November 2011

Congrats, Mobile!

Today, the Mobile BayBears–the D-backs’ Double-A affiliate–were named minor league team of the year by Baseball America.

After winning the Southern League championship, having almost its entire starting rotation appear on top prospect lists, and sending slugging first baseman Paul Goldschmidt straight to the big leagues, the BayBears certainly had the credentials.

Wade Miley spent time in Mobile and Reno in 2011 before making his big-league debut with the D-backs.

But what does this mean for the Aces next season?

Who knows. It’s way too early in the hot stove season to see where all of the BayBears’ prospects will end up, but we do know they were loaded this year, and the Aces should see at least a few members of the 2011 minor league team of the year on their 2012 roster.

To illustrate how loaded Mobile was this past season, consider this: of the seven D-backs minor league pitchers in Baseball America‘s Top 10 prospect list, five of them pitched in Mobile this season (Trevor Bauer, 1; Tyler Skaggs, 3; Jarrod Parker, 4; Wade Miley, 9; Patrick Corbin, 10). Add outfielder A.J. Pollock–named the D-backs #6 prospect–and you have the minor league team of the year.

Of that impressive group, only Miley saw time in Reno during the 2011 season, finishing 4-1 with a 3.74 ERA in eight starts before being promoted to Arizona. But next year could be a vastly different story.

While we have no idea how the dominoes will fall to create the 2012 roster, we do know this much: it’s an exciting time to be a part of the D-backs minor league system.

Turf Tuesday: Offseason maintenance, part one

We’ve told you in a previous post that Eric Blanton–the man responsible for the playing surface at Aces Ballpark–is the best at what he does. You know he puts in long hours during the season, often arriving at the ballpark before anyone else and staying long after the last fan has left.

But what about the offseason? How does he ensure the field survives the long, cold, Northern Nevada winters that we are accustomed to in the Biggest Little City?

We’ll keep you informed throughout the offseason, starting with how Blanton and his full-time assistant, Daytime Dan, wrap up the season in September.

This past season, the Aces played their final home game on Thursday, September 8. Immediately after the game, Blanton’s offseason began.

First, Eric and Dan “vertical cut” the grass on the field, which the average homeowner might refer to as “thatching” or “dethaching” his or her lawn. According to Blanton, this process helps clean up underlying thatch, which helps the grass grow throughout the fall. After the vertical cut, more air can flow under the canopy of the turf, which promotes growth.

Another season of perfect grass lies ahead for Aces Ballpark turf manager Eric Blanton's crew.

The vertical cut leaves a layer of loose thatch on the field, so Blanton has to use an industrial-sized sweeper to clean up and dispose of the thatch. Considering the fact that a baseball field is approximately three acres, the first job of Blanton’s offseason takes several days.

Join us next Tuesday, when we explore re-sodding, aeration and some other offseason tricks that Eric uses to make sure Aces Ballpark remains the best playing field in all of minor league baseball.

Black Friday is here, Aces style

Black Friday: don’t look now, but it’s just three short days away.

Sound ominous? Don’t fret. Aces Ballpark is here to make your Black Friday quick and painless.

The team store at the Ballpark will be open from midnight to 2 am this Black Friday, offering holiday specials on the items that you love, while spicing it up with new items as well. For the first time ever, the team store will offer authentic, game-worn Aces jerseys from your favorite players.

Beginning Friday, the home (white) jerseys of the following players will be on-sale to the general public:

Collin Cowgill, #5
Trent Oeltjen, #10
Cody Ransom, #13
Cole Gillespie, #18
Josh Collmenter, #29
Konrad Schmidt, #33
Wily Mo Peña, #54
John Hester, #55

In addition, the team store will feature the following specials (during the midnight – 2 am time slot only):

  • 16 different products will be discounted from 25% to 55% off.
  • The first 50 people who spend $25 or more will receive a complimentary Aces Ballpark replica.
  • The first 10 people who spend $50 or more will receive a pair of tickets to 2012 Opening Day at Aces Ballpark (April 5).
  • Gift cards will be available as well, which make the perfect stocking stuffer for the Aces fan on your list.

