Get to know the NoL - Winnipeg
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May 12, 2010 - Professional baseball would return to Winnipeg in 1994 after 23 years when the Rochester Aces relocated and became the Winnipeg Goldeyes. The Goldeyes achieved instant success, winning the Northern League Championship in that season. Winnipeg Stadium was packed all season long as Winnipeg jumped near the top of the attendance charts, finishing second in each of its first two seasons. The early standout for the franchise was first baseman Terry Lee, who won Northern League Player of the Year in 1995 and 1996. Winnipeg also had third baseman/outfielder Chris Kokinda win league Rookie of the Year in 1996.

In 1997, the team got off to a good start, highlighted on July 9, when veteran pitcher Mike Bailey struck out 16 batters, a team record, in a complete game victory over St. Paul. At the end of the season, the Goldeyes led the league in hitting with a team average of .299. Chris Kokinda had the individual feat of the season when he hit for the cycle on June 21 in an 11-4 win at St. Paul. Two Goldeye pitchers received post season awards. Jeff Zimmerman won Rookie Pitcher of the Year honors and Rick Forney won the 97 Pitcher of the Year award. With all the awards and achievements, the team fell short of the Championship losing to Duluth-Superior in the playoffs.

1998 was a year of breaking records for Winnipeg. The Goldeyes set the record for most team home runs hit in one game (nine). Manager Hal Lanier reached 50 wins for the third straight season, and is the only manager to do so. Sean Hearn won Northern League Player of the Year; setting the team record for home runs in a season. In 1999, the Goldeyes opened a new stadium named Canwest Park. Winnepeg played great in their new home, and won the first half division title. The Goldeyes caught fire once the playoffs began, sweeping Sioux City and then Fargo-Moorhead, making it to the League final for the fourth time in six years, but the title would elude Winnipeg.

To begin the 2000 season, Wes Chamberlain returned to the Goldeyes after a year and a half of organized baseball. Injuries hurt the Goldeyes in 2000, but Winnipeg was still able to secure a wild card berth for another post-season appearance, this time being swept by Fargo-Moorhead. The Goldeyes set the new league average attendance record in 2000. Brian Duva became the new all-time league leader in hits, runs scored, and stolen bases. Winnipeg won a league-best 29 games in the first half, securing another playoff appearance in 2001. Brian Myrow and Luis Ortiz, had their contracts picked up by major league clubs in the middle of the 2001 season.

2002 began on a bad note, as the Goldeyes went 3-9, which resulted in the worst start in franchise history. Manager Hal Lanier made some positional changes, and the results turned around as Winnipeg captured the first half crown. Once again, Winnipeg would reach the League Championship series, to be ousted for the second year in a row by the New Jersey Jackals. The turnstiles at Canwest Park kept turning, as the Goldeyes welcomed their one millionth fan through the gate. In 2003, Winnipeg play finished the first half in second place, but after tinkering with the lineup, they were able to win the second half division title and make the playoffs, this time losing to Fargo-Moorhead. Winnipeg would win the inaugural Northern League Organization of the Year award for the 2003 season. With previous off-season additions to Canwest Park, Winnipeg became the first independent league team ever to average over 7,000 fans per game.

Although Winnipeg would miss the playoffs for the first time in franchise history in 2004, they did set a franchise record for consecutive wins (ten), and tied a franchise mark for consecutive home victories (nine). 2005 marked the worst statistical season in franchise history, finishing 47-48, the only season resulting with a losing record. Even with the unusual play of the team, three Winnipeg pitchers would end up in big-league organizations by the end of the season. Closer Darwin Soto went to Milwaukee, Roger Lincoln, to Boston, and Shawn Sedlacek headed to Baltimore. Designated Hitter Harry Berrios, already the league’s all time leader in RBI’s, would become the all-time hits leader, and tie the all-time home run mark as well. Another attendance milestone was reached in 2005, when the team welcomed the two millionth fan into Canwest Park.

To begin 2006, the Goldeyes introduced Rick Forney as the third manager in team history, and by season’s end, Winnipeg would return to their familiar spot in the postseason after a two year absence. 2007 began with bright optimism. Never before had four former major league players suited up for Winnipeg. The experience helped Winnipeg claim one of the wild card spots. Willie Glen won Northern League Pitcher of the Year, helping the Goldeyes reach the league finals for the third straight year.

The Goldeyes got off to a sluggish start in 2008, but would rebound to make another post season appearance. Brian Beuning, had an excellent year for Winnipeg, becoming the first relief pitcher to lead the league in ERA, and became the first relief pitcher in Goldeye history to earn NL Relief Pitcher of the year honors. 2009 marked the best start in franchise history, surpassing the 1997 club. After a midseason slump, Winnipeg rebounded to make the playoffs for the 14th time in the franchise’s 16 year history. By the end of 2009, pitcher Daniel Haigwood was picked up by Oakland, becoming the 56th Goldeye to move on to organized ball. Pitcher Ace Walker pitched like an ace, winning Pitcher of the Year. Heading into the 2010 season, the Goldeyes are the longest tenured franchise in the Northern League. Six former Goldeyes have made it to play in the big leagues, and one manager as well. Other notable alumni to have played for the Goldeyes include Pete Rose Jr, and current Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher George Sherrill.


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