But what does it mean for the Aces fans? Where I grew up in Massachusetts, the local AAA team to my beloved Boston Red Sox was the Pawtucket Red Sox, situated about an hour away from Fenway in Rhode Island. Being a Paw Sox fan (and also Portland Maine Sea Dogs) is clearly an extension of being a Red Sox fan. For most fans, following the Paw Sox and Sea Dogs is a way of elevating one’s Red Sox worship to the next level. The Red Sox’s minor league counterparts provide a sneak peak at the next potential young superstars to hit the hallowed ground of Fenway. It also allows fans to assess the recovery of injured Red Sox, predict their return to major league play from the DL and provide encouragement to get well soon (preferably before the postseason). The proximity of the ballparks obviously plays an important role in this interstate Sox fever.
When I first heard about the Reno Aces, a minor league team located almost 12 hours away from their major league parent team, the Arizona Diamondbacks, I was puzzled. I started to wonder what motivates the excitement that Aces fans feel for their team. Are there really that many D-Backs fans in Reno? This led me to start questioning this entire Aces project that was delivered to our doorstep last year. How much mileage can a minor league sports team truly get from “community spirit” and “supporting the home team?” I love the city of Boston, but I love the Red Sox more. After all, any baseball fan knows that the loyalty of AAA players to the city where they play is rivaled only by that player’s desire to get “the call” at any moment. In the case of the Aces players, I wonder how many of those calls could come from the San Francisco Giants based on some over-the-hill scouting missions. Let’s face it, as a fan you have to love the jersey to make the relationship last.
I have made a few observations about the mixture of sports fans that have either landed here or evolved over the years. There is of course the requisite rallying behind the hometown kids at UNR. Then there are the fans of Los Angeles’ Dodgers and Angels, most likely a result of the growing number of L.A. transplants. There are also many fans of Bay Area teams like the Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants. I have never seen as much as a hat or bumper sticker from Giants’ division rival D-Backs.
My obvious question and one I am sure was being asked long before I arrived, is why can’t we be the Fresno Grizzlies? Sure, we’re further away than the three hours that separates Fresno and AT&T Park. But what else does Fresno have that we don’t? Aren’t there more Giants fans here that would at least have something to root their AAA passion in?
Instead, we have entered into a long-term relationship with a AAA team whose major league fan base is 12 hours away. How much hometown spirit does it take to pay the $1 million annual tab? We cannot realistically expect the sales pitch to suddenly end just because the stadium is up, popcorn is popped and the players are about to play ball again. The sales pitch must continue because the bills must continue to be paid every year. Are we planning to pay the Aces organization in comps and casino chips?
What are we pitching: community spirit, team spirit or a leftover victory celebration for the realization of a dream? Call me a party pooper or spoil sport if you will, but unless we agree on what it is we’re rooting for and what our passion is rooted in, this entire deal may start reeking of another experience unfortunately associated with baseball. It may be like coming down off a steroid high: looking around and realizing what you’ve done and what it will cost you.
Christine Whitmarsh is a Reno-based freelance writer and founder and owner of Christine, Ink. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.