You get a sense that the Reno Aces Ballpark is bigger than the actual game itself. Walk in on game day, and the place is buzzing. The stimulating human energy mixes with that of excited voices and thumping music. It mingles with the heady aromas of stadium eats like hot dogs and the Triple Play Sandwich (named a top 10 minor league ballpark food by Sports Illustrated) and the promise of a cold beer. The Aces stadium has earned its reputation for hosting a great time. Truth be told, you could easily overlook the action playing out on the field.
“When Mr. Baseball comes up and sings ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game,’ it just creates such a great mood,” Aces’ general manager Rick Parr said. “It’s a giant sing-along. Mr. Baseball is a puppet and no one else has one. It’s just the coolest thing.” On Friday nights there are fireworks, a party zone complete with a barbecue and a kids corner where the little ones can meet Archie, the Aces’ bulbous mascot. Before Sunday games, get the kids to the stadium an hour early so they can warm up with the players and get autographs. You can load up on food and drink at the Freight House District’s restaurants and bars. In fact, you can hang out at Bugsy’s and watch the game from the bar.
The first pitch at the Reno Aces Ballpark crossed the plate on April 17, 2009. The park came to life after the city of Reno and SK Baseball inked a deal to redevelop an aging section of the downtown area to house a Triple-A ball team. The Freight House District, an adjoining concentration of dining and drinking establishments, crowns the stadium. In its short existence, the club already has some history, having hosted the 26th Annual Triple-A All-Star Game in July 2013.
The team, affiliated with Major League Baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks and part of Triple-A’s Pacific Coast League, is in the midst of change. Brett Butler, the first and only manager for the team, recently accepted a coaching position with the Miami Marlins. Phil Nevin has been hired as the new skipper.
He was attracted to the Diamondbacks organization because of Kevin Towers’ management style. “They want to win for the development of their players throughout the system,” he says. Towers, the Diamondbacks’ general manager, coached Nevin when he played for the San Diego Padres.
While Nevin’s job is partly to win games, even more importantly it’s helping a player improve. “These guys have a chance to be a household name,” he says. “I want to make sure a player is ready.”
As Parr puts it, “These guys are one phone call away from playing major league ball."
As Nevin takes on the role of the second manager in the club’s history, he has some learning to do. A California kid who fished with his dad at Lake Tahoe when he was younger, he is familiar with the beauty and recreation that lies outside the clubhouse. And he’s a fan of the numerous golf opportunities available here, as well as the quality of the skiing in winter. But personal knowledge of the ball field, that’s another story. Each park has its own idiosyncrasies and character traits. The Aces stadium is no different. “I’ve heard in right field the wind tends to blow out that way. The left field wall is higher. It’s a learning process for me that I get to experience for the first time,” he said.
One aspect of the park that he won’t have to contend with to the same degree as his predecessor and earlier players is the higher-than-average quantity of homeruns. Because of Reno’s high altitude and dry air, balls sail farther and more readily over the back wall. This will be the first year the club treats the baseballs in a humidor, which humidifies them to help keep them inside the park. “It’s tougher on the hitters, but better for the pitchers,” Parr said.
You don’t have to be a dyed-in-the-wool fan to enjoy an Aces game. If you’re looking for an afternoon or evening of entertaining diversion, great food and a friendly buzz of humanity, take in a game or two.
For ticket information, schedule and all the essentials, visit renoaces.com