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Lifelong love affair with baseball brings Greg Tagert to Winnipeg

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It was early November when longtime baseball supervisor Greg Tagert’s cellphone rang. The realm code, 204, a spot Tagert had professionally visited many occasions over the earlier 16 years.

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“It caught me off guard,” Tagert says now of that decision.

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On the road was Sam Katz, whom Tagert properly knew was the proprietor of the Winnipeg Goldeyes, one among his rivals within the impartial American Affiliation.

Solely Tagert was not within the Affiliation. A yr earlier, he’d left the Gary SouthShore RailCats to affix the San Francisco Giants group.

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After 26 seasons of driving the buses of impartial baseball all around the US Midwest and into Canada, the then-59-year-old had settled down, managing one of many Giants rookie squads in Arizona, a brand new problem a bit nearer to some household. .

On the opposite finish of the road, Katz was something however settled.

He’d not too long ago misplaced his supervisor of 17 seasons, Rick Forney, who after a 26-year run as participant, coach and supervisor was leaving Winnipeg for the Atlantic League to be nearer to his dwelling base in Maryland.

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“It form of slapped me within the face — filling these footwear goes to be an especially troublesome job,” is how Katz remembers feeling. “Rick was like household. As quickly as phrase obtained out, we had been inundated with individuals making use of for the job.”

Coaches and managers from the American Affiliation, from the impartial Atlantic and Frontier Leagues, even some from Main League Baseball expressed curiosity, Katz says.

However Tagert wasn’t one among them.

Katz known as him anyway.

“I knew he was with Main League Baseball on the time, however I simply thought I would name him up,” is how he places it.

Tagert: “I really thought the cellphone name was to ask me about one among my former coaches who possibly was a kind of folks that utilized.”

The 2 spoke and initially it appeared there can be no want to talk once more.

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“He principally mentioned to me, ‘I am proud of what I am doing… and don’t have any intention of managing in baseball once more,’ ” Katz says. “After which he mentioned, ‘However that is the Winnipeg Goldeyes.’ So I spotted the door was open.”

For Tagert, there’s one thing concerning the lure of impartial baseball.

The ball parks have one thing to do with it.

The primary time Tagert drove by the US Metal Yard, dwelling of the RailCats of Gary, Ind., he imagined himself working there in the future.

The small-town really feel appeals to him, too.

As does the independence, itself.

Tagert cherished all of it, the second he left his job as a scout for the Detroit Tigers to handle the Ohio Valley Redcoats in Parkersburg, WV, 28 years in the past.

“I actually loved that environment,” he says. “Now, in these days in the event you made $600 to $700 a month managing a ball membership, you had been doing properly, for a short-term gig in the summertime time.”

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Subsequent got here a short stint with the Brainerd (Minnesota) Bobcats of the Prairie League — they rapidly disbanded — adopted by an eight-year run within the Frontier League with the Evansville Otters, Dubois County Dragons, Kenosha Mammoths and Springfield/Ozark Geese.

These beginnings had been humble.

“These ball parks had been little city ball parks that had chain-link fences,” Tagert remembers. “And the dugouts had been nothing greater than a chain-link in entrance of a bench.”

However he was in skilled baseball, a magical factor for him, ever since he was 5 or 6 years outdated.

That was when Tagert’s household moved from Carlsbad, NM, to Vacaville, Calif., about an hour from the Bay Space.

“The Oakland A’s had simply moved to Oakland from Kansas Metropolis,” Tagert says. “And we took in a ball sport. And my old flame, I can nonetheless bear in mind it, there was the shortstop, Campy (Bert) Campaneris. For those who return into the seventies time-frame, I keep in mind that title that I fell in love with, and fell in love with the sport.”

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From that day ahead, Tagert’s mother and father could not get him concerned with anything.

The sport took him to San Francisco State College as a pitcher, the College of New Mexico as a coach.

His dream of working on the US Metal Yard got here true in 2005, when he took over the RailCats of the Northern League.

A yr later, Forney, additionally a pitcher, took over in Winnipeg and the 2 matched wits for the subsequent 15 seasons, first within the NL, then after each groups had been absorbed by the AA.