Game-worn jerseys will be on sale at the Aces team store throughout the holidays.

During the holiday season, the team store will expand its hours, making all your favorite Aces gear available seven days a week:

Wed., Nov. 23: 10 am – 3 pm
Thanksgiving Day: Closed
Black Friday: Midnight – 2 am; 11 am – 7 pm

Beginning Saturday, Nov. 26 through Christmas Day:
Monday – Saturday: 11 am – 7 pm
Sunday: 11 am – 4 pm
Christmas Eve: 11 am – 4 pm
Christmas Day: Closed

Burroughs, Wily Mo, Cowgill enjoying mixed success in winter ball

A few weeks ago, in one of our first posts since resurrecting the blog, we listed several former Aces playing winter ball throughout Latin America.

Since then, the list has grown substantially, with no fewer than 27 former Aces spending part of their offseasons in either the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico or Venezuela. Here’s an update of our players’ successes and failures in the four premier winter ball leagues.

Dominican Winter League (Dominican Republic)

  • Three-year Ace and current Oakland Athletic Brandon Allen struggled, hitting just .143. Allen has not appeared in a game since Nov. 2.
  • Fan favorite Wily Mo Peña started slowly, going 0x12 in his first three games. But Wily Mo has been hot over his last two games, going 3×7 and hitting a first-inning grand slam yesterday.
  • We’re happy to see two former Aces come back from serious injuries and succeed. Ed Rogers (.317 BA after missing entire 2011 season) and Bobby Korecky (1-0, 0.00 ERA in 8 games after Tommy John surgery in 2009) have been impressive.
  • Other former Aces in the DR include Scott Maine (0-1, 1.00 ERA in 11 games), Esmerling Vasquez (0-0, 0.00 ERA in 2 games), Rafael Rodriguez (0-0, 6.23 ERA in 6 games), Angel Berroa (.273) and Pedro Ciriaco (.238).

Liga Mexicana del Pacifico (Mexico)

  • 2009 Aces outfielder Chris Roberson is tied for 8th in the league with a .330 BA. The 32-year-old can still run as well, as he currently sits 2nd in the league with 9 stolen bases.
  • While not a former Ace, local Reno legend Chris Aguila has gone 4×11 over his first three games in Mexico.
  • Other former Aces in Mexico include Evan Frey (.230 in 15 games), Cole Gillespie (.260), Agustin Murillo (.178 in 18 games) and Luis Ayala (0-0, 0.00 ERA in 2 games).

Puerto Rican Winter League (Puerto Rico)

  • The league is only about a week into its season, but 2009 Ace Ruben Gotay already has six hits in 11 at-bats, good for a .545 batting average.
  • Carlos Corporan, coming off a season where he appeared in 52 games for the Houston Astros, is hitting .235 over his first six games.
  • Cesar Valdez (2 ER in 2 IP), Orlando Mercado (.333 in 5 games), Kyler Newby (0-1, 11.57 ERA in 2 starts) and Saul Rivera (0-0, 1.93 ERA, 3 saves in 5 games) are all spending part of their offseason in Puerto Rico.

Venezuelan Winter League (Venezuela)

  • Sean Burroughs is having perhaps the best winter ball season of any former Aces player, hitting .373 over his first 15 games. Burroughs has hit safely in 13-of-15, including six multi-hit games so far.
  • Burroughs is playing on the Margarita squad with Collin Cowgill, who is hitting just .222, with 23 strikeouts in 99 at-bats. Cowgill didn’t get very much consistent playing time after being called up in July, so it will likely take him time to get used to playing every day again.
  • Another non-Aces-related note (although he did face Reno while with Salt Lake this past season): former big-league righty Jerome Williams is absolutely dealing in Venezuela (5-0, 1.00 ERA). Williams spent parts of three seasons with the Giants (2003-05), but hadn’t played in the bigs for three seasons before resurrecting his career with the Angels in 2011, going 4-0 after a late-season call-up.
  • Also in Venezuela: Kevin Mulvey (0-1, 4.70 ERA), Yusmeiro Petit (2-3, 2.78 ERA), Barry Enright (2-1, 5.85 ERA), Jason Urquidez (0-0, 0.00 ERA) and Alex Romero (.256 in 22 games).
  • Finally, if you’ve read this far, you should check out our friend Scot Drucker’s blog about his travels in baseball. He’s currently in Venezuela, playing on the same team as recently-kidnapped (and rescued) Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos. Here’s the link.

