By Melissa Verge
Canadian Baseball Network
WINNIPEG _ The sun is starting to disappear and the stadium lights are already on at Shaw Park in when Evan Rutckyj gets called in to pitch.
He abandons the park bench he’s sitting on in left field, along with the kids that are leaning over the first row of bleachers trying to get as close to him as possible. Rutckyj has a job to do.
One black and white Nike follows the other as he jogs in from left field.
It’s a familiar jog for the 25-year old, who’s been pitching pro ball since 2010. At 6-foot-5, it doesn’t take him long to reach the mound. He’s been called in by manager Rick Forney to protect the lead in the eighth inning as the Winnipeg Goldeyes led the Kansas City T-Bones 9-7.
The Canadian from Windsor, Ontario is a new addition to the Goldeyes, having just signed a contract with them late last month. Before signing the contract he had never been to Winnipeg, but he says he’s enjoying his time here so far.
“Its been great, all the players are really nice. I like the manager, I feel like the teams run really well, and the fans here are unreal,” he says.
Previously the left hander pitched in the New York Yankees organization in the States, and now that he’s in Canada, he says “it’s awesome to be home.” Drafted in the 16th round in 2010 from the Windsor Selects and Detroit Jet Box, he pitched eight seasons in the Yankees system.
He was with the rookie-class Gulf Coast Yankees, class-A Charleston Riverdogs, class-A Staten Island Yankees, Tampa Yankees and double-A Trenton Thunder. Combined he was 32-25 with two saves and a 4.13 ERA in 140 games making 50 starts. He walked 200 and struck out 379 in 387 2/3 innings.
Rutckyj represented Canada at the Pan Am Games, when they took home the gold medal, which he says is still his favorite moment as a player. His father also played for Canada’s National team.
The pitcher says that his debut actually happened by coincidence back in grade school, when the pitcher who was supposed to take the mound that day never showed up for the game.
It’s a position Rutckyj enjoys because it gives him some element of control in a game that otherwise is filled with a lot of uncertainty. “When you have the ball you pretty much dictate what’s going to happen,” he says.
The left hander hopes to get back to pitching at the point he was two years ago when he had a 2.63 ERA.
“I’m just trying to stay healthy and get back to what I was doing in 2015, getting my arm strength back up there and doing whatever I can do to help the team win,” he says.
He’s off to a good start, Rutckyj went two up, two down Saturday, retiring the only two batters he saw before handing the ball off.
With the Goldeyes he is 1-0 with a 4.05 ERA walking five and fanning seven in seven games as he has worked 6 2/3 innings.
Winnipeg is a game ahead of the St. Paul Saints in the North Division.