Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

The Dream Team

Our picks as the Goldeyes greats

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Since the Winnipeg Goldeyes played their first professional game in Winnipeg on June 7, 1994, many exciting and memorable players have put on jerseys sporting the bat-wielding fish.

"There's been a lot of interesting guys come through here, some you fondly remember and some not so much. But that's going to happen when you've got 30 or 40 players coming through in a season," said Andrew Collier, the Goldeyes general manager, who joined the Goldeyes in 1994 out of university to work in the ticket department.

"I have my favourites, regardless of how they did on the field. It's all about how people treat people and some players have been better at that than others. There's been some really great players here and I've got a lot of memories going back to '94 and even moreso after '02 when I took over as GM and got more involved with the players."

The Goldeyes have retired three players' numbers -- Brian Duva's No, 5 on July 20, 2001, Donnie Smith's No. 21 on July 21, 2009 and Max Poulin's No. 6 on June 14, 2011.

"Donnie Smith, not just because he's a Canadian, Manitoban, Winnipegger, he's just a quality person and when I look back at all my years being GM, one of my favourite days at the ball park was the day his jersey was retired," Collier said. "When it's all said and done, and I'm not here anymore, I'll look back at that day as one of the best days, just seeing his number retired and him with his family here. It was a really good day."

The Goldeyes won their only championship in 1994 and have been on a quest for that same kind of fire since. The team is headed in the right direction, as it has piled up 30 first-half wins for the second straight season.

We decided to take a look at players past and present and come up with our own Dream Team of Great Goldeyes from teams that played in both the Northern League and the American Association.

We selected a full team -- one player at each position and a designated hitter, a starting rotation of five pitchers, three relievers and a closer.

We've also included some honourable mentions since some positions were tougher than others to choose:

 

Dream Team of

Great Goldeyes

 

First base: Terry Lee 1995-1997: Twice a league all-star, Lee was also the NL player of the year in 1995 and 1996. He was the league batting champion in 1995 (.373) and 1997 (.358).

 

Second base: Brian Duva 1995-2000: a two-time NL all-star, Duva holds three single-season and eight career records. He was the NL batting champion in 1998 (.367). His No. 5 was retired in 2001.

 

Third base: Brent Sachs 1999, 2001-2003: Named to the Baseball America first team in 2002 and a two-time NL all-star, Sachs is third all-time in career runs scored (286) fourth in career hits (426) and stolen bases (80).

 

Shortstop: Max Poulin 2001-2008: A Quebec native who made Winnipeg his permanent home, Poulin was best known for making the team as a walkon. He holds four team all-time records in hits (631), triples (34), at-bats (2,374) and walks (227) and shares the career record for doubles (95) with Lentini. His No. 6 was retired in 2011.

 

(honourable mention Brent Metheny)

DH: Juan Diaz 2009-2010: Affectionately called 'The Chosen Juan,' the big slugger consistently drove in big runs. He holds the team single-season record for homers 29 in 2009 and hit 24 in 2010. He holds the team record for most RBI in a season with 90 in 2009.

 

(honourable mention Harry Berrios 2002-2006)

 

Catcher: Luis Alen 2007, 2010-current: The first catcher in team history to play four seasons, he's on pace to move into the all-time top five list in at-bats, hits and average, which is currently at a career .313 . In 2007, he was an NL all-star and named to the Baseball American First Team in 2007. In 2010, he led the NL in throwing out opposition base-stealers.

 

Outfielders:

 

Chris Kokinda 1996-1999: The NL rookie of the year in 1996, Kokinda played in a franchise-record 308 consecutive games. He is still in the top five in five career batting categories, including fourth in runs scored (271) and fifth in doubles (82).

 

Carmine Cappuccio 2001: Named to the Baseball America First Team in and an NL all-star in 2001, Cappuccio played his final season as a pro for the Goldeyes. He was the only player on the team to play in all 90 games, had a career high batting average of .359, which was third best ever in a single season. His 136 hits and 39 doubles stand as the best single-season marks.

 

Fehlandt Lentini 2006-2008, 2011: A two-time NL all-star, Lentini wore the throwback knee socks and dominated in centre field. He holds the team record for career doubles (103), is second in triples (28) and has the fifth-best career batting average (.310).

 

(honourable mention Charles Peterson 2002-2003)

 

Starting pitchers:

 

Jeff Bittiger 1994-1995: When the Goldeyes won their first and only championship in 1994, Bittiger was the staff ace. He was the winning pitcher in the first game of the NL championship series, which the Goldeyes won 5-3 over Sioux City Explorers. He holds the team's record for career shutouts (5).

 

Jeff Zimmerman 1997: The NL rookie pitcher of the year in 1997 after he led the NL with a 2.82 ERA, his contract was bought by the Texas Rangers and he became the second Goldeyes alumnus to play Major League Baseball. He is second in single-season strikeouts (140).

 

Rick Forney 1997-2000 (current field manager): Until Ace Walker broke it this season, Forney held the team record for most career strikeouts with 313. He is third all-time in career wins (33) behind Walker and Rafael Gross and is third in career starts (55).

 

Rafael Gross 2001-2003: Second all-time in career wins (36), Gross was the Northern League Pitcher of the Year in 2003 and twice named to the Baseball America First Team (2001, 2003). He is second in complete games (7) to Ace Walker (13).

 

Ace Walker 2008-current: Currently in his fifth season with the team, Walker holds 10 career team records, including wins with 44 and counting. Continuing to chase records, Walker has started a record 95 games and counting.

 

(Honourable mention Bobby Madritsch 2002)

 

Relief pitchers:

 

Dan Guehne 1996-2000: Still second in career games played among Goldeyes pitchers (153), Guehne was NL's all-time leader in appearances in 2000. He struck out 131 batters in 156 innings pitched.

 

Donnie Smith 1998, 2000-2006: A local boy who was discovered in the Manitoba Senior Baseball League, Smith went on to set the both the Goldeyes' and the NL record for career games played at 206. His 28 saves are third on the team's all-time list and he struck out 246 batters over 246 innings. His No. 21 was retired in 2009.

 

Zach Baldwin 2008-2011 (current): A 6-5 lefty, Baldwin is back with the Goldeyes for a fifth season. A consistent performer that Forney has called the "best left-handed reliever in the league," he is third on the all-time list for games played behind Smith and Guehne with 137 and counting.

 

(honourable mention Brian Beuning 2007-2008, current)

 

Closer: Steve Thomas (2001-2003): A big man with a big arm, Thomas holds the team record for career saves (37).

 

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPAshleyPrest

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 14, 2012 0

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