After 18 years, Burgau to retire from RedHawks at season's end

FARGO -- The first clue was all the pictures of grandchildren playing ball on Bucky Burgau's Twitter account. The reality came on Thursday, Sept. 1. After 18 years, the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks assistant coach said he didn't want to miss any more ...

Fargo-Moorhead's coach Bucky Burgau hugs Charlie Valerio on Thursday, Sept.1, 2016, after his final home game at Newman Outdoor Field. David Samson / Forum News Service

FARGO -- The first clue was all the pictures of grandchildren playing ball on Bucky Burgau’s Twitter account. The reality came on Thursday, Sept. 1.

After 18 years, the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks assistant coach said he didn’t want to miss any more of their games. His father never saw him play much growing up, he said, and he didn’t want that to be him.

So Burgau announced his retirement when the season ends.

“Every time they would send me video of those kids playing this summer, my heart just ached,” he said. “And I want to watch them play.”

The 66-year-old Burgau said the long bus rides of the American Association took their toll, at times traveling all night to or from a destination.


“That’s the other thing, the long bus rides took a little juice out of me,” he said, “but from 7 until 10 or 10:30, it was fantastic.”

The announcement was made via a video tribute prior to the start of the RedHawks and Kansas City T-Bones game at Newman Outdoor Field. Burgau and Simunic watched it on the third base line and afterward, it was the first of several hugs on the day. Most of them came after F-M hung on to win 4-3 before 3,984 fans.

It will end one of the longest head coach-assistant coach tandems around with Simunic having been the field general for Fargo-Moorhead since the club’s inception in 1996.

“It’s hard for me,” Simunic said. “I’ve shed a lot of tears the last couple of weeks for a lot of different stuff. The guy is part of me. He has grandkids, he’s 66 years old and he feels it’s time.”

Burgau came to the RedHawks in 1999, while he was in the heat of his battles as the head coach at Concordia College, where he will remain as an assistant coach. The RedHawks won league titles in 2003, 2006, 2009 and 2010 with Burgau as Simunic’s right-hand man.

Word of Burgau’s announcement started to surface with the team this week. He and Simunic met on Tuesday. He told the team of his decision on Wednesday. Certainly, it was on Burgau’s mind most of the summer.

“He and I had some private talks awhile ago,” said RedHawks general manager Josh Buchholz.

Like Simunic, Buchholz has been with the team since 1996. He’s seen Burgau hit countless infield grounders to middle infielders before games, throw countless number of batting practice pitches and board the bus for a countless number of miles.


If the charter bus company gave out frequent rider miles, he’d have a few free bus trips around the world.

“I really noticed that on this year’s team. We played 27 straight days in a row in one stretch, and a lot of those were long bus rides,” Burgau said. “I noticed a lot of strain on the kids. And then there’s Simmy and I, sitting in our seats trying to sleep. It took a little bit of the fun out of it.”

On the field, the RedHawks were down to their last out so to speak before facing the T-Bones. They were five games behind the Goldeyes for the wild card playoff spot with five to play. Winnipeg plays at St. Paul on Thursday night.

As the first base coach, Burgau didn’t have a lot of action in terms of RedHawks’ baserunners until Ryan Pineda’s RBI double in the sixth inning that got the home team within 3-1. One inning later, Dustin Geiger’s two-run homer tied it and the RedHawks had life in making Burgau’s last home appearance a winning one.

The offensive pressure continued in the bottom of the eighth. The Hawks loaded the bases with one out and skirted a potential double play ball when second baseman Brett Wiley momentarily fumbled Brian Humphries’ hard ground ball. He threw to first for the out, but Pineda scored from third for F-M’s first lead of the game.

Then, the Hawks skirted danger.

The T-Bones loaded the bases with no out. Reliever Colton Reavis struck out Ryan Retz and pinch hitter Starlin Rodriguez, the latter after falling behind 3-0. Wiley grounded out to second to end the game.


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