Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Fish and fans celebrate title
AA champs throw party at Shaw Park
It could have been any Sunday afternoon of the 2012 season as members of the Winnipeg Goldeyes sat around in the team's clubhouse.
Except that these Goldeyes had a championship to celebrate -- for the first time in 18 years.
Members of the 2012 American Association champion Goldeyes gathered one last time to share their victory with about 1,500 fans at a special championship celebration at Shaw Park.
The Goldeyes earned the team's first championship since its inaugural year in 1994 with an 8-3 victory last Friday in Kansas over the Wichita Wingnuts.
The AA trophy and banner were displayed for fans, there was a standing ovation for Goldeyes radio announcer Paul Edmonds and the 16 players in attendance signed autographs for fans on the concourse.
The Goldeyes, who earned the wild-card into the playoffs after the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks won the North Division, went on a six-game winning streak in the playoffs, sweeping Fargo in the semifinal and sweeping Wichita in the final.
"This is a lot of fun! Why did we wait 18 years to do this again?" Goldeyes general manager Andrew Collier joked to the crowd. Collier has worked for the Goldeyes since 1995.
The Goldeyes led the league with an average of 5,705 fans per game and were tops in total attendance at 285,263.
"Each and every one of these guys has phenomenal talent. They could play anywhere in the world and they chose Winnipeg, Manitoba, and we thank each and every one of them," Sam Katz, Goldeyes owner, told the crowd and players. "I can hardly wait to spend some money and get some rings designed for you guys because you deserve it."
Goldeyes third baseman Amos Ramon, who has made Winnipeg his home for the past two years, said the players know how much winning a professional sports championship means to local fans.
"The guys could feel it in the playoffs with how loud the stadium was, I've never heard Shaw Park like that. The last time I heard something like that was the Bruins playing the Jets (at MTS Centre) and that was pretty loud," said Ramon, who hit .476 in the playoffs with two home runs and nine RBI. "They deserve it just as much as we do. It's great. I can't believe we did it."
Ramon said the team got back from Wichita at 5 a.m. on Sunday and there were two fans in the Shaw Park parking lot to greet them.
Rusch, who also lives in Winnipeg, said he plans to spend the winter in Winnipeg and can't wait to continue to share the championship with Goldeyes fans.
"People always say when they come to Winnipeg, it's a great situation. I wasn't a part of that until this year," said Rusch, the winning pitcher in the third game against Wichita, the third game against Fargo and the wild card-clinching win on Sept. 1. "To actually see it come to fruition, to see all the fans and how much support they give you, it really means a lot."
The Winnipeg Goldeyes celebrate their American Association championship with fans at Shaw Park Sunday
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 17, 2012 C1