The gnawing cold of a Manitoba winter seems no place for a California guy, but Brendan Lafferty was willing to brave it to re-up as a Goldeye.
The southpaw pitcher landed in Winnipeg this week, ready to ink his new contract with the Winnipeg Goldeyes, coach a kid's baseball camp and help the team's Field of Dreams Foundation.
'The opportunity to pitch every day like I did, that's something I've wanted to do for a long time. I got that opportunity here, so I felt like I did my job, and I'm happy with it'
Sure, the climate is a more bitter than he's used to in the Golden State, but the reliever took that part in stride.
"It's nice to have a little change in weather," said Lafferty as a Goldeyes delegation loaded boxes at Winnipeg Harvest on Tuesday. "I decided to see what real cold is like."
Weather humour aside, the re-signing is solid news for the Fish, who leaned hard on Lafferty through the season and down the stretch. He set a team record for number of appearances out of the bullpen in a single season, with 53, which was tied for the American Association lead.
The 27-year-old welcomed the workload, and he'd like to keep it up.
"I would love to break the league record for appearances," he said. "But hey, if we're winning, I'll do whatever."
If the Goldeyes are to win, Lafferty will likely play a key role.
He landed with the Fish last season after pitching four years through the Kansas City Royals organization, and when the Philadelphia Phillies released him from training camp last spring, he immediately became a coveted free agent around the independent leagues. He chose to sign with Winnipeg.
"I really had no idea what to expect," he said, but he had heard good things and thought it might be a fit.
He produced as advertised. Lafferty was often a rock in relief, and some around the Goldeyes wondered if his contract might get picked up by a major league team. It didn't, and he finished the season 5-2 with a 3.49 ERA, having pounded out 50 strikeouts in 49 innings.
"We're really thrilled to have him back," Forney said. "I was really excited to get him last year and he certainly was as good as we hoped he would be."
For Lafferty, the choice to come back was a no-brainer. Although a rough mid-season helped push the Fish out of playoff contention this year, he saw good things when they got on a roll again down the stretch. Besides, he's not looking to play somewhere where he gets much rest.
"The opportunity to pitch every day like I did, that's something I've wanted to do for a long time," he said. "I got that opportunity here, so I felt like I did my job, and I'm happy with it."