By Pat Malone
If you’re a D.C. area baseball fan, there’s no doubt that you’ve heard of the Alexandria Aces, right? If you haven’t caught on to the Aces, yet, you’re in for a treat, as the highly-recruited team is ready to welcome you to Frank Mann Field, behind Cora Kelly School, for a great summer of collegiate summer baseball! It’s affordable family fun entertainment that you don’t want to miss!
The Aces are playing in their eighth season in Port City, with players coming to town from major colleges and universities to play exciting wooden bat baseball where they’ll hopefully catch the eye of a major league scout. They play in the ten-team Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League (www.calripkenleague.org), which was originally established in 2005 and is geographically located in the Washington, D.C./Baltimore metro area.
The team’s season recently started, and I had a chance to ask Aces head coach David DeSilva some questions regarding the league, his baseball interests, and the Aces upcoming season.
Pat: How did you first hear about the Aces and how did you get recruited to join former manager Corey Haines’ coaching staff in 2012?
David: After coaching for five years down in North Carolina, I moved to Northern Virginia in September of 2011. I have a passion for player development and teaching the game of baseball. After moving to Alexandria, I knew I had to find a spot to feed that passion. I did some research, where I stumbled across the Aces and knew this was the place. I immediately contacted Corey Haines (Aces manager in 2011 and 2012) and owner Don Dinan to inquire about the ball club. After several interviews with Corey, I was hired to join the team for the 2012 season as the Aces lead assistant and third base coach. It was a perfect introduction to the Aces organization and the Cal Ripken Collegiate League.
Pat: You’ve had two consecutive winning seasons with the Aces, so congratulations are in order. Have you seen an uptick in attention from college coaches who have seen your work and wanted to place players with you?
David: After my first year as lead assistant under Coach Haines, I was promoted to manager for the 2013 season, upon his departure. My first task was to put a competitive product on the field. After all, the Aces had never had a winning season in their five years of existence. In my first year as manager, we were able to knock down that barrier with a 27-17 record, good for second place in the then twelve-team league. We followed that up in 2014 with a 23-17 record. My goal has always been to facilitate the develop of the college athletes that come to Alexandria. The college coaches appreciate that I set expectations early and hold everyone accountable, including myself. I strive to be open, honest, organized and to communicate well with college coaches, players and my staff. My relationships with the college coaches have flourished under this model.
Pat: When do you start recruiting players and how much of it becomes an on-going process throughout the year?
David: The recruiting process is fluid and never ending. I am already recruiting for next summer and have had discussions with several college coaches about next year. I field phone calls and emails every single day of the year and it’s a difficult task to sift through all the information and available players and decide which ones are the right fit for Alexandria and our ball club. Since my ability to actually see the players in action prior to signing them, I have to lean on the college coaches and my relationships with them. Trust is a huge factor in the recruiting process.
Pat: How many Aces have you seen get drafted by Major League Baseball (MLB)?
David: There have been four Aces players drafted by MLB, and several others who have signed free agent contracts with MLB or Independent Leagues. The most notable of which is Kyle Zimmer (University of San Francisco ’12) who was drafted fifth overall by the Kansas City Royals in Major League Baseball’s 2012 Draft. We are hopeful that he’ll make his major league debut this year.
Pat: What was the inspiration for you to help start up PrimeTime Baseball? How did you, John Skaggs, and Chris Berset get it all started?
David: John Skaggs, the first ever Aces signee back in 2008, and I, both had a similar vision about developing baseball in the Alexandria area. This vision extended beyond the Aces and into the youth leagues in Alexandria. When John and Chris Berset (current Triple-A catcher in the Cincinnati Reds organization) approached me with their idea, I was all in. We put our heads together and developed something special in the community. PrimeTime Baseball is an indoor training facility opened and operated by the three of us. We are located at 5420 Eisenhower Avenue, in Alexandria, close to the Van Dorn Metro Station. We offer a full range of baseball instruction including private lessons, camps, clinics and cage rentals.
Pat: You’ve built a great ‘junior’ Aces program the past few years through PrimeTime Baseball. Do you see growth in the evolution of youth baseball players in Alexandria who come through your training and coaching at Prime Time?
David: Prime Time Baseball has eight youth teams, currently ranging from age 8-13, also called the Aces which we commonly refer to as the “Little Aces”. We are working closely with the local little leagues, especially Alexandria Little League, in an attempt to raise the level of play in this area. We provide professional coaching with a heavy emphasis on developing the player on and off the field. Operating and managing our own teams is another way to raise the level of play and develop baseball in and around the Alexandria area.
Pat: What’s the website for PrimeTime Baseball where people can find out more information about clinics and instruction?
David: People can find us at www.primetimebaseball.net.
Pat: What’s your perception of how college coaches now view the Cal Ripken League as a destination point to place their players for the summer?
David: The Cal Ripken League continues to drive in top level talent from across the country. When you review the rosters across the league you will find multiple players from Top 25 Division I schools. Just take a gander at our roster and you will see Florida State, College of Charleston, Clemson, Virginia, Stony Brook, and many others!
Pat: The league has had the Maryland Redbirds win the past three league championships, with the Bethesda Big Train winning the previous three as both teams have squared off against each other in the last six league championships. Where do you envision the Aces at the end of this upcoming season?
David: The Redbirds and Big Train put a great product on the field every single year. They are the teams to beat and I expect the Aces to compete for a league and playoff title in 2015. For the third year in a row, we have put together a great squad and look forward to the opportunity to compete and knock off the historically strong teams. I know other organizations have put together solid rosters, too, so I look forward to the challenge ahead of us this year.
Pat: Now that you’re in your third season as head coach, how important has it been for you to develop a great relationship with coaches from different universities and colleges that you recruit players from?
David: As I mentioned before. Relationships are the cornerstone to running a successful summer league team. There must be a mutual respect and trust between the parties. Again, it goes back to setting expectations with the coaches and then executing on my commitments. This works both ways.
Pat: Who was your inspiration to get involved in baseball?
David: My Grandfather. He is the best person I have ever met and if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have the love and passion for this game. Growing up my dad worked third shift, so in the evenings, my mom would always take me over to my grandparents’ house (they lived nearby) so I wouldn’t wake my dad. My grandfather and I would spend a lot of time watching and talking sports, specifically baseball.
Pat: Frank Mann Field is the home field for the Aces. How important is it for Aces fans to help to ‘pack the park’ to help motivate the team out on the field, and what can fans look forward to both on and off the field this season?
David: I cannot express the importance of community support. My first goal when taking over as manager in 2013 included improving the product on the field. With two winning seasons under our belt, we are at the cusp of becoming a team to beat in the league. This year we have really focused on the community aspect. We revamped our host family strategy and now have so many families willing to host, there is a waiting list. We upgraded our warm-up gear with nicer material and a new look. This year we are providing post game meals for players. The community has rallied around the guys and we have secured enough donations to feed the players after almost every home game! If you walk down Mount Vernon Avenue, for instance, in Del Ray, you should see all of the Alexandria Aces schedule posters hung in businesses there, and all around town, too. Del Ray Pizzeria will be supplying food for our concessions this year in an effort to continue to build a strong partnership and community support within the city. I’m really excited about the opportunity to play high-level college baseball in such a wonderful city. I’d like to invite everyone out to enjoy a fantastic night of affordable family fun at Frank Mann Field. Our full schedule and information can be found on our team’s website at www.alexandriaaces.org. Fans can also find us on Facebook and Twitter. See you all at the park. Go Aces!
Pat: Thanks, David. Best of luck to you, your coaching staff, the team, and all of the loyal volunteers, host families, sponsors and supporters for absolutely great success both on and off the field this summer. I’ll see you at the ball park, very soon. Go Aces!
Editor’s Note: As a sports protege of local baseball aficionado and raconteur, former Alexandria mayor, Frank Mann, the author of this article, Pat Malone, was the original inspiration for creating the Alexandria Aces in the summer of 2006, personally selecting the team’s name, drawing the team’s now distinctive ‘Tiffany A’ logos, as well as designing the team’s classic ‘New York Yankees-style’ home and road uniforms. He worked with his good friend, team co-founder, chairman and CEO, Don Dinan, to establish the franchise with the Cal Ripken, Sr. Collegiate Baseball League, as well as securing their home field at Four Mile Run Park for the team’s 2008 inaugural season, through today. Both Pat and Don worked together to set up the Aces as an IRS-deemed 501(c)(3) not-for-profit community-based organization, building long-term friendships with many loyal fans, dedicated sponsors, the City of Alexandria, and local youth baseball leagues in Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax County. Pat formerly served the Aces in roles as both president, and general manager, from 2006 to 2010. He resigned in good standing from the ball club at the conclusion of the 2010 season to pursue other interests and has since helped with Aces sponsorships and fundraising in the past few years. During summer evenings, when he’s not writing for ‘The Zebra’, Pat can quite often be seen in the stands watching and cheering on the Aces at Frank Mann Field, and some of the team’s road games, as well.