Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fish, fans whoop it up big-time at Shaw Park

Celebrate 2012 title, win in home opener

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Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks manager Doug Simunic likes to kid Goldeyes play-by-play man Paul Edmonds that he often listens to Goldeyes radio broadcasts from his office down in Fargo. "Without the radio," snips Simunic.

If the venerable RedHawks skip was listening Monday night he'd have done his best to tune Edmonds out. The Goldeyes kicked off their American Association banner-raising ceremony with a film of last year's highlights and the enthusiastic Edmonds had all the calls providing Winnipeg's soundtrack of a championship.

"Fish win, Fish win, Fish win," growled Edmonds, over and over again.

Simunic may be gracious, but everyone has their limit, and listening to your arch-rival celebrate can get old. Quick.

Monday's home opener saw the Fish run up a second championship banner to go with the first won by Simunic back in 1994 during his time in Winnipeg.

It was a night of celebration and this year's version of the Goldeyes held up their end of the bargain, punching out a 4-1 win. Manager Rick Forney described his current club as workmanlike prior to the game and they lived up the billing. Clean defence, efficient pitching and modest but opportunistic hitting.

Forney becomes only the second manager in Goldeyes history to win a title.

Forney's Fish reeled off six straight playoff wins last fall to win the league pennant, and Monday they were paid tribute.

Just five players, Amos Ramon, Luis Alen, Josh Mazzola, Matt Rusch and Kaohi Downing, returned from last year's club, and they were all congratulated.

The Goldeyes flew in four retired players -- Ace Walker, Brian Beuning, Zach Baldwin and Chris Salamida -- to carry the new banner onto the field.

"I had goosebumps from the moment I walked onto the field and all the way out to the outfield wall," said Walker, now living and working in Prague, Okla. "It was hard to control my emotions."

Winning a championship often takes equal parts work, talent and luck. The Goldeyes had been snakebit since 1994, making the post-season all but three time in their 20-year existence, but only winning the one title.

"So much fell into place and it was such a perfect ending," said Walker. "You couldn't have written it up. And this is just another part of the dream coming true. Baseball, this team and this city have meant so much to me. It's great to bring a championship to this city and to be here to see the banner go up."

The Goldeyes did it right on this night. The players' rings are attractive, the ceremony was authentic but tight, and the game was still the feature.

Pro baseball has had a nice, if at times empty-handed run, in this city over the last 20 years. The fans keep coming back to their convenient and comfortable park and the team is always competitive. The Goldeyes are a machine -- and a well-oiled one at that.

Monday's banner-raising added a little more soul to the operation. For so long the history around this team was all about heartbreak, time and time again.

Fish fans would now like some more repetition. Just make it the championship kind.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 28, 2013 C1

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