Each gained three championships and greater than 800 video games. Each had simply three dropping seasons. Every gained a number of manager-of-the-year awards and commonly noticed gamers graduate to organized ball.

However Tagert by no means noticed their model as inferior.

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“Unbiased baseball turned a supply of satisfaction,” he says. “And actually the origins of the Northern League began that. There’s nothing that fairly replaces, for a supervisor and for the fan base, what the impartial leagues do.”

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Tagert turned good associates with Forney, the Goldeye’s third supervisor, and was already good associates with Doug Simunic, the primary.

Now he’ll succeed them as Winnipeg’s fourth.

He says he in all probability manages extra just like the second, Hal Lanier.

“The pedigree of managers is excellent there,” Tagert says. “They’re actually completely different types, by way of managing the sport. Though in all probability these issues get a bit overblown. Each supervisor is requested, ‘What’s your philosophy?’ And if there is a supervisor on the market that does not imagine in good pitching and good protection and fundamentals and the occasional dwelling run, he’ll be the primary supervisor to say that.”

This yr marks the thirtieth for the Goldeyes, the beginning of a brand new period.

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However for the brand new face of the franchise, who simply turned 60, it’s going to in all probability really feel acquainted. Cozy, too.

“That is the primary time for me in a state of affairs like this the place the membership is established, it is profitable,” Tagert says, calling Winnipeg a marquee franchise with a “big-league really feel.”

The profitable historical past, the downtown ball park, the great crowds—all a simple promote for gamers.

It took greater than a month, however Katz lastly bought his new supervisor on it, too.

“Doing this for a very long time you study through the years that second to the place, the ball park, the setting, is the individuals you’re employed for and price with,” Tagert says. “It is a lot extra concerning the private relationships you determine, whether or not it is my friendship with different managers or the gamers I’ve grown near through the years.

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“That was the final word deciding issue for me to come back right here.”

Rival supervisor all the time felt bond with Goldeyes

Positive, Greg Tagert is switching sides in a rivalry that goes again almost 20 years.

The previous supervisor of the Gary SouthShore RailCats has damaged the baseball coronary heart of his new boss, Winnipeg Goldeyes proprietor Sam Katz, and vice-versa, a couple of occasions through the years.

However the brand new Fish supervisor says the 4 former Northern League groups now within the American Affiliation have all the time felt like outdated associates, too.

“One of many issues that made the rivalry higher for me… that bond I all the time felt was there,” Tagert says. “I am very proud to say, and I am certain Sam can be, too, that a number of of the champions since we left the NL to affix the AA had been from these groups: Kansas Metropolis, Fargo, Gary and Winnipeg.”

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After the NL folded in 2010, it did not take lengthy for the adopted golf equipment to make their presence felt within the Affiliation.

Forney was named supervisor of the yr in 2011, guiding the Goldeyes to a club-record 60 wins.

The Fish gained the league championship the subsequent season, and Tagert’s RailCats took it the yr after that.

Winnipeg was the league champion once more in 2016 and ’17, Kansas Metropolis in ’18 and ’21, Fargo-Moorhead final yr.
That is seven titles in 12 seasons.

Head-to-head, although, the outdated Northern Leaguers went at it, cleats-up, and the Winnipeg-Gary matchup was no exception.

Tagert’s favourite reminiscence is from a 2008 playoff collection, the place his RailCats obtained a ninth-inning homer from Jay Pesce to win, 3-2.

After all, he additionally remembers the day Winnipeg’s Juan Diaz hit two grand slams in a sport, with the RailCats proprietor sitting proper behind the Gary dugout.
“It was a troublesome day that day,” he says. “It has been an important rivalry.”

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Enjoying in Winnipeg, Tagert says, was by no means a stroll within the ball park.

“At all times a troublesome place to play. I’ve informed many individuals through the years, I do not care no matter lead it may need been within the ninth inning, as an opposing supervisor we by no means had a 1-2-3 ninth inning. I am unable to bear in mind one.”

Tagert guarantees Fish followers their crew will not get any simpler to play towards.

“We’ll present a membership that’s entertaining and performs the sport hopefully in a fashion that the followers love to come back see,” he mentioned. “My purpose is all the time to have a ball membership that spends

each quantity of effort they’ve on the sector. So these issues I do not suppose will change.”

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