The Winnipeg Goldeyes' bats are packed and they're ready to go -- even though it hardly seems they've been at Shaw Park at all.
Well, come to think of it, they actually haven't been. Indeed, some of the many fresh faces on the Goldeyes roster haven't even been in Winnipeg a week. But this morning, just hours after beating the University of Winnipeg Wesmen 8-4 Friday at Shaw Park, the Fish hopped on the bus and hit the road for a 16-day swing. The trip will include exhibition tilts in Fargo, Kansas City and Wichita before kicking off the American Association season in Grand Prairie, Texas on May 17.
"I really feel we've already gelled really great as a team, but road trips are the best," said pitcher Peter Gehle, standing in a clubhouse surrounded by cases loaded with bread and canned chicken breast for the road.
Gehle, a towering 6-6 southpaw who the Goldeyes plucked from the Sioux Falls Pheasants in exchange for future considerations this off-season, said the team isn't sweating the long hours on the bus. "We're all just used to it," he said. "It's a routine for us now."
Still, let's be honest -- it can be a little miserable out there on the road, from Winnipeg to Texas and back up again. Close quarters, cramped legs, and just the itch to get off the bus and on the field. "We're gonna figure out a lot about these guys," manager Rick Forney chuckled. "I think the biggest thing is having a good, healthy, positive outlook on life, riding the bus for eight or 10 hours.
"But I think with this group here, they're excited to play baseball. I don't think they care about the bus."
The roadie will wrap up with four games in Nebraska, before the team races back to Winnipeg to open their home season on May 27 with a visit from the Laredo Lemurs. By the time the Goldeyes get back, they won't be quite the same squad. At least three players have to come off the 26-man roster by the time the American Association season starts on Thursday, and another one will have to go within 10 days of the season's start.
On Friday afternoon, before taking his team onto the field for batting practice, Forney said he expects to make his moves after tonight and Sunday's pair of pre-season games in Fargo. "It's not always a fun time," Forney said. "I want 'em to make it difficult on me, I don't want 'em to make it easy. Hopefully everybody plays well."
So here's what Forney is looking to see: character, commitment and something closer to season sharpness. The first pre-season game against the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks was a sloppy win, the second Forney described as a tighter loss. But opening day is coming soon -- and Forney has to make sure his squad is all-in on what they're in Winnipeg to do.
"When you're bringing in so many young players from affiliated baseball, the landscape is much different," Forney said. "It's not developmental baseball, it's about winning baseball games. We need to make them understand it, and they'll pick it up pretty fast."