The Alexandria Aces: Community, Family, Baseball!

(Armstrong and Burkhalter): Players John Armstrong and Blake Burkhalter with host brothers Ryan and Quinn Renda. (Photo: Siobhan Casey)

Alexandria, VA – For the past 15 summer baseball seasons, super-fan families across Alexandria have hosted an Alexandria Aces player, giving these Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League college students a home away from June to late July for the league’s 36 games, 18 of which are electrifying home games at Frank Mann Field.

What Aces players need from their host families is simple: a bed, access to a washer and dryer, and the warmth of daily family life. What the players give, said Siobhan Casey, host family coordinator for the Aces, is “foundational summer baseball memory-making. My 8- and 11-year-old kids thought the players we hosted were rock stars.

“And for the empty-nester families who have opened their homes to these student-athletes, they’ve renewed their love of the game, cheering for their player, and building connections with up-and-coming baseball greats,” Casey added.

“Alexandrians will be able to say [of some of these students] we knew them when—when they were just starting out, when they lived with us for a summer, when they played on the Frank Mann field behind the Cora Kelly School.”

(Anthony Ehly): Player Anthony Ehly with host family brothers Conlon Casey (L) and Brennan Casey. (Photo: Siobhan Casey)

This field is hallowed ground. It hosted the Class A Alexandria Dukes from 1978-1982 and remains one of the best fields in the league.

Blake Burkhalter, a standout player from Auburn University, signed with the Atlanta Braves after his time with the Aces in 2021, highlighting the caliber of talent the team attracts. Aces players in 2022, Cade Sullivan of Western Michigan University and Adam Tellier of Wake Forest University are potential picks for this July’s major league draft.

“My son Jackson has loved it,” said Aces President Frank Fannon of hosting Elon College player Connor Offshack, among others. He echoed Casey’s sentiments of the hero-finding thrill younger batters experience hosting a college player. They’re role models for how to excel at the game. They bring their talent to the field and contribute to the community by coaching younger players in summer baseball camps.

The Casey brothers with player Brendan Harrity. (Photo: Siobhan Casey)

“As a host family, you get to witness the discipline, determination, and practice that goes into the game of baseball,” Fannon reflected.

He described a day in the life of a summer leaguer: “Wake-up, breakfast; coach in Alexandria’s summer baseball camps all day – then it’s time to hit the gym and every night, they’re at the stadium playing ball until 9:30 p.m.” And then, they do it all over again the next day.

The Aces, coached by Chris Berset, an alum of the Cincinnati Reds organization, have consistently proven themselves to be a force on the field. With appearances in the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League championship series for the past three years against their arch-rivals, the Bethesda Big Train, and league champions in 2022, the Aces are setting the bar high for the 2024 season.

Painting a vivid picture of what to expect at a game, Fannon invites the community to relive Alexandria’s rich baseball heritage. He fondly remembers coming to this field as a ten-year-old to watch Dukes’ games.

Player Cade Law with his hosts, the Broome Family. (Photo: Siobhan Casey)

That same life-slows-down-for-baseball community spirit envelops the Aces games today. “The bats are wood; you get that great nostalgic sound of a home run. Tickets remain a steal at just $7 for adults, $3 for children. Families gather, little kids run around, and there are ice cream and food trucks. Aces games are more than just baseball; they’re community events centered around the sport,” Fannon said. “Consider hosting a player. Every year, approximately 25 families open their homes to a collegiate student-athlete. We’re actively seeking host families for this summer. For more information, see”

Frank Fannon and son Jackson hosted Aces players from China, Qingyang Feng (L) and Yuchen Wang. (Photo: Frank Fannon)

The baseball fan’s long winter’s wait is almost over. Spring brings cherry blossoms, but summer in Alexandria brings back the crack of the bat, the cheers from the stands, the soft, warm nights, the festive atmosphere of an Aces game, and the opportunity to host one of our very own “boys of summer.”

The home opener is on June 2 at 6:30 p.m. Who will throw out the first pitch? Will the player you host make a stunning play in the outfield that you will remember forever and become part of your family’s lore? Come find out!

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