There was Hal Lanier taking a dignified bow. Andrew Ladd smiling with a group of youngsters for a photo. Max Poulin nervously grinning, wishing he was on the field with eye-black smeared across his face and a glove fit snugly on his hand.
It was the 55th night of this summer the Goldeyes had opened their doors for a baseball game and while it had all the traditional earmarks of pro baseball as we've come to know it in Winnipeg, it was just a little different.
There was bunting draped along the upper deck facia and player introductions prior to the game. There was an extra touch of pitch in Paul Edmonds' voice as he took to the air to announce his 110th Goldeyes game of the summer. Fans lined up for hot dogs and lemonade and beer but instead of talking to their neighbour in line like they were at a church picnic, they kept their focus on the game.
It's been argued people don't come to Goldeyes games for the baseball as much as they do for the experience, but that wasn't close to the case on Tuesday night. This was championship baseball and all 5,117 customers at Shaw Park knew why they were there. They were there to cheer on their team and hopefully be part of a championship.
It may be a little obscure and the very fact they call it minor league baseball takes some weight away from the Goldeyes and Wichita Wingnuts meeting in the American Association Championship, but leave that talk to someone in Fargo or St. Paul or Kansas City or Lincoln or Laredo.
They didn't have a game to go watch on Tuesday.
We sure did in Winnipeg.
And for a few nights at least, there is something to cheer and feel positive about on the professional Winnipeg sports scene.
There's lots wrong with the games we watch these days -- just look at this city's football and hockey teams for that angle -- but the stars can still align to create those moments we all hope for when we get behind a team. Tuesday at our downtown ballpark that magical mix was in the air.
The combination of splendid summer weather, an enthused crowd, playoff baseball and just a touch of nostalgia made this an evening to celebrate.
The Goldeyes have spent 19 summers in Winnipeg now and are a consistent entertainer. The park is gorgeous, with a mix of old-time intimacy and modern amenities. The fan base is knowledgeable and passionate, with a core that comes almost every night. The franchise has reached a championship round eight times in its history and has been either first or second in attendance among all independent baseball teams for a full decade.
The Goldeyes do it right, all right.
From front-office management to customer service to long-range planning, they are an organization to envy.
The team hasn't won a championship since 1994, the last on Winnipeg's pro sports scene, but they consistently deliver on all fronts.
We're lucky to have them and we're lucky to have them this late in the season.
Take a bow, Goldeyes.
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