz also struck Rick with his bat. Rick did not suffer a concussion in that episode, but it bears noting it was the second such episode Diaz had been involved in during the past year.

Diaz -- who was playing for Joliet at the time -- was also the batter who struck Richardson and all but ended the Winnipeg catcher's season.

Rick had a six-year stint in the Chicago Cubs organization -- getting as high as AA ball in 2007 -- before the Cubs released him and he found his way to Fargo last year.

He's thrived in the Northern League, hitting 15 homers and driving in 51 runs last year during a Herculean season that saw the catcher see action in 88 of his teams 99 regular season and playoff games.

The loss of Rick from the Fargo lineup couldn't come at a worse time for Simunic, whose team has a losing record 20 games into the season and has not been getting the kind of reliable pitching that is historically synonymous with Simunic-led teams.

Simunic seemed to acknowledge as much Saturday. "When it rains," said the Fargo manager, "it pours."

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Winnipeg 6 Fargo 5 (12 innings)

THE Winnipeg Goldeyes and Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks employed the teenage tactics of petty theft and wild times in a 6-5 Goldeyes victory on Prom Night Saturday night.

It was a magical beginning as Fargo starter Garry Bakker uncorked two wild pitches and gave up Cory Patton's two-run double.

In the third, a Juan Diaz single put the Goldeyes up 4-0. Wes Long and Kevin West tagged home shortly after a gutsy, no-out double-steal.

Fargo crashed the party, tying the game in the sixth inning after a wild pitch from Goldeyes starter Bear Bay that lead to Nic Jackson's run.

Brent Metheny provided the drama, dashing home on a Dee Brown single in the 12th.

-- Daniel Falloon

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 7, 2009 C5

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