AMARILLO, Texas -- Ace Walker, making his first opening day start with the Goldeyes in his five years with the club, was watched by a proud group of about a dozen family members Friday night.
Walker, the winningest pitcher in team history with 38, took the mound as the Goldeyes opened the 2012 American Association baseball season at Amarillo National Bank Sox Stadium.
"It's only about five hours from my house," said Walker, 29, who lives in Prague, Okla.
He said his mom, his sister, his grandparents, girlfriend Paige, her sister, her parents, and her grandparents were in the stands.
"It makes it pretty special. It's been a long time since I've played in front of so many family members, probably not since junior college," said Walker, who went to Cowley College in Arkansas, Kan. "In high school, I always had a lot of family come, so it's kind of cool that it worked out now."
Walker didn't have the start he or the Goldeyes were hoping for, as he allowed five runs on eight hits with two strikeouts in three innings. The Goldeyes won 14-9.
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Former Goldeyes' southpaw Ian Thomas, 25, has had his contract purchased by the Atlanta Braves. He has been assigned to the Rome Braves of the South Atlantic League.
Thomas, a reliever with the Goldeyes from 2009-2011, had been playing with the Atlantic League Champion York Revolution.
Thomas had an 11-5 record in 82 professional appearances with Winnipeg with a 2.03 ERA. He was the Northern League's Rookie of The Year in 2010.
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The Goldeyes have signed rookie right-hander Alex Jones, 25, who has spent the past two seasons in the Milwaukee Brewers organization.
The 6-foot-6 pitcher, expected to be used in relief, joined the team here in Amarillo in time to be available for the season-opening game against the Amarillo Sox.
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It was a rough start to the season for Goldeyes' reliever Brian Leach, as his first seven pitches resulted in five balls and two home runs when he entered the game in the fourth inning.
A long-standing tradition at Sox Stadium after a Sox home run is that players and bat girls and boys pass helmets in the crowd for fans to donate cash. The player hitting the homer gets to keep the money which, Sox staff say, can amount to $300.