Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Kane County Cougars 4 at Winnipeg Goldeyes 5 (American Association) - June 13, 2022

The final stop on the prairie portion of my trip was again Winnipeg, where we would watch the Goldeyes in some American Association action. They play out of Shaw Park, with naming rights owned by a Canadian communications conglomerate.

The stadium is located on the east edge of downtown, next to the Red River and just steps away from the Crossroads of Canada, namely Portage and Main. It is an easy walk from there that takes you under the train tracks and leaves you right in front of the ballpark.

The box office is inside and includes a historic display of trophies and newspaper articles that should not be missed. The team has been around since 1994 and has enjoyed some success, with a Northern League title in their first year and three championships in their 11 seasons on their current circuit. Tickets start at $16 on game day, plus a $2 fee, and you don't need to pay any more as you can move around and stand on the concourse if you want to be close to home plate.

The first thing you will notice once you are inside is the beautiful building beyond the right field corner. This is the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, which details all the ways that humans have been shitty to each other over the centuries. Looking forward to the installation on how the Canadian government took way its citizens' rights over a vaccine. 

The open concourse is clean and smooth, and more than enough for the relatively small crowd that made it out for this rare Monday affair.

If you are wondering what a Goldeye is, the section signs provide a clue. The team name was used twice before, first from 1954-64 when a Northern League club played as an affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals, and again for a season in 1969 in the short-season Northern League as an affiliate of the expansion Kansas City Royals. Do not call them the Goldeneyes, that's a James Bond movie.

The stadium opened in 1999 with a capacity of 7,418 and 30 suites. The seating bowl is typical for that time, with 17 rows of green seats from corner to corner.

There have been additions in the meantime, such as the Craft Beer Corner above the left field; it looks like a great place to watch the game while enjoying a beer or two.

Along the concourse, there are some interesting bits of tile art that have a baseball theme.

League standings and starting line-ups are posted along the concourse as well.

The press box has those four pennants on it, as well as five retired numbers, including the #21 of Hal Lanier who managed here for several seasons. Lanier also managed in Ottawa between 2014-18.

Looking back from the right field corner, you can see the end of the railway bridge that spans the Red River and continues right next to the ballpark. Trains can be seen and heard throughout the game.

The mascot is Goldie, in honour of Paul Goldschmidt of the Cardinals. Or maybe not. Goldie was rocking out on his broom and keeping fans entertained throughout the game.

That brings me to the most impressive aspect of Shaw Park: the concessions. Look at the picture below: four different "mini-stands" serving four different types of food. This is just a snapshot of what is available; there are about 20 different stands, each offering something unique. Most surprising was Clay Oven, an East Indian restaurant where you can get a curry, rice and naan for just $11. I have never seen that available at a minor league park before. I think a season-ticket holder could attend all 50 games and enjoy a different food item each time.

Overall, Shaw Park was a delightful surprise. First, the weather forecast had been predicting rain but only a few drops fell in the middle innings. I doubt I would have flown back just for a game here, so I was very happy that the rain held off. Beyond that, however, was the overall ambience of the ballpark, with the surrounding area, the layout, and the concessions all contributing to a very enjoyable evening. And an entertaining game topped it off.

The Game

The Kane County Cougars were the visitors, having been swept by Winnipeg at home the three prior days. Ben Allison started for the visitors, while Josh Lucas, who appeared in 22 MLB games with St. Louis, Oakland, and Baltimore from 2017-19, took the mound for the Goldeyes. 

Winnipeg opened the scoring when Logan Hill smacked a two-run homer in the second, and they added a run when Deon Stafford Jr. singled home Reggie Pruitt Jr., a former Jays farmhand. The Cougars scored their only run off Lucas on a wild pitch in the 6th, but his bullpen mates could not hold the lead. Jaylen Smith walked two of the three batters he faced, and Jhon Vargas allowed both to score to tie the game.

Hill led off the 8th with his second homer of the evening, and Pruitt singled, advanced to third on a Stafford single, and scored on a sacrifice fly from Raul Navarro. Erasmo Pinales came on for the save but gave up a single and a walk after getting just one out, necessitating yet another move as Tasker Strobel was called upon to put out the fire. Ernie De La Trinidad immediately singled to get Kane County within one, but Strobel got Sherman Johnson and Cornelius Randolph to strike out and Winnipeg won 5-4. The game took 3:13, mostly due to a lot of pitching changes during innings. Both teams were 17-16 after this one, though Kane County took the final two games of the series.

After the game, which ended at 9:48 at you can see above, we left and were greeted by the Winnipeg skyline behind the train tracks. The sun had yet to set and the view was quite pleasing and a good way to end the road trip.

Notes

This was actually the second of three baseball games on the trip. The day before, we saw part of a Western Canadian Baseball League game in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, where the attendance was about 200. This game drew 2,125 spectators. The day after, I saw the Blue Jays lose at home to Baltimore with another 23,105 fans. I liked how each step up the ladder saw a ten-fold increase in attendance.

Next Up

I have a short trip in mid-July to St. Louis to see the Gateway Grizzlies of the Frontier League as well as the Cardinals. Then a longer trip to the Dakotas to add four more American Association teams to the list. As always, recaps will be posted here when I get around to it.

Best,

Sean


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