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Forney keen to lead Fish to title

Veteran boss signs on for two more years

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Winnipeg Goldeyes manager Rick Forney will return to lead the American Association baseball club for a seventh season after he signed a two-year contract, the Goldeyes announced on Wednesday.

It's been 17 years since the Goldeyes have won a championship and, after winning a division pennant last season only to lose in the league semifinals, Forney said the drive to win is stronger than ever.

"We had such a great season last year and for it to come to a screeching halt the way it did was disappointing and it left a feeling among all of us that were involved with the 2011 club that we left a lot out on the table," said Forney, 40, whose team was defeated by the St. Paul Saints 5-4 in the fifth and deciding game of the American Association semifinal series.

In 2011, the Goldeyes were in their inaugural season in the American Association where only four of 14 teams made the playoffs -- three division winners and a wild-card team. Under Forney's guidance, the Goldeyes posted a team-record 60 wins, won their first division pennant since 2003 and set a home record for wins in a season with 33. Forney was named the American Association's manager of the year and was the first Goldeyes manager to earn that league honour.

"I am happy to be back in Winnipeg for at least the next two seasons. Winnipeg is certainly a top-three place in all of independent baseball and I'm really fortunate to have this job as long as I have had it," Forney said, noting he has not contemplated moving to affiliated baseball as he and his wife are raising a young family. "For me, affiliated baseball, it's not the right time for me to do something like that. It's a six- to eight-month job and I just can't be away from home for that long."

Forney has taken the Goldeyes to the playoffs five times in the past six seasons but has yet to win a playoff series. Last season, the team posted a winning percentage of .600 in 2011 for the first time since 2003.

"Rick has consistently assembled a winning team in Winnipeg throughout his first six seasons as manager and I am ecstatic that he will continue that role with the team for at least the next two seasons," Goldeyes' owner and CEO Sam Katz said in a statement. "Last season Rick showed his skills in player recruitment and as a manager when he led the team to the North Division pennant against perennial powerhouses in the division."

It will be a hard act to follow. Prior to the playoffs, Forney had said the 2011 team was the best team he's seen in his 14 years with the organization.

"It's guaranteed you're not going to have the same team back because so much changes with the players, classifications, they get on with their lives, or just aren't a fit for our ball club," Forney said. "But we're going to do the best we can and bring back as many people as possible."

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 8, 2011 C1

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