HILLARY SMITH: Tagert slays the beast on his back

2013-09-15T18:00:00Z 2013-09-16T12:34:32Z HILLARY SMITH: Tagert slays the beast on his backHillary Smith Times Columnist nwitimes.com
September 15, 2013 6:00 pm  • 

WICHITA, Kan. | Call him Ishmael.

Greg Tagert took to the sea in 2008 to help secure the white whale that eluded the new RailCats ownership group.

The team skipper had seen the beast, securing it in 2005 and again in 2007. But since then, he has brushed the tail of the creature only to see a crushing blow come from somewhere else.

In this ending, though, the whale doesn't win. Tagert finally delivered on promise of the successful franchise that Pat and Lindy Salvi purchased in 2008.

"There's so much pride in this ownership; I couldn't be more pleased for Mr. Salvi and Lindy," Tagert said. "I told him about a month ago, after what had happened the last couple years, I wish we would have slid that one championship to '08, the first year he owned the club, because he got here after Willie Glen and Josh Habel had moved on.

"I couldn't be more happy for the Salvi family and the commitment they have made to this franchise."

Tagert's death blow to a seeming behemoth of the Wichita Wingnuts -- a team with five players on the postseason all-star team, a squad that set the American Association records in wins, a team with the player of the year and manager of the year -- came in a way that only Tagert could deliver: with a grind-it-out four-game series in which the final game decided by one run.

Tagert played cool last year when fans thought he was plundering the team of its elder goods to fill rookie spots. In reality, he was testing talent for its potential and character. Like putting a recovering pitcher in late in a game that is already out of reach to see him in live situations.

Tagert was testing the weak spots of the whale.

In the case of the Wingnuts, the weakest spot from May to September was the RailCats.

The 'Cats won the season series 7-6, and when it came to the postseason, the only win Wichita took was in 10 innings in Gary.

"We had to put faith in Tagert to put together the right team and take us all the way," outfielder Adam Klein said. "We had to trust in his decisions and that's the reason we're playing for the RailCats.

"We did it with (eight) rookies and two veterans. As far as I'm concerned, he's the coach of the year. With the guys we had, with the lack of experience, to win a championship at this level is unheard of."

Now that the whale is secure, any question of Tagert's future should be put in the hands only of the manager himself.

With a hot baseball team and the wind blowing away, the sails could have turned in this series at any moment.

Tagert put his faith in the hands of his crew, who wouldn't dare let him down.

The trophy belongs in Gary until the next team tries to pry it from the RailCats' hands. They've read this story before.

Sometimes, the whale can be captured in the end.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach her at hillary.smith@nwi.com.

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