Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Goldeyes practise scoring runs at expense of Wesmen nine

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THERE are some games where numbers don't tell much of a story, and Sunday's tilt between the Winnipeg Goldeyes and University of Winnipeg Wesmen would be one.

The final score was blunt, a 20-0 Goldeyes win, so let's just move on: In an asymmetric matchup, the numbers don't say much about either team. Really, the first Goldeyes exhibition game was about other things.

For the hundreds of fans who dotted the stands -- official attendance was 2,515 -- it was a chance to soak in some sunshine on the crisp day.

For the Fish, it was a chance to get on the field and get running, a chance for Rick Forney to learn a little more about the 26 players he's got. He put 10 batters in the lineup -- well, 11 if you count Breakfast Television host Jeremy John, who signed a one-day contract for $0 to make a plate appearance with the club.

"It's good practice, you're going through the routine," Forney said. "It's unfortunate. When a score gets like this, it's important for us to be a good baserunning team, that's how you produce offence... you have to practise that at game speed. So when the score gets a little out of hand like this, usually you want to call off the dogs, a little bit. But it's hard to practise baserunning at game speed without a game actually taking place."

And for the Wesmen, it was another test in a young program still finding its feet -- because this year, for the first time in their three-year-history, the Wesmen are standing right where they want to be. In April, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics voted to accept the Wesmen's baseball squad into their largely American college league. Their NAIA membership goes into effect Aug. 1.

After three years of cobbling together their own slate of exhibition games, the news was a thrill: Now, the Wesmen can play a regular conference schedule and challenge for championships. "That's a big deal for us," said head coach Mike Krykewich, who has spent countless volunteer hours raising the team up. "Now, we have to see what we can do to progress the program forward."

Obviously, getting accepted into the NAIA could help recruitment. It could also help infuse new vigour into Manitoba's youth baseball scene -- which in turn could lead to stronger Wesmen teams, which could feed back into some kid's baseball dream and -- well, you get the picture.

"This is an opportunity for guys to have something to strive for," Krykewich said. "They have a local program, local school. Guys might decide to play longer, or if you're a young kid, it might be they could say 'Hey, I could get an education and stay in my home city.' "

 

melissa.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 5, 2014 C6

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