Cerny lives the dream with Goldeyes

Former bat boy spends season as bullpen catcher for Fish


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In a season that was cut short for the Winnipeg Goldeyes, Victor Cerny lived out the dream of many young baseball fans, donning the jersey of his hometown club.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/09/2022 (260 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

In a season that was cut short for the Winnipeg Goldeyes, Victor Cerny lived out the dream of many young baseball fans, donning the jersey of his hometown club.

Cerny, 23, was a shadowy figure of sorts for the Fish this summer, filling the role of bullpen catcher. While he was also the insurance option behind the plate, his first job was to catch for relievers before they entered the game.

Cerny’s role with Winnipeg’s pro-baseball club, however, dates back even further. Growing up in Manitoba’s capital, Cerny frequented games as a youngster and was a bat boy during the 2012 season, when Goldeyes’ hitting coach Amos Ramon was slugging baseballs.

<p>Dave Mahussier / Winnipeg Goldeyes</p>
                                <p>Victor Cerny frequented Goldeyes games as a youngster and was a bat boy during the 2012 season.

Dave Mahussier / Winnipeg Goldeyes

Victor Cerny frequented Goldeyes games as a youngster and was a bat boy during the 2012 season.

“I remember Jamie Samson, the clubhouse manager, was just starting there when I started bat-boying,” said Cerny. “So when I came back, it was kind of cool because I got to see him, as well as a bunch of familiar faces that I recognized as a kid. But now being older, it was cool to talk to them again.”

The Winnipeg native admits his return home was a bit random. After graduating with a kinesiology degree at California State University Northridge (CSun), Cerny was going to sign in the Pioneer League, an independent association in the Rockies, but couldn’t due to issues with his work VISA.

In June, he received a call from Ramon, who asked if the free agent was interested in meeting the Fish in Kansas City for the start of an early-season road trip.

“Right away I was like, ‘Yeah, that’d be great.’” I wanted to keep playing ball and be around baseball and keep training,” he said. “I showed up on the bus to Kansas ready to go and just do whatever they needed me to do. And it was a hell of an experience.”

“Obviously, going to the MLB was always a dream. But I always do remember going to those games and being like, ‘Hey, it’d be cool to be a part of this.’ The atmosphere here, the stadium, everything about it, I always loved it. And I always thought if I got that opportunity, it’s something I would love to do.”

Cerny’s new reality didn’t set in until he got back home on June 13, before a game against Kane County. The young catcher arrived at the clubhouse hours before the game and made his way to the outfield to stretch.

Sitting in centre-field of an empty Shaw Park, Cerny took a moment to reflect on his journey.

“I just remember looking around and being like, ‘This is a great place to be,’ looking at the green grass, you got the trees behind, looking at the stadium. It was empty, and I’m just like, ‘I could spend all day here.’”

Cerny got to spend many a day in downtown Winnipeg’s ballpark. Though he never appeared in a game, Cerny wanted to make sure he was refining his skills this summer while being around other longtime professionals.

Possibly none other than Deon Stafford Jr. was more important to Cerny’s growth.

“I would say his ability to work with the pitchers is very advanced. He’s just willing to go the extra mile for the pitcher and work with them, which is what you want to see in a catcher, for sure, especially somebody who’s as young as him,” said Stafford Jr., who completed his first full season as Winnipeg’s starting catcher after joining the club in 2021.

“His compassion, his care for others. He’s definitely a man for others. He’s going to be a good leader one day, he’s a good team guy. But definitely just being around him every day, his positivity is huge, and that’s what you need from a catcher.”

Cerny was locker neighbours with the starting back stopper this season, in a year when Stafford Jr., who has enjoyed a relatively healthy career, had been nursing several injuries. During the last week of the season, Stafford Jr., 26, laboured through an ankle and shin injury that prevented him from putting little to no weight on his left leg.

“As much as he cared for me as a teammate and a friend, you could kind of see the excitement in his face, thinking he might be getting called to play,” he said while laughing. “He would always be like, ‘is everything OK?’ and I would be like ‘Victor, don’t worry, I’m playing.’”

“You could tell in his face he really wanted a chance to play a game and I think he definitely could’ve managed, he’s a phenomenal catcher. You could see he was excited to play. He’s definitely excited to play baseball.”

For Cerny, the 2022 season also served as a period to find himself as a player again. He tore his labrum a few games into the 2021 season, after an already lengthy hiatus from the game owing to the pandemic. An arduous rehab stint forced him to decide whether to continue pursuing a career in baseball or fall back on his kinesiology degree.

“There was the worry that I could lose the game that I love so much. But at the end of the day, I think it almost made me stronger mentally. It showed me what I really wanted. It took away all the fluff.”

Cerny isn’t locked in with the Fish for the 2023 season but said he’d “absolutely” take another opportunity as the bullpen catcher for a baseball club.

“I would be interested in it, for sure. I still want to be playing so if I got the opportunity to play somewhere, whether it was with the Goldeyes or somewhere else, that’d be my first go.”

“I really appreciate (manager Rick Forney and general manager Andrew Collier) giving me, a Winnipeg boy, a chance to come back. I really appreciate them, Amos, all those guys. It really was great being a part of a program that I looked up to growing up.”

Twitter: @jfreysam

Joshua Frey-Sam

Joshua Frey-Sam

Joshua Frey-Sam happily welcomes a spirited sports debate any day of the week.

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