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Goldeyes satisfy shortstop Long-ings

All-star cut by Marlins, jumps at chance to be back in Winnipeg

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There were not many pieces to the 2010 edition of the Winnipeg Goldeyes that were worth preserving.

After missing the playoffs and posting the worst regular-season record in franchise history, team management made it clear in the off-season that there were going to be more wholesale changes this winter than even the revolving door typical of an independent baseball team from year to year.

But there were some things that worked in 2010 and topping that list was shortstop Wes Long.

Long started 69 games for the Fish and was hitting .323 -- second on the team and eighth in the Northern League -- when his contract was picked up by the Florida Marlins organization in early August.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the Fish went into the tank after Long departed and never were the same baseball team again.

And so with that as the backdrop, the Goldeyes announced Monday that they have re-signed Long for the 2011 American Association season in what is the biggest signing the team has yet to announce during the off-season.

"Wes is one of the better players in our league and he's certainly a good leader as well," Fish manager Rick Forney said in a statement. "He has that infectious attitude that you like to have in your clubhouse every day. Everything is really positive with him. He puts a hard day's work in every time he comes to the field."

The question now is whether the Fish will get a complete season out of Long. In 2009, Long was hitting .343 and having an all-star season when he broke his ankle midway through the summer, ending his season.

And then last year, it was the Marlins signing that interrupted his Goldeyes season.

"My wife and I were just talking about that," Long, 28, said Monday. "I'd really like to stick it out for a season. That's never been a problem for me before Winnipeg."

Long said Monday that the Marlins discovered when he reported to them last August that he had been playing for at least a month in Winnipeg with two broken bones in his hand -- suffered he thinks in an at-bat against Rockford earlier in the summer.

"It was strange because I never knew. It never really bothered me all that bad in Winnipeg."

Long ultimately got only a handful of at-bats with the Marlins' Single-A affiliate in Greensboro, N.C., and was released at the end of the year.

That left him no decision to make about this year, he said from his home in Seattle.

"When my wife and I decided we'd play again this year, it wasn't even an option where I'd go," Long said.

"To be honest, the way I was treated in Greensboro was definitely a step down from Winnipeg... The hotels were crappy, the food, the spread. It really made me realize how good things are in Winnipeg and how well-treated we are."

While committed to Winnipeg, Long still covets a shot with another major-league organization.

"I'm just going to go out and play hard and you never know what can happen," said Long. "I think good things happen to good people and that's what I'm going to work on this year."

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 25, 2011 C3

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