Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Fresh Fish take field
Opening camp with a lot of new faces
After winning a franchise-record 60 games, the North Division pennant and reaching the semifinals in their first American Association season last year, the Winnipeg Goldeyes have all of seven players back for 2012.
Manager Rick Forney said if he could bottle up something from that team and sprinkle it over this one, it would be the team chemistry. Easy to say, hard to find, said Forney, heading into his seventh season as the Goldeyes' manager.
"It was a high-character bunch last year who really enjoyed being together every day and it starts right there," Forney said.
"Not just enjoy hanging out, but going to work together and being able to gel real quick. That's kind of what the secret to our team was last year."
With the club's 2012 training camp opening today at Shaw Park, we bring you, in no particular order, nine things to watch this season:
1. REELING IN THE BIG FISH: The last time the Goldeyes won a league championship was in 1994. The last time the team won a playoff series was in 2003 in the Northern League's East Division championship series. Since then, the Goldeyes have lost six straight playoff series.
2. FORNEY WANTS TO HOOK A SERIES WIN: Five times the past six seasons, the Goldeyes manager has taken his team to the post-season but has yet to adavance to the second round. He signed a contract last December for two more years and you can bet that's a priority.
3. ROOKIE NO MORE: Price Kendall, the 2011 American Association rookie of the year, is expected to change positions, but keep things the same at the plate. Kendall, who will move from second base to shortstop for the Goldeyes, played in all 100 games last season and led the team with a .324 batting average. Quirky Kendall stat: He ranked fourth in the AA in players hit by a pitch, as he was dinged 17 times.
4. SCORE MORE RUNS: Though the Goldeyes finished second overall and first in the North, the team was only sixth in runs scored and had a team batting average of .294.
5. BIG GUNS: Outfielder Chris Roberson and infielder Yurendell de Caster have done what every indy ball player wants to do -- get to The Show. Players with major league experience who have big seasons can be giant motivators for young players.
6. FAMOUS AMOS: Amos Ramon is the only player coming into camp batting 1.000. He hit a single in his only at-bat in 2011 before suffering a season-ending knee injury four innings into the season.
7. ACES IN THE HOLE: RH Ace Walker and LH Chris Salamida, the only two returning pitchers from last season, are proven winners and need to bring more of the same. Combined, they had 21 of the Goldeyes' 60 wins. Walker was fourth in the AA in innings pitched (141.2) while Salamida was fifth in strikeouts (109).
8. QUOTABLE: "Winning, it's like, so much better than losing" -- Best sports-movie line ever (Bull Durham), and the Goldeyes will have to do more of it. The team won a franchise-record 60 games last season but lost out in the league semifinals.
9. CALLING FANS HUNGRY FOR BASEBALL: Last year, the Goldeyes led all independent baseball (51 teams) in average attendance with 5,740 fans per game. The club is staging nine fireworks nights, 12 giveaway games and 16 theme games to get fans back into Shaw Park.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 5, 2012 C2
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