Turf Tuesday: Catching up with turf manager Eric Blanton

With so many sights and sounds to take in during any given Aces game, it’s easy to overlook the most obvious work of art inside Aces Ballpark–the field itself.

Many fans likely take for granted the fact that the field is almost always in perfect condition, assuming that Aces turf manager Eric Blanton has a legion of assistants who work day and night to keep the field in pristine condition. In fact, it is just Blanton, one full-time assistant (“Daytime” Dan Kastens) and a seasonal intern, who this past season was a gentleman known simply as Scotty. The Aces also employ several game-day grounds crew members, four or five of which join Blanton for each of the Aces 72 home games.

For a little background on why you shouldn’t take the Aces Ballpark playing surface for granted, here’s a quick rundown of hardware awarded to Blanton by his peers over the last five seasons:

2007 – Turf Manager of the Year, Eastern League (with Double-A New Hampshire)
2008 – Turf Manager of the Year, Eastern League (with Double-A New Hampshire)
2009 – Turf Manager of the Year, Pacific Coast League (with Triple-A Reno)
2010 – Runner Up, Turf Manager of the Year, Pacific Coast League (with Reno)
2011 – Turf Manager of the Year, Pacific Coast League (with Reno)

If your first thought was “Wow,” you’re not alone. We thought it too.

With that out of the way, we here at Not Just Baseball…Aceball are going to do our part this winter to keep you abreast of offseason happenings as they pertain to the field itself. We’ll check in with Blanton throughout the offseason, beginning next Tuesday, when we’ll begin investigating and explaining all the work Eric and Dan have done to the field since you last saw it on September 8.

So stay tuned, and send us an email if you have specific questions for Eric about how he makes the field look so incredible every year.

The Aces salute our nation’s veterans

It’s Veterans Day, but our dedicated team of bloggers is hard at work. We wanted to thank our veterans for everything they’ve done for this country, relive some fun we’ve had with the military at Aces Ballpark, and give away a few signed camouflage and patriotic-themed Aces hats to deserving recipients.

First of all, thank you veterans! We cannot express how much you mean to our country’s past, present and future, and we’re especially thankful to all of the veterans that either live or are stationed in Northern Nevada.

Manager Brett Butler visits with a member of the military before the Aces' 2011 Military Appreciation Night.

But we don’t just appreciate you once a year. If you remember, the Aces have played host to Military Appreciation Night each of the past three seasons. In 2010, the team wore special camouflage jerseys, and it donned camo hats during Military Night this past season. After these games, the jerseys and hats were auctioned off for charity, with proceeds going to the Sergeants Major Fund.

In 2010, the Aces wore special American flag-themed hats on the Fourth of July, with proceeds from those hat sales going to a military charity as well.

In addition, the Aces offered free tickets to all active and retired military during an entire eight-game homestand this past season, in a show of thanks for their service.

With that said, here’s a small token of our thanks…the giveaway!

Here’s how it works. We have several remaining camouflage and patriotic-themed hats, each one signed by a Reno Aces player. We will be giving away these hats to active or retired military only (or families of military personnel who are stationed overseas).

To win one of these hats, follow these simple steps:

1. Send an email to with the subject line “Hat Contest.”
2. Tell us why you deserve to win (in two sentences or fewer).
3. Include a picture of yourself (or deserving family member) in uniform.
4. Submissions are due by the end of the day on Monday, November 14.

Team Shop Update: Hat of the Month, other good stuff

It’s almost mid-November, with a bit of snow having already fallen in the Truckee Meadows, and Aces Ballpark is slowly entering hibernation mode.

However, there is one part of the ballpark that is just heating up: the Team Shop.

The holidays are just around the corner, and the Aces Team Shop is a great destination for all of your holiday needs. The Team Shop is located adjacent to the Aces Ballpark main entrance on Evans Avenue, just underneath the giant baseball sculpture. There is ample parking across Evans Ave., and the store is now open Tuesday through Friday (10 am to 5 pm) and Saturday (10 am to 4 pm).

November's 'Hat of the Month,' available now for just $15.

Throughout the offseason, the Team Shop will be offering a Hat of the Month, available for just $15 throughout the month. Check this blog at the beginning of December for the next version of the Aces Team Shop Hat of the Month.

In addition, the Team Shop will open at midnight on Black Friday (until 2 am), and will be open seven days per week from Black Friday through Christmas Eve. We will keep you updated on Black Friday specials and holiday hours as we approach Thanksgiving.

As always, we welcome your comments and suggestions. Comment below or send us an email, and we’ll be happy to consider your suggestions.

Cowgill, other Aces rack up awards during historic 2011 campaign

Beginning at the end of the first week of the season–when Wily Mo Peña was named the Pacific Coast League Player of the Week–the 2011 Reno Aces garnered no fewer than 22 individual awards this season, including 10 by outfielder Collin Cowgill.

We will run down a complete list of accolades later in this post, but we’d like to take a minute to debate individual versus team success at the minor league level.

In the Major Leagues, team success trumps any individual award. While fans are awed by Barry Bonds’ individual accomplishments, we’re confident even Bonds himself would trade in a few of his seven MVP awards for just one World Series ring. To a man, big league players, managers and owners would say that bringing a World Series championship to their city is the ultimate goal.

Collin Cowgill hit .354 in 98 games with the Aces before being promoted to the D-backs.

In the minor leagues, however, the goals are slightly different. Here at Not Just Baseball…Aceball, we’re not in a position to discuss the D-backs’ or any other organization’s philosophies on winning at the minor league level. We can say with certainty, though, that developing players at the minor league level is paramount to the big league team’s success.

This gets tricky on a game-by-game basis, with minor league managers often having to choose between instant gratification (what gives my team the best chance to win tonight?) and long-term development of players (keeping pitch counts low, letting a prospect swing away in a sacrifice bunt situation).

With that said, it is the skipper’s job to find a balance between these two sometimes contradictory goals. Aces manager Brett Butler did an excellent job this season (at least from this blog’s perspective), as he clearly found a balance that worked; the Aces won their division while at the same time preparing players for the Major Leagues.

Finally, while individual accomplishments are clearly valued at the big league level, they are almost sacred in the minors. A player goes on a 10-game hitting streak and is promoted from Double-A to Triple-A. A Triple-A player hits 10 homers in a month and suddenly finds himself under the lights at Chase Field, staring down a Tim Lincecum fastball.

For these reasons, the following list of 2011 individual accomplishments is even more impressive, as almost every name on this list earned a trip to the big leagues at some point this season, while the Aces still managed to win the Pacific North division.

  • April 18 – Wily Mo Peña, PCL Player of the Week
  • May 2 – Collin Cowgill, PCL Player of the Week
  • May 9 – Wily Mo Peña, PCL Player of the Week
  • June 13 – Collin Cowgill, PCL Player of the Week
  • June 27 – Cody Ransom, PCL Player of the Week
  • June 29 – Tony Abreu, Collin Cowgill, Cody Ransom, Konrad Schmidt named to PCL All-Star Team
  • Aug. 15 – Wade Miley, PCL Pitcher of the Week
  • Aug. 17 – Collin Cowgill, Baseball America PCL “Best Baserunner,” “Best Defensive Outfielder,” “Most Exciting Player”
  • Aug. 17 – Brett Butler, Baseball America PCL “Best Manager Prospect”
  • Aug. 23 – Josh Cuffe, PCL Strength Coach of the Year
  • Aug. 26 – Eric Blanton, PCL Turf Manager of the Year
  • Aug. 29 – Collin Cowgill, Cody Ransom named to All-PCL Team
  • Aug. 30 – Collin Cowgill, PCL Rookie of the Year
  • Sept. 29 – Cole Gillespie, Rawlings Minor League Gold Glove
  • Nov. 3 – Collin Cowgill, PCL Topps Player of the Year
  • Nov. 8 – Collin Cowgill, Topps Triple-A All-Star

Andy Tracy to manage in Phillies system

Andy Tracy, the veteran first baseman who finished his playing career in Reno this season, has been named the manager of an unnamed team in the Philadelphia Phillies minor league system.

Tracy was liked on the field, in the clubhouse and in the community, serving as a team leader and mentor for young players on the Aces’ 2011 roster. He was such a respected voice in the dugout that Brett Butler ofter used him as another assistant coach, conferring with Tracy much like a big-league manager might confer with his bench coach.

Andy Tracy will begin his managerial career in the Phillies organization next season.

The left-handed hitting Tracy–who was born and played college ball in Bowling Green, Ohio–played 16 professional seasons for six different organizations. Originally drafted by the Montreal Expos in 1996, Tracy played for Montreal/Washington, New York (NL) twice, Colorado, Baltimore and Philadelphia, before finishing his playing career in the Arizona organization this past season with the Aces.

With Reno in 2011, Tracy hit .288 with 18 home runs and 51 RBIs in just 85 games. For his minor league career, he hit 296 home runs in 1,590 career games. He also played in 149-career Major League games in parts of five seasons with Montreal, Colorado and Philadelphia. He hit .231 with 13 homers and 43 RBIs during his big-league career.

For more information on Tracy’s role in the Phillies organization, check out this blog, which includes a nice quote about Tracy from Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, Jr.

For a little more background on Tracy’s travels–which read like the Bull Durham screenplay–check out our friend Chris Gabel’s Reno Gazette-Journal feature on Tracy from August of 2011.

Gerardo Parra honored with Gold Glove

On Tuesday, Arizona Diamondbacks left fielder and former Reno Ace Gerardo Parra was honored with a 2011 Rawlings Gold Glove, the first of his career. Parra became the third D-backs player to ever win a Gold Glove, joining Steve Finley (1999, 2000) and Orlando Hudson (2006, 2007). The 24-year-old finished the 2011 season with a .993 fielding percentage, committing just two errors in 281 total chances, with 12 assists in 125 games.

Parra enjoyed a short, albeit successful stint in Reno during the 2010 season. After being optioned to Triple-A in early May, he hit safely in all nine games in which he appeared for the Aces before being recalled to Arizona. He finished with a .417 (15×36) batting average, seven RBIs and registered three three-hit efforts. While Parra did manage to cut down one runner during his short stay roaming the Aces outfield, he did—interestingly enough—commit two errors in a single game on May 11 vs. Omaha.

Gerardo Parra recently won his first-career Rawlings Gold Glove Award.

In other defensive-minded news, three members of the Boston Red Sox (Adrian Gonzalez, Dustin Pedroia , Jacoby Ellsbury) took home a Gold Glove this week—marking the first time three Red Sox earned a Gold Glove in the same season in 32 years. The last time it happened—in 1979—Dwight Evans, Fred Lynn and Rick Burleson were the winners. For Burleson, it was the lone Gold Glove in a career that included a Silver Slugger, four All-Star selections and a trip to the World Series. That was, of course, before he became the hitting coach for the Reno Aces for the last three seasons.

Aces hitting coach Rick Burleson won a Gold Glove with the Red Sox in 1979.

And finally, in case you missed it, Aces outfielder Cole Gillespie was honored with a 2011 Rawlings Minor League Gold Glove award in September. He was the lone D-backs farmhand to collect a Minor League Gold Glove this season, and was 1-of-2 Pacific Coast League players honored. Reno’s everyday right fielder, Gillespie finished 2011 with a .993 fielding percentage. He led all Aces outfielders with 10 assists and 275 putouts. His 10 outfield assists were second-most in franchise history, and he was one of just eight PCL outfielders with double-digit assists last season. Gillespie has registered 41-career Minor League assists.