Welcome to the 2023 Thirteenth Edition of Leading Off, the official publication of the Reno Aces Baseball Club. This season-long publication will release an updated edition prior to every homestand. Stay up-to-date with everything happening at Greater Nevada Field, and learn more about the opponent coming to town! Its logos and graphics are trademarks of the Reno Aces. All rights reserved—Aces photos provided by Aces Team Photographer David Calvert.
The Reno Aces (34-28, 79-59) welcome the Salt Lake Bees (27-36, 64-73) to Greater Nevada Field this week for their final home series of the 2023 season. The Aces have won 10 of 12 games against the Bees this season with a +33-run differential. While Salt Lake’s playoff hopes have dashed, Reno remains in the mix in the second-half standings after a road series win in Albuquerque.
The BLC Nine hosted Salt Lake not long ago and beat them down, taking five of six games in the middle of August. Kyle Lewis went a remarkable 10-for-18 with two homers, 10 runs driven in, and three walks in the series. Lewis is among the best hitters in Minor League Baseball and was heroic on a Marvel Saturday night in the last meeting, delivering the swing of the series late. With the bases loaded and the game tied in the bottom of the seventh, Lewis belted the first pitch to left center to clear the bases and blow the game open. The former American League Rookie of the Year drove in five runs in the series-clinching win.
While the Aces remain lethal in their lineup, the group looks altered from just one month ago. Pavin Smith joined the Diamondbacks as rosters expanded, and Dominic Fletcher went on the 60-day injured list, ending his season. Fletcher showcased an incredibly memorable performance against the Bees on August 11th. The former Arkansas Razorback went 4-for-4 with three doubles, a homer, and two walks. Through the first four games of the set, the dynamic outfielder went 9-for-16 with five doubles, two homers, and four walks. Reno certainly misses one of their best and most productive players.
The next-man-up mentality is a staple for the Aces this season. Jake McCarthy has uniquely filled the vaunted leadoff spot, winning PCL Player of the Week after Reno’s last home series win against El Paso. McCarthy went 14-for-32 with five doubles, a triple, and a homer in an incredible set. McCarthy, Jordan Lawlar, and Lewis continued to thump from the heart of the order early last week in Albuquerque. Lawlar launched two homers in a crucial series-opening win over the Isotopes. The global top 10 prospect showed off his immense power, speed, and athleticism in his short time at Triple-A before a mid-week promotion to Arizona.
Reno’s rotation is perhaps as sturdy as it's been all season. Slade Cecconi and Blake Walston front a deep, talented group. Cecconi returns to Greater Nevada Field after an extended stay with Arizona, where he posted a 2.57 ERA in his first five appearances as a hybrid weapon for the Diamondbacks. Cecconi allowed six runs to Baltimore before the option and remains one of the most exciting young arms in the organization. The Bees had some trouble with Walston last time out as the lefty fired six scoreless innings with two strikeouts, five walks, and one hit allowed.
As the Los Angeles Angels plummet further out of the American League playoff hunt, the Bees continue to promote players to the majors. Trey Cabbage, a deafening force in the first series at GNF, is getting another opportunity in the big leagues. Cabbage went 9-for-24 with a double, three homers, and 10 driven in against Aces pitching in mid-August. Michael Stefanic (PCL average leader) and Kenny Rosenberg (top five in PCL in strikeouts) have been up and down from Anaheim as the season winds down. This series provides a chance for the Aces to get into first place before the final road trip to Las Vegas.
Jake McCarthy’s blistering hot streak at the plate and speed on the base paths culminated in becoming the first Reno Aces player to be named Pacific Coast League Player of the Week for back-to-back weeks, as announced by Minor League Baseball on Monday.
McCarthy, 26, played in all six games against the Isotopes in Albuquerque. In the series victory over the ‘Topes, he posted an offensive line of .407 (11-for-27) batting average, .433 OBP and .852 SLG. He led the league in base hits (11), total bases (23), and stolen bases (5) while collecting nine runs scored and seven RBI.
Over the past two weeks, the University of Virginia product leads the PCL in runs (19), hits (25), total bases (47), home runs (4), and SLG (.797) while sharing the league lead in doubles (6), triples (2), and RBI (13).
Since August 25th, the Scranton, Pennsylvania native has been riding a 15-game hitting and RBI streak. During that span, he has posted a .458 batting average (33-for-72) and drove in 22 RBI.
In addition to McCarthy’s back-to-back honors, the Aces have earned Player of the Week superlatives three times this season: Tristin English (May), Dominic Canzone (July), and Dominic Fletcher (August).
The Reno Aces (35-28, 79-59) remain in the Pacific Coast League playoff hunt after a road series win over the Albuquerque Isotopes (33-30, 60-78), Triple-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, last week at Isotopes Park.
Jordan Lawlar, who entered the game hitting .349 with a .951 OPS since his promotion from Double-A Amarillo, set the tone immediately in game one with his first of two bombs in the top of the first. MLB’s Top 10 Prospect dug in again in the third and smashed another tater to deep left-center field. Reno held on tight for a series-opening 7-6 victory. Kyle Lewis continued to mash with two run-scoring hits, an RBI double in the third, and a sacrifice fly in the seventh. Lewis went 5-for-12 with four doubles and two walks through the series' first three games.
Lawlar impressed the Diamondbacks enough to earn a promotion to Arizona mid-series. The 21-year-old has had a fantastic second half, combining his elite athleticism with light tower power and blazing speed. Lawlar hit .358 with a 1.049 OPS in his short time with the BLC Nine, bopping five homers in 16 games. The former No. 6 overall pick is the eighth player to debut from the first-round class of 2021 and the third-highest draft pick from the group to make the majors, joining Pittsburgh’s Henry Davis (No. 1) and Baltimore’s Colton Cowser (No. 5).
One week after recording his 1,000th Minor League hit, Phillip Evans played a key role in Wednesday’s 7-5 victory. Evans crushed a three-run homer that was the difference in a tight contest. The forceful hitter nicknamed “Barrel” sent a blast to deep center to give the Aces a six-run advantage in the sixth, providing ample support for the surging bullpen. Austin Pope tallied his second straight save in as many tries, thanks in no small part to a monumental double play ball in the ninth.
Jake McCarthy, the defending PCL Player of the Week, delivered a memorable 4-for-5, three-steal performance in a resounding triumph Thursday night. McCarthy’s immense production from the leadoff spot has been vital for the surging Aces, especially after losing Dominic Fletcher to a season-ending injury. McCarthy, Ali Sánchez, and Evans homered in Reno’s fourth straight win. Tristin English drove in two runs on three singles, while Blaze Alexander and Kyle Lewis combined for five hits and four doubles.
The weekend was less rosy but finished with a bang. The Aces dropped two in a row and trailed in Sunday’s finale before a heroic hack from English. The slugger hit a clutch three-run homer in the seventh to guide the BLC Nine to victory. Austin Pope, Justin Martínez, and José Ruiz were perfect in the final three innings in relief to lock it down and secure the series win.
At 16 years old, Reno local, Austin James Steele, applied to take his driver’s license test. When his mother, Marlies Radtke, asked him if he would register as an organ donor after he passed his test, he replied, “Well, why wouldn’t I be?”
Steele grew up in Reno playing a variety of sports and musical instruments, and after graduating high school he served four years in the Navy. After completing his military service, he died suddenly at just 27 years old in December 2017. Radtke already knew her son was a registered organ donor, which helped her navigate the sudden and tragic loss. His heart and liver saved two people.
As a Donor Network West ambassador, Radtke now raises awareness about the importance of organ donation by sharing her son’s story and extending his legacy of serving others.
Radtke will round the bases during the second inning at the Reno Aces’ Home Run for Life game, presented by Donor Network West, Friday, Sept. 15, at Greater Nevada Field as the Reno Aces take on the Salt Lake Bees.
“I’m so grateful to Donor Network West and the Aces for this special game honoring Austin,” Radtke said. “He was a