Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Goldeyes' travel travails hit new low

Thirteen-hour bus ride opens Forney's eyes

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Surely there have been worse travel tales; ones that make you wonder why anyone would sign up to ride the buses of minor league baseball.

But when examining the latest series of consequences that led to the Goldeyes rolling into Winnipeg hours before the scheduled first pitch against the Kansas City T-Bones at Shaw Park Friday, Rick Forney puts it in perspective:

"I don't remember, in 21 years of professional baseball, having one like this," the manager said of the 13-hour trip up from Lincoln, Neb., Friday morning. "Getting off the bus and playing four hours later, I don't remember ever doing that."

Let's take it from the top.

The Goldeyes and Saltdogs kicked off the finale of a four-game series at 7 p.m. Thursday night. With the Fish clinging a two-run lead in the eighth inning (Lincoln had two runners on) the rain came down, forcing a suspension of play. Sixty-three minutes later, action resumes, the home team ties it up, and the game heads into extras.

Just before midnight -- two hours after the Fish hoped to depart -- the Goldeyes gut it out and win by a 5-4 score in 11 innings. An hour or so later, the exhausted team crawls into the iron lung and departs for Canada.

Here's where things get tricky. The area around the Missouri River is currently on an emergency flood watch. When faced with this unplanned hiccup, the Goldeyes veer off on a slight detour near Omaha.

It was 3 a.m. at this point.

Pitch black outside.

"Down some roads our bus had no business being on," Forney said. "We had a sheriff escort us. I decided to close my eyes (at that point). I didn't want to watch anything bad take place."

Not surprising, these logistical nightmares often lead to bad dreams for the players -- if they can manage to fall asleep on the bus, of course.

And how much shut-eye did Kody Kaiser get?

"A few hours, here and there," the outfielder said.

A few hours?

"About three hours of sleep with about eight hours of tossing and turning," he clarifies. "It wasn't a great night."

It wasn't much of a morning, either.

With time becoming a factor as they blasted through Iowa and the Dakotas, Forney decided it best that the club stop off in Grand Forks for a bite to eat. On the plus side, it wasn't from the drive-thru menu.

"I had some Jimmy Johns and Starbucks," said shortstop Wes Long with a laugh, having been down this road before. "Breakfast of champions."

Kaiser, Long, and the rest of the Goldeyes tried to put the trip in their rear view mirror Friday afternoon and were looking ahead to the three-game series with the T-Bones.

Some players will drink a lot of coffee -- or any other caffeinated beverage of choice -- in the hours leading up to the game, while others hauled themselves into the weight room to get the blood moving through a light sweat.

Some simply grabbed a towel and hit the showers early.

Kaiser warned there's an element of jet lag through the next couple games -- without the convenience of air travel.

"It doesn't necessarily hit a guy right now (Friday), because they're playing on some weird energy, but the next day could be a different story," he said.

"It will catch up with you eventually."

adam.wazny@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 11, 2011 C2

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