Goldeyes happy to be home despite season-opening loss

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Opening Day was far from perfect.

It’s mid-May, but apparently Mother Nature still isn’t ready for baseball, at least not around these parts. The sky was filled with clouds and the wind was gusting over 30 km/h, forcing the 3,992 fans in the stands to bundle up. The breeze was so strong it even blew the hats off of a few of the pitchers as they stood on the mound. There was even a power outage that knocked the Shaw Park scoreboard out for nearly half the game.

Even with all of that, and the fact the Fish lost a heartbreaker, there really wasn’t anything to complain about because Friday night’s regular season opener against the visiting Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks signalled that a full summer of Winnipeg Goldeyes baseball is upon us. That’s the case for the first time since 2019 as the pandemic forced the Goldeyes to spend the majority of the past two seasons as a travelling team. To mark the occasion, American Association commissioner Joshua Schaub was in town for the game.

Fargo ended up outlasting the Goldeyes 10-9. The two sides will meet at the downtown Winnipeg ballpark again today for Game 2 of the three-game series at 6 p.m.

“You pretty much lost two seasons, so I wanted to see this product. And I will tell you, when I walked through the concourse, I’ve never seen a happier crowd,” said Schaub, who’s in Winnipeg for the first time since taking over as commissioner in 2019.

“Despite the wind, despite the weather, there’s just this jovial nature and vibrancy… and they’re into the game. I bet these fans have missed it so much. On a scale like this with no limitations and no one wearing masks, it’s just very good to see. And for the league, Winnipeg is one of our top performers and we’re glad to see them back on their feet.”

Former Goldeyes ace Kevin McGovern (2016-2020) got the start for the RedHawks. Prior to his first pitch, the Fish honoured the franchise’s and American Association’s all-time strikeouts leader with a tribute video including McGovern’s highlights from the team’s championship runs in 2016 and 2017. After that, the Goldeyes weren’t very nice to their old friend as they lit him up for six runs in 3 1/3 innings of work. Most of that damage came off the bat of catcher Deon Stafford Jr. who hit a three-run shot in the second frame.

Unfortunately for the Goldeyes, their pitching wasn’t any better. Starter Josh Lucas had a rough outing as well, as the ball was taken from him after coughing up eight runs on five hits in three innings. Lucas didn’t do himself any favours by walking five batters.

The RedHawks quickly answered Stafford Jr.’s big hit with right-fielder John Silviano’s three-run homer in the top of the third to cut the Goldeyes’ lead to 6-4. Fargo tacked on another four runs in the next inning to jump ahead 8-6.

The Fish managed to tie the contest at 8-8 thanks to the long ball with first baseman David Washington and outfielder Max Murphy hitting solo dingers. Washington was arguably the biggest pickup of the offseason for the Goldeyes as the former Milwaukee Milkmen slugger has to fill some massive shoes at first base after Kyle Martin, who hit a franchise record 31 homers a season ago, took his talents to the Mexican League.

Home runs got the Goldeyes back into the game, but they also took them out of it as the difference was a two-run blast over the left field wall from Fargo first baseman Drew Ward in the top of the eighth inning. Ward handed the loss to Goldeyes reliever Travis Seabrooke. The Goldeyes scored on a passed ball in the bottom of the ninth before designated hitter Logan Hill struck out with the bases loaded.

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Twitter: @TaylorAllen31

Taylor Allen

Taylor Allen
Reporter

Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.