Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fish reward title-winning Forney

Veteran skipper gets three-year extension from AA club

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With a comfy new three-year deal, Winnipeg Goldeyes skipper Rick Forney can settle into planning how he and his baseball club will defend their 2012 American Association title.

The Goldeyes announced Tuesday that Forney had been signed to a contract extension that will keep the 41-year-old with the Goldeyes through the 2015 season.

Forney led the Goldeyes to the league title last September in a playoff run that saw the team sweep the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks in the semifinal series and sweep the Wichita Winguts in the best-of-five championship final series.

"I'm excited. It's always nice to have a little security in life, especially in your job.

I'm very fortunate to be working in such a great place as Winnipeg, with a super staff with the Goldeyes and such a tremendous atmosphere," said Forney in a telephone interview from his home in Maryland. "I'm happy that Sam trusts me to go forward with the ball club and that we're headed in the right direction."

'Accomplished'

Goldeyes owner and president Sam Katz said Forney has "accomplished a fair amount for the Goldeyes in a short period of time."

"Winning the championship was so great for our city, it's been a long time since a professional sports franchise has won a championship here," said Katz, whose Goldeyes were the last to do so when they won the Northern League title in 1994.

"In the American Association, when there's 13 teams playing and only four make the playoffs, it's not easy to make the playoffs, let alone win a championship. I've never done anything more than a two-year deal but in this situation, I extended his contract two years to give him three years. It gives us all some stability and I have a lot of faith and confidence in Rick Forney. This (baseball) is what he breathes, he puts a quality team together every year and I have no doubt he'll continue to do that."

Goldeyes third baseman Amos Ramon said Forney helped start his professional career by giving him an opportunity to play in 2006 in his first season as Goldeyes manager.

"It was late in the season, they needed a backup infielder and Rick called me. No one else called me and if not for that, I probably wouldn't be playing professional baseball and living in Winnipeg," said Ramon.

"It's great for Rick to have some stability and be recognized for finally getting that championship season he's been dying to have. It's hard for teams to find managers who win on a consistent basis. Rick knows how to find players and he keeps bringing winning seasons here."

Forney said he'll start putting together some of the pieces for the 2013 Goldeyes next month but for now, he's enjoying some time with his family and reflecting on the 2012 season.

"It's certainly one of the greatest things in any manager's career to be able to come to the end of the season and come away with a championship," Forney said.

"It's extremely difficult to achieve that in the American Association and I'm proud of my team. I'd like to see us put together some wins next season and give ourselves a chance to be in that position again."

Katz said a late-season player move made by Forney was pivotal to the team's success. Forney released popular veteran player Jon Weber, who had been unable to play to his potential due to on-going injuries, and replaced him with slugger Barbaro Canizares from the Mexican League. Canizares hit a walk-off home run in the 10th inning in Winnipeg's Game 1 victory over Wichita.

"Sometimes the easiest thing in the world is to stand pat and do nothing. Rick didn't do that, I supported him," Katz said. "Call it fate, call it luck, whatever, the end result was we won the championship. We won six straight games against two teams that no one thought we had a chance of beating. That showed me he's not afraid to do the things that have to be done."

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

Rick's resumé

2012: 55-45 second in AA North Division; wild-card playoff berth, AA champion; first playoff series win as Goldeyes manager; first league championship win as Goldeyes manager

2011: 60-40 first in AA North Division; league semifinalist

2010: 46-53 sixth in NL; missed playoffs

2009: 55-41 second in NL; league semifinalist

2008: 51-45 third in NL; league semifinalist

2007: 52-43 second in NL North Division; South Division finalist

2006: 52-44 second in NL North Division; North Division finalist

(AA-American Association; NL-Northern League)

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 14, 2012 C3

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