Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Rookie making most of opportunity

Sizzlin' hot Goldeyes get win No. 40

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At just 22, centre-fielder Ridge Carpenter of Hawaii thought the game of baseball was done with him.


"I was thinking that everything happens for a reason, maybe I needed to just school and get out into the real world, get a job," said Carpenter, who finished his senior year at Cal State Northridge in May and was home in Honolulu applying for jobs. "Then I got that text."

It was a text that countless young players around the world dream of getting -- an invitation to play professional baseball. Fellow Hawaii native and Winnipeg Goldeyes pitching coach Brendan Sagara, who has known Carpenter since he was 15, texted Carpenter and asked him if he was interested in playing professional independent baseball in Canada.

"I was like, 'yeah.' I didn't have to think about that too long. I don't want to start working yet," laughed Carpenter, who did talk with his parents about it and then was on a plane three days later.

He joined the Goldeyes in Kansas City on June 28 and, after playing five games as a defensive replacement, he was batting .357 and started his seventh game at centre field on Wednesday night against the Sioux City Explorers at Shaw Park.

Carpenter was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 32nd round of the 2007 MLB draft out of high school but did not sign so that he could go to college. He was not picked in the June draft after his college career ended and thought the writing was on the wall.

"I was sad about it for a while but I started to be at peace with it. I realized that maybe it just wasn't meant to be and it was time for me to find my way down a different path," Carpenter said.

"Getting that text from Brendan was just great. The chance I'm getting to play here, it has changed everything. I love to play and I'm having a lot of fun. I do wake up some days, and think, I'm in Canada playing baseball. It's such a great experience."

Stopping just short of already having a picture of Carpenter beside it, the youngster fit the Goldeyes' job opening perfectly.

"We needed a rookie because you need to have four on the roster but we needed someone who had the athletic ability to contribute," said Sagara, who has coached Carpenter in skills sessions in the area.

"He's a very good person, lots of character, keeps his mouth shut and just works hard," said Sagara, who writes a once-per-week sports column in his hometown newspaper (see about life in baseball's minor leagues and the Goldeyes. He's also a scout for the Atlanta Braves and kept tabs on Carpenter. "He's always had a lot of talent and athletic ability, he could always hit, he could always run and played very good centre field."

Carpenter, who has appeared in 16 games, is on a five-game hitting streak and hit his fourth double of the season on Wednesday night.

"The crowds are incredible, tons of people in the stands. In college we'd have 300 people in the stands, here there's 5,000," Carpenter said. "I just have to soak up as much as I can and learn from the experienced guys here about what to do in certain situations. I've learned a lot already."

Sagara said it's a big adjustment for Carpenter, who is the Goldeyes' youngest player.

"If he was playing rookie ball, he'd be playing against other guys his age but he's playing here against experienced guys and with guys like Brian Myrow and Jamie Vermilyea who've been in the Big Leagues and Jon Weber whose spent eight years in Triple A," said Sagara, noting rookie pitchers Ian Thomas and Chad Benefield as well as second baseman Price Kendall are all having solid seasons as well.

Last summer, Carpenter was among Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects playing in the Hawaiian Collegiate League where he hit .274 cracking five doubles and six triples. He also stole 30 bases on 31 attempts.

"He's always been a big stolen-base guy so that's another element that people here haven't seen yet," Sagara said. "He speaks softly and carries a big stick, very modest, typical Hawaiian kid."


Goldeyes get win No. 40

THE Fish were sizzling at Shaw Park on Wednesday night, picking up their 40th win of the 2011 American Association season.

Led by pairs of hits from Price Kendall, Kody Kaiser, Jon Weber, Louis Ott and Ridge Carpenter, the Goldeyes put up a 7-5 win over the Sioux City Explorers (30-32) before a crowd 5,487.

The two teams meet again tonight at 7 p.m. to finish off the three-game set and a seven-game home stand.

The Goldeyes (40-23) jumped to a 3-0 lead after two innings after a two-run double by first baseman Weber and an RBI double by rookie centre-fielder Carpenter.

Sioux City scored two runs In the third and continued to roll in the fourth inning taking a 4-3 league after a two-run triple to centre field by shortstop Ryan Priddy.

The Goldeyes scored four runs in the seventh inning to regain the lead for good. Pitcher Jamie Vermilyea earned the save.

-- Prest

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 21, 2011 C5

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