Making his best sales pitch

ADAM WAZNY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:40 AM ET

Tom Vaeth spent many hours of the winter driving his family to Beausejour or Hazelridge for hockey games. The rest of the time was spent on the cellphone talking to people who have no idea what a Beausejour or Hazelridge is.

The Winnipeg Goldeyes coach, now in his fifth season with the club, took a more active role in bringing talent to CanWest Global Park this off-season, helping manager Rick Forney reach out to different players and selling them on a Winnipeg summer.

"It definitely helped pass the time, don't get me wrong," the hockey fan said of spending his first full off-season in Manitoba (Vaeth has sprouted roots in Oakbank). "You can't watch (NHL Network) all the time. I needed something else to do.

"Rick gave me a little more responsibility and I enjoyed it," he continued. "It's not like I haven't talked to guys in the past winters, it's just that I've never had the authority to offer contracts before. I was more the set-up man on a lot of them, once we had 'em on the hook I passed the rod to Rick and let him reel them in."

Vaeth is directly responsible for bringing in a few of the players attending the Fish training camp (the team traveled to St. Paul, Minn., last night to face the Saints in an exhibition game today (7 p.m., 1290 CFRW). The hitting and third base coach likened his increased role this winter to that of a college recruiter. Reach out to guys, make your best sales pitch, and assure them you'll take care of their best interests.

"Tom has been terrific," Forney said. "He had a lot of good runs there for a while, where a lot of things he worked on materialized. He wanted to be involved a little more on the players side of it and he helped on a number of different guys. Heck, Tom's the guy who started conversations with Chris Latham."

The Latham get was impressive, and it started with just a cold call. Vaeth heard through a friend the former Major Leaguer was still looking for work and immediately established a dialogue. The veteran outfielder kept listening, Vaeth passed the phone along to Forney, and the next thing you know, Latham is signing autographs at the Fishbowl prior to Friday's workout.

Vaeth was happy to help in that process, but is more concerned with another player he brought up here.

"(Infielder) Scott Schade was my first ever signing, so I'm hoping for big things out of him," laughed Vaeth, who also had a major hand in bringing pitcher Jason Herman and closer Matt Davis to the Fish.

It's not like it was in years past when there were only a few independent leagues. There are a lot of teams out there and with each summer there seems to be a new league forming in some pocket of North America. Competition for players is high, and having more than one cellphone buzzing is key to building a strong club now.

"You need everyone helping out in the off-season," Vaeth said. "Brent Bowers did a great job with some of the guys he's familiar with from Colombia (he manages there in the winter) and when we were talking to pitchers from the Illinois-area, Rich Hyde (Goldeyes pitching coach) was there. Rick and I did the bulk of the phone work, but everybody contributed. It was a good team effort this winter."


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