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It's time to play ball, y'all

Goldeyes open 2012 season with tour of Texas

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AMARILLO, Texas -- When the Winnipeg Goldeyes open the 2012 American Association season tonight in West Texas, infielder Amos Ramon and pitcher Chris Kaminski will feel right at home.

A Texas tour is a great way to start for Kaminski, a native of Richmond, Tex. and Ramon, a native of Corpus Christi, Tex. The Goldeyes, in the midst of a 17-day road trip -- the longest in team history -- open the season with their first nine games in the Lone Star State.

Winnipeg will play three games here against the Amarillo Sox followed by three in Laredo against the Lemurs and wrap up with three in El Paso against the Diablos.

"It's going to be great opening in Texas. It feels comfortable and when we go down to Laredo, it'll be even better because that's only two hours from where I lived," said Ramon, 27, who expects to have his parents and about 12 family and friends see him play.

Ramon has been living in Winnipeg for the past two years with his wife, who is from Winnipeg. He began the season with the Fish last year but tore up a knee in the first game. Tonight will mark his return from that injury.

"I think the last time I played in front of that many friends and family would have been about eight years ago when I was in college at Alvin (Texas community college). It's going to be a lot of fun playing in front of them," said Ramon.

"With what happened last year, it means a lot to me to get back out there. This team that Rick (Forney) has put together, the camaraderie is great and our lineup is just stacked. A lot of guys are saying that and it's only going to get better once we start getting comfortable in the box and everything comes together."

Kaminski, 22, is fresh out of Jacksonville University where he had six starts in 19 games for the Division I school last season. In his three-year career, he tied the school's record for saves with 16.

"I wish it was a bit closer (to Richmond) but it feels like home because it's still Texas and it's warmer. I found the cold (in Winnipeg) a bit hard to adjust to at first," said Kaminski, noting Richmond is about eight hours away.

Kaminski, who was wearing the Disney princess backpack designated for rookies (it contains all the practice balls), said he expects to be used in middle relief.

"I think I'll be coming in after the starter and try to get it to the later innings for our closer," he said. "It's my chance to show what I can do and earn my spot by helping the team in any way possible."

The team has trained every day and played six exhibition games since training camp started on May 4.

"We're excited. We've practised as much as we can practice and we're ready to play some games that count for real," said manager Rick Forney before Thursday's practice. "We've spent a lot of time together already, more than we usually do, especially if we start out at home. We have good people. You can tell they like doing what they're doing and are excited about playing together. It should be interesting."

The Goldeyes took the field for a second straight day of training at Amarillo National Bank Sox Stadium, an architecturally unique ballpark.

Built in 1957, it is one of the few non-major league parks in the USA to house both an upper and lower level concourse. It has several different types of seats, including some fold-down plastic ones from Arlington Stadium, the former MLB home of the Texas Rangers, and can hold 7,500 fans.

Game day staff and media get to the press box by climbing a winding metal staircase bolted to the outside of the grandstands and then walk across the grandstand's roof to get in.

"To say this is unique is an understatement, you don't get to see too many parks like this one anymore in minor league baseball," Forney said. "It's going to be packed. They're going to have some big crowds here."

Tonight's game will be aired on TSN Radio 1290.

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPAshleyPrest

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 18, 2012 C1

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