Winnipeg Goldeyes' manager Rick Forney gave himself a couple of dandy Christmas gifts this week -- both of which he hopes to enjoy all of next summer.
Four days after signing of playoff MVP Amos Ramon, the Fish skipper announced Friday the return of versatile infielder/outfielder Josh Mazzola for the 2013 season.
"This was a no-brainer for me, especially after winning a championship last year," said Mazzola, who is in Winnipeg for the team's holiday skills camp on Saturday. "That's something I want to come back and defend because it's all something we're pretty proud of around here."
Mazzola, like Ramon, played a critical role for the Goldeyes in their championship run.
The 26-year-old Californian played in 98 games for the Fish, finishing tied for third in the American Association with 18 home runs, fifth in slugging percentage at .541 while hitting .308 and driving in a team-leading 74 runs.
He was also dynamite when it mattered, with a .322 average, four homers and 27 RBI in the final month of the season while hitting .400 and belting two more dingers in the playoffs.
Just as important is this: Mazzola played in all or parts of 60 games in the outfield, 44 games at first base and 10 games at third base.
Mazzola has a couple of invites to tryout camps in January and February that could land him back in affiliated ball -- he was originally signed as a free agent by the San Francisco Giants -- but would also be eager to call Winnipeg home for another campaign.
"If you have an opportunity to play affiliated ball, that's what you dream for," said Mazzola.
"We'll see what comes. But if things don't work out, I'll be happy to be back here in Winnipeg.
"Last year coming out of spring training and getting released, I guess it showed with how I played here at the beginning of the year. But when I started having fun again I started playing better. There's a family atmosphere here and it was refreshing to get your passion back in the game.
"And," added Mazzola, "it was sure fulfilling to bring a championship back to a deserving franchise and city. I had a blast."
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @WFPEdTait