The Story of How Alexandria Got Their Own Team
By Pat Malone
Spring is in the air and summer will shortly be upon us and with that comes the anticipation of the Alexandria Aces’ ninth season in our Port City.
I first came up with the idea of possibly bringing collegiate summer baseball to Alexandria on Friday, June 16, 2006, as I left my office with the then publisher and editor-in-chief, Jimmy Patterson, of SportsFan Magazine, in beautiful downtown Bethesda, Maryland.
The Haymarket Battle Cats, a collegiate summer league team that I previously owned in the Valley Baseball League, which is nestled into the beautiful and picturesque Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, was playing the New Market Rebels, in New Market, that Friday, and I caught the game on Internet radio. As I intently listened to the contest, it sparked my idea of bringing collegiate summer baseball to Alexandria.
My journey to New Market sprung up in the spring of 2002 at Border’s Books in Tyson’s Corner where I had picked up a copy of John Robert’s book, ‘Hardball on the Hill,’ about baseball in the D.C. area after the Senators had left in 1971.
There is a chapter in his book titled, ‘Shenandoah,’ and I was struck by the story of the New Market Rebels, the team, the volunteers and the community and their passion for the game. I told a friend of mine, Marilyn Stark, about the Valley League and the Rebels and I suggested that we try to check it out when we had the chance.
We drove by Rebel Park during a hot summer day in 2002 and Jay Zuspan, a Rebel director and volunteer, was busily unloading sodas into coolers for the game that evening. Jay was very happy to meet us while he worked, telling us about the Rebels, their long-tenured history in New Market, and his love for the team. Jay even gave us two free passes for that night’s game.
Marilyn and I actually paid to get into the game at Rebel Park that night and Jay was the perfect ambassador for the Rebels, introducing us to his dear wife Barbara and to many others who lived in the New Market community. Because of Jay, we were immediately hooked on becoming Rebels’ fans and fans of the Valley League. I became a Rebels fan for life.
After I left the Valley League in the spring of 2005, my thoughts of bringing collegiate summer baseball to Alexandria came together and solidified after meeting up with my good friend, Don Dinan, at the Hawk’N’Dove, up on Capitol Hill in late-June of 2006. Don loved the idea of building a summer baseball program in Alexandria, and he agreed to finance the project, where we were literally ‘off-to-the-races’ in putting together the franchise, from scratch.
We had two leagues to choose when it came to planning to play summer ball in Alexandria, the first was the Cal Ripken, Sr. Collegiate Baseball League, as it was then known, with six teams in 2006, which played predominantly in the Baltimore/Washington metropolitan area, and the Clark Griffith Collegiate Baseball League with five teams, playing in Northern Virginia, Maryland, and Washington. Oh, by the way, the Clark Griffith League folded after the 2009 season.
After doing our due diligence with both leagues, Don and I settled on working to get the Aces into the Cal Ripken League. I met solo with the league’s expansion committee in February of 2006 at Tastee Diner, in Silver Spring, where the pancakes were flying fresh off the griddle and conversation about the Aces, Alexandria, and what we could bring to the league were all well-received.
Don and I went to Gunning’s Seafood, in Arnold, Maryland, in the early spring of 2007, for a meeting where the Cal Ripken League board of directors would be giving us their ‘official vote’ on admitting us into the league. A book written by Dick O’Connor of the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbirds, about collegiate summer baseball leagues in the United States, was being passed around during the meeting. Don and I looked at the Cal Ripken League chapter, ‘Alexandria’ was noted among other teams in the league. We both shook hands, chuckled, as there had yet to be an official league vote on expansion, but we knew then that the Aces were in the league.
With me being a huge New York Yankees fan, I stylized the Aces team to wear white pinstripes at home with an ‘A’ on the left chest, and with ‘ALEXANDRIA’ in crescent on our road grey uniforms. I took the ‘NY’ Yankees hat logo, flipped it upside down, erased the ‘N’ and came up with the now distinctive ‘A’ worn on team ball caps, uniforms, and souvenir swag, today.
It is hard for me to believe that the Aces will play their ninth season in Alexandria, this summer. Ten years since my first inception of the club in 2006, and eight years since our inaugural season in 2008.
How did we do it? There were countless meetings, both in D.C., and Alexandria, with many people who helped shape the franchise, like former managers, Eric Williams, and Corey Haines, former team coordinator, John Herrity, and others who helped out in so many ways, such as Cathy Roper, Frank Fannon, Ryan Fannon, Gary Adler, Lukas Favale, Matt Krause, Mark Sudik, Joe Bauer, ‘Baseball Bill’ Holdforth, Sherry Yetter, Ed Blau, Steve Toth, Cindy Toth, Dave and Lisa Marie Cheney, Brian and LaRae Narkinsky, Matt Kramarik, Mark Briscoe, Charlie Brown, Will Douglas, Mac Slover, John Perlman, Mildred Coit, Jon Hoffmeyer, Laila Ziayee, and my son, Brian Malone, just to name a few.
Heartfelt thoughts and prayers also go out to former members of the Aces front office who have sadly passed away, such as former pitching coach/general manager, Brian Midkiff, and former general manager, Dennis Feeney. Denny is especially missed by fans with the way he did the teams’ 50-50 raffle during home games at Frank Mann Field, always having a very tender and loving way to ‘pitch’ to fans during Aces home games. “No money,” Denny would glibly say, “no problem. We’ll take your plastic.”
Special salutes go out to Aces host family coordinator, Amy Goodrich, and each and every family who has hosted an Aces player for the past eight seasons. There would not be an Aces franchise today without host families who have welcomed ball players from colleges and universities from around the country, all who have wanted to come to Alexandria to be spotted by a major league scout for their potential chance to make it to ‘The Bigs’.
Thanks, also, to the many sponsors of the Aces have had over many years, which has helped bring about the ball club to having a very strong solid foundation for many years to come, especially to Mary Wadland, publisher and editor-in-chief of this publication, the Zebra, who works tirelessly to get sponsors each month, herself, to bring you refreshing, lively topical stories about Alexandria and Arlington to you that might not get from anywhere else. Mary recently went through a liver transplant at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and will be recovering for the next few months until she gets fully healed. Get well soon, Mary! We need you to throw out a first pitch at an Aces game in June!
With the season less than a month away, the Aces are in the firm and steady leadership of their manager, Dave DeSilva, general manager, Lou Nolan, and assistant general manager, Kimmy McCarthy.
Both Dave, Lou and Kimmy can’t be thanked enough for their strong leadership and tireless commitment to building the Aces into an outstanding organization that will continue to grow, setting the table for exciting Aces’ summer ball at Frank Mann Field for many years to come.
Dave, along with John Skaggs (the Aces’ first signed player), Chris Berset, and all of their coaches at Prime Time Baseball, (located near the Van Dorn Metro Station), are also helping to oversee the fast growing Alexandria Aces Youth Baseball program, where their teams are consistently winning in all age divisions, helping to dramatically rebuild the sport of baseball in Alexandria.
Collegiate summer baseball with its wooden bats, in its truest sense, is the lowest form of what is considered to be ‘minor league’ baseball, although no teams, like the Aces, are officially affiliated with any major league team. Regional scouts quite often drop by Frank Mann Field in Alexandria to try to try to sign the next ‘Bryce Harper’ or ‘Stephen Strasburg’. With that thought in mind, hopefully I’ll catch you during a game this summer at Frank Mann Field, where we can join family and friends, root “LET’S GO ACES!”, and watch our team play hard to win the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League championship!
For more information on the Aces please go to www.alexandriaaces.org.
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you around the ball park!
Please email me with any questions or thoughts firstname.lastname@example.org.