Two game-winning hits, and a win in relief will quickly earn your manager's and teammates respect. 

Local kids Sam Lind and Kye Winter did just that for the Sioux Falls Canaries in their first week of independent baseball with the team.

"We liked what we saw, they came out and worked out for a few days. Kye threw a couple of bullpens, and Sam took batting practice," says manager Steve Shirley. "We thought they could help our club get better."

On their latest homestead, the Birds won four of six, and Lind and Winter were a big reason for the team's success.  Lind, a Roosevelt alum, and Hartford native, hit a go-ahead triple on Tuesday, and lifted a walk-off sacrifice fly deep into the outfield last night to propel Sioux Falls to a comeback win in the 11th inning. Winter, a Augustana alum, and Willow Lake native, made his first appearance out of the bullpen last night. He came into the ninth inning, and pitched a 1-2-3 inning with his first career strikeout. In the 10th, Winter ran into some trouble, but his defense behind him made a double play and got him out of the inning. In the 11th, he pitched another scoreless inning and put the pressure on the offense, which came through from Lind to give Winter his first career win.

Both Lind and Winter are familiar with winning. Lind helped Cumberland University (Lebanon, Tennessee) win a NAIA National Championship this Spring , and won World Series MVP by batting .542 with three doubles, two home runs, and 12 RBI in six games. For Lind, winning the national championship and MVP his senior year, as well as being named First Team All-American, gave proof of his hard work as he spent three years at Cumberland.  It was especially rewarding for Lind after spending his second year sidelined with a broken leg (redshirted). This past season though, his baseball career was a bit sweeter as the infielder was part of a group of 15 seniors that captured their university's third title in school history.

"My college season and career ended in perfect fashion. We won the national championship at Cumberland and it's hard to find a moment like that, you know winning a national championship. We had a great group of seniors there, and it all came together. We had our ups and downs, our doubts, but really once the postseason came around, everyone started clicking and kept our eye on the goal of winning a national championship. It was an experience you can't really put into words, and something that happens once in your life usually and as far as sports. As far as athletically and sports-wise, that was as good as it gets for me," tells Lind.

Winter helped the Vikings of Augustana win the Northern Sun Conference, win a school-record 41 games, and made the NCAA Division II Regional tournament.

Moving on from Cumberland to the Canaries has been a blessing for Lind, as he is thankful  for the chance to play independent baseball in Sioux Falls and be a part of the team.

"I came up here and wasn't expecting anything. I had done everything I wanted to in college baseball, and anything after that was going to be extra. I'm just glad I caught on to this team and especially, Duell Higbe, the assistant general manager, and Shirley gave me an opportunity to play for them. I've been very grateful for that."

Lind and Winter have enjoyed their college successes, but like any stage in a person's life, there comes a time when everybody has to move on. In their first week at the Birdcage, success on the mound and at the plate has helped both of the Canaries local kids transition smoothly into independent baseball.

"Pitching-wise, it's going to be how much the better the hitters are, and making those pitches," says Winter.

"Professional baseball, it just seems like things go day-to-day. I mean obviously, you know your job security is very low in professional baseball, and you need to constantly produce and improve yourself every day. So, really one hit for me was a big hit at the time, but like I said before, you constantly want to try to improve yourself every day and every chance you get to play, you need to do your best and perform. I'm kind of past that one hit, and am hoping I can keep getting in the lineup and helping the team win," adds Lind.

Lind is impressing Shirley with his defense, and his hitting at the plate has been solid this week.

"I have to imagine it's big in his confidence, and it's certainly big in my confidence in him. If a kid comes from a college level to this level, and shows that he can play, it's big for himself to know that he is going to fit in."

The Hartford native, and Roosevelt alum is being aggressive against pitchers and in the field, and he's not afraid of showing off his arm, either. He's an infielder, but last night he gunned down a baserunner in the sixth from right field to hold Amarillo to one run in the inning.

In Winter's three scoreless innings on Thursday night, he was using his high-80's and low 90's fastball to confuse hitters, and help the Birds win 4-3.

The local kids have made their early impressions on the diamond, and are enjoying being around their new teammates every day, too.

"I've absolutely loved independent baseball with the Canaries. We really do have a great group of guys that are really friendly, and it's been great for me. I think almost everyone on our team has experience in affiliated baseball. There are years and years of experience on this team. You look at guys routines, see what they do when they show up to the yard. You see how they are in the game, and try to pick their brain about their experience in the minor leagues. You talk about, you know a lot of them have played against or with a lot of Major League players. There's a wealth of knowledge I'm trying to tap into," shares Lind.

"Not much yet, but I am sure there is a lot more of a learning curve that is going to come as we play more games and get to know the guys a little better," says Winter.

Lind wants to finish the summer with the Birds, and get into the lineup consistently to help Sioux Falls win. Meanwhile, Winter wants to give it his best every night as he is starting in professional career in the bullpen. For now, the pair of local kids can just try to enjoy playing in their home state.

"It's been great. You can definitely tell when the crowd is into it, and can really hear them on the field. I live about 20 miles from here, and it's just a short drive for me to come to the ballpark," says Lind.

"It's been fun. I've liked it and had a lot of people be at the game that I know. Familiar faces just come say hi and watch the game. So, it will be nice to have some family and friends come to the game and watch me," adds Winter.

If Lind and Winter can keep playing well, the duo will hopefully stick with the Canaries all summer, and give the local crowd a reason to come out to the Birdcage on a nightly basis.

*For comments, and story ideas, email Sam at, and follow him on Twitter @samtastad.

Sioux Falls Canaries