Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Goldeyes to retire Smith's No. 21

Longtime reliever still holds Northern League record for appearances

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LOCAL son and fan favourite Donnie Smith will see his jersey retired by the Winnipeg Goldeyes baseball club this summer.

At a Wednesday press conference, the team's long-serving relief pitcher came in wearing his red No. 21 jersey, removed it and presented it to Goldeyes GM Andrew Collier.

Smith, now 35, holds the Northern League record for career appearances by a pitcher at 206 games. He pitched in parts of eight seasons (1998-2006) and was known as a reliable performer who bailed out the Fish from many a jam.

On July 21, the Goldeyes are expected to raise Smith's number above the Canwest Park bullpen where Smith spent many summer evenings preparing for his next call to action. Brian Duva's No. 5 is the club's only other retired number.

"It's something I'll always be very proud of. I've been very fortunate to play in front of my friends, family and been able do that in my home town of Winnipeg," said Smith, who along with his wife Tara have sons Tyler, 6, and Colson, 3. "I'm very fortunate that Winnipeg wanted me back every year. It was a great run of eight years and it went by pretty quick."

Smith, a teacher at Garden City Collegiate, was 25 when the Goldeyes signed him in August 1998 after then-coach Scott Neiles brought manager Hal Lanier to watch him pitch for Legion 141 in a senior league game at Sinclair Park.

"I think it was Troy Fortin (former Goldeyes catcher 1998-2000) that gave me the heads-up that they were going to come and watch and I noticed them in the stands," said Smith, who at the time had just finished playing college ball at Valley City.

"I was fortunate they were willing to come to basically a backyard game when they had a day off to take a look at somebody as a shot in the dark! That's one thing that I cherish that someone like Hal and Scott, and I know what it's like after so many years of playing that it's a busy season, and for them to take that time out during their off day, I'm very thankful for that."

Smith made his last Goldeyes' appearance on Sept. 10, 2006.

"Donnie Smith is the kind of player every good team has," Collier said. "On the field, he wanted the ball and was never afraid to take it. Off the field, he was ready and willing to do whatever was asked. You didn't find many guys like him when he played the game and you still don't."

These days, Smith can be found teaching, coaching hockey and taking on all challengers at table tennis in the Garden City West Gym at lunch time.

"Looking back at just the amateur ball in Manitoba, for the kids that are competing at a high level maybe it will give some incentive to them to see that there's been a local guy that's been recognized that way," he said.

'It was a great run of eight years'

Donnie Smith will become an indelible part of Goldeyes' history on July 21 when his No. 21 is retired. Here's a look at a few of his career highlights:

Played in 206 career games, which is a Goldeyes and Northern League record for games played.

Career won-lost record of 15-15 record with 28 saves, which is second on the Goldeyes' all-time list.

Struck out 246 batters, fifth on the team's all-time list, over 246 innings pitched.

Home record of 7-6 with 17 saves while holding opponents to a .214 batting average.

Voted to the club's 10th anniversary team in 2003.

Celebrating 10 years at Canwest

The Winnipeg Goldeyes will celebrate 10 years in their downtown location, now known as Canwest Park, during the 2009 season with promotions and special guests while they wait for the three-millionth fan to walk through the gates. Also, watch for Flashback Fridays when eight former Goldeyes greats will return to the ballpark:

May 22: catcher  Troy Fortin (1998-2000)

June 5: outfielder Chris Kokinda (1996-99)

June 19: outfielder Carmine Cappuccio (2001)

June 26: infielder Brian Duva (1995-2000)

July 10: pitcher Dan Guehne (1996-2000)

July 24: pitcher Rafael Gross (2001-04)

Aug. 7: pitcher Jeff Zimmerman (1997)

Aug. 28: catcher Ryan Robertson (2001-02)

On Canada Day, the Goldeyes will wear special replica jerseys of the uniforms worn by the bronze-winning Canadians during the 1999 Pan Am Games.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 22, 2009 C3

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