Advertisement

Goldeyes finally returning home, will play games at Shaw Park in August

Article content

The Winnipeg Goldeyes are finally returning home.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

For the first time since September of 2019, the American Association baseball team will play at Winnipeg’s Shaw Park in its 2021 “home opener” on Aug. 3.

“It’ll be huge, emotional,” Goldeyes general manager Andrew Collier said. “This is what I’ve done for 27 years and to have it taken away, it’s been tough.”

The Goldeyes played out of Fargo. N.D., and on the road for all of the 2020 season and started this season playing out of Jackson, Tenn.

Pending final review, the team has been granted permission by Canadian and Manitoba health officials to play their final 19 home games of the season in Winnipeg. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the closed Canada-United States border, the Goldeyes were unable to play games in their home park.

The team will be able to have 100% capacity in terms of attendance, provided all ticket holders are fully vaccinated.

“We’re beyond ecstatic after almost two years away,” Goldeyes owner Sam Katz said in an interview with the Sun Thursday.

“Having the Goldeyes back in Winnipeg is something we’ve been praying for and looking forward to for quite a long time. It’s been a very difficult challenge, these last two years and it’s been difficult for the staff, the players, the coaches, the managers and it’s been a financial kick in the head. That sums it up.”

The Goldeyes will host the Sioux City Explorers in a three-game series Aug. 3-5 and then the Milwaukee Milkmen Aug. 6-8.

The Goldeyes, under long-time manager Rick Forney, have a 28-29 record and sit in fourth place in the North Division, nine games back of the Milkmen.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

They have played 32 games in Jackson and have four more games in the Tennessee city before they return home.

“It’s a good day, to say the least,” Katz said.

“It’s a very proud moment that we were able to survive. There was a lot of sacrifices that had to be made and most of the owners in the league, who know the financial situation that we’ve been through, are actually impressed that we’re still standing.

“Of course that takes financial commitment from yours truly and others but the bottom line is I’m very proud that we’re still standing. The Goldeyes are near and dear to a good percentage of our population and I felt it was important for us to keep playing.”

The Goldeyes are the only Canada-based team in the American Association.

That means their team members and all of their opponents will have to go through strict protocols in order to get across the border for games.

All of the players and coaches will be fully vaccinated upon their entry into Canada and will require a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of arrival.

Things started to look better for the Goldeyes earlier this month when provincial health officials announced the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League would be allowed to have 100% fully vaccinated fan capacity for home games in 2021.

However, getting Manitoba health officials on board was only part of their negotiation.

“Our challenge was the border crossing,” Katz said. “Of course we communicated with the provincial authorities, had good conversations with Dr. (Brent) Roussin and his staff. That was all worked out, we submitted our protocols and they were great to work with. But then we had the obstacle of the border crossing, for us to come back and for the teams that come in for three days and go out after three days.”

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

Katz has lost a considerable amount of money over the last two years while keeping the Goldeyes going. He didn’t know exactly when the team would be allowed to come back but he always believed he needed to keep things going for a fan base that couldn’t attend games.

“Kudos to Sam for keeping us alive for this long,” Collier said. “Now we can get home and get playing and see people at Shaw Park, which will be awesome. I’m absolutely thrilled. It’s 701 days between games. We’re all pretty excited.

“I have not seen a live game since the last game we played in 2019.”

The Goldeyes intend to contact season ticket and mini-pack holders about the remaining slate of games in the coming days. Individual tickets will go on sale to the general public next Tuesday, July 27, at 9 a.m.

“Just seeing people in the stands, seeing some really good friends who have been ticket holders for a long time, is going to be so great,” Collier said.

“You talk to them by text or you see them and they always ask, ‘When can we see a game?’ Up until today, it’s always been ‘I don’t know.’”

COVID-19 protocols will be in place for fans.

“We’re gonna make sure that it’s the safest environment possible,” Katz said. “We have all the protocols in place and that’s gonna be our priority.”

Twyman@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/Ted_Wyman

GOLDEYES HOME SCHEDULE

Aug. 3-5 — Goldeyes vs. Sioux City

Aug. 6-8 — Goldeyes vs. Milwaukee

Aug. 17-19 — Goldeyes vs. Gary

Aug. 20-22 — Goldeyes vs. Kane County

Aug. 31-Sept. 2 — Goldeyes vs. Chicago

Sept. 4-6 — Goldeyes vs. Fargo

Latest National Stories

Advertisement

Story continues below

News Near Tillsonburg

This Week in Flyers