Winnipeg Goldeyes…the 2016 American Association Champions!!! by Chuck Duboff

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© Chuck Duboff

“This is one hell of a team,” Reggie Abercrombie said during the post-game celebrations. “I can’t ask for a better team. These guys don’t ever give up. Everybody on the bench to everybody in the game – these guys never gave up. Today, we showed it. These boys deserve this thing. They deserve everything they can get right now.”

After playing 110 games, the Winnipeg Goldeyes are the 2016 American Association Champions.  A dominating 11-4 victory over the Wichita Wingnuts gave the Goldeyes a 3-2 series win and the third championship in Winnipeg Goldeyes history.

I’ve been watching Goldeyes baseball since owner Sam Katz brought professional baseball back to Winnipeg in 1994.  In all those years, I have never seen a more complete team, a team with no egos, a team that never quits.  Over and over the word resiliency is used to describe this group of ballplayers; said Goldeyes skipper Rick Forney:  “I couldn’t be more proud,” he said. “It’s hard for me to say this, but this is my favourite Goldeyes team of all time, just because of the adversity they overcame. We were 21-22 at one point, and it wasn’t looking good, but we stayed true to one another and kept playing hard every day.” I’ve said it several times in the past few weeks, this really is the most fun I’ve had watching Goldeyes baseball.

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Every body contributed to the Goldeyes big 11-4 win last night.  Starting pitcher, Kevin McGovern, on just three days rest, was at his absolute best, giving the Goldeyes 6 1/3 innings of great pitching.  Said his brother Nicholas who was listening in Philadelphia: “we’re screaming here.”  Adam Heisler hit the first pitch of the game for a double and the table setters continued to get the job done.  In post game excitement, Steve Heisler, from down in Mobile, Alabama said: “We’re so proud of you Adam!!”
From Washington DC, Reggie’s friend Nakia Washington shouted: “Reggie is on fire!!”  Casio Grider had three hits,  Carlton Tanabe chipped in with two, Eric Eadington and Winston Abreau continued to shine in the bullpen…you could just go on and on with this team.

There was also some 35 year old kid who had a pretty good game!!!  What more can be said about Reggie Abercrombie and what he means to this team.  A lot of time has been spent this past summer talking about Reggie’s leadership, Reggie’s community involvement, his mentoring the young players, his signing autographs non-stop…”I’ll put this team on my back if I have to carry them to the championship”  Well Reggie you sure did that.  That was one of the Great Hitting performances in a championship game.  Reggie had two, 2 run Home Runs, a double and a walk, driving in 7 runs!!!  It’s been one of the great thrills of my 50 plus years of watching baseball to watch the hustle, the leadership, the talent of Reggie Abercrombie.  Reggie represents Everything that is good about baseball.  On a personal note, thank you Reggie for all the times you took to stop by and say hi to all the fans down in Sections E and F; for all the times you signed autographs and took pictures with my grandkids, my mom and myself.  Early in the season you lit up the eyes of a 7 year old boy by giving him one of your bats.  I hope you know the positive impact you are making on so many lives!!  Thank you sir.

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Reggie Abercrombie and GM Andrew Collier

A very special shout out has to go to the skipper, Rick Forney, for the team he put together this season.  Following the 2015 season, Rick was faced with some tough decisions; but, he stated quite clearly that he knew the team had to get younger, faster and more athletic…so some difficult player moves were made and Rick went about putting together a dynamic team.  Behind the plate Rick brought in some youth, with Tanabe and Murphy doing a great job; speed and athleticism was evident around the infield with Darvill, Gonzalez and Grider playing great defence all season.  The outfield of Cabrera, Abercrombie and Romanski was outstanding…while the speed of guys like Adam Heisler and Grider and Gonzalez made a huge difference to the offence.  The outstanding hitting of David Rohm, a .360 hitter during the season, was huge to the Goldeyes success.  Probably the biggest move of the season was getting Willie Cabrera; he seemed to be the final piece to the puzzle…and what I really liked was that when Rick got Cabrerra, he stuck with his everyday players.  In the past Rick may have released a position player so as to have a deeper bullpen…but, by keeping his position players in tact, Rick had a deeper bench, which allowed players to get rest!!  To me that was the turning point of the season!!!  Way to go Rick…great job of both putting this team together and managing.  Said Forney in the middle of the celebration:  “They never gave up, and they believed in themselves; It showed in the way they played. There was no panicking. They just came out and played. They’re willing to lay it on the line for each other, and this was the result.  One of the biggest secrets to our team is not only that we’re good baseball players – that’s obvious – but they genuinely love each other. They play hard for one another, and it was just one hell of a season.” “I couldn’t be more proud,” he said. “

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Goldeyes GM Andrew Collier celebrating with the boys!!

In the middle of the summer the Goldeyes held their annual on field autograph and picture day; the kids were having pictures taken and I went up to Tom Vaeth and I said: “Tom, I really, really like this team.” to which Tom replied, with a smile: “We’ll see”…well Tom, congratulations to you and Rick, this really was a very, very special team.

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A few weeks ago the Goldeyes family was hit with some tough news,  Tara Maslowky, the Goldeyes effervescent  community relations director, lost her dad Jerry to cancer.  The support she received from the team was typical of the way everybody had each others back on this team.  With the letters JM on the pitching mound throughout the playoff run, it almost seemed like Jerry was willing this team through the playoffs and to the championship.  I know this morning that Jerry is not only proud of the Goldeyes, but he couldn’t be prouder of his daughter Tara…who showed so much courage in the face of adversity.  The whole Goldeyes family loves you and is so very proud of you.

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The Winnipeg Goldeyes, the 2016 American Association Champions.  This truly was the baseball summer of my lifetime.  A very special thank you to both Goldeyes GM Andrew Collier and play by play man Steve Schuster…you made so many dreams come true for me this season…it was a baseball summer I’ll never forget!!  From writing the Goldeyes blogs every day, to spending time in the broadcast booth with Steve Schuster, to watching batting practice, to interviewing players and managers…my bucket list is overflowing with check marks!!  Thank you so very much!!

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Listen for an announcement about a celebration at Shaw Park!!!

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2 thoughts on “Winnipeg Goldeyes…the 2016 American Association Champions!!! by Chuck Duboff

  1. Right on, reading this through bleary eye’s this morning, but Wow. Goldeyes are the Champions. And like you said “what a special” group of player’s on this squad.They made the meaning of TEAM a no doubter as they really did play for one another. Congratulations to the Skipper, Rick Forney and his side kick, Tom Vaeth for bringing together such a special group of guys. Wonderful wonderful feeling.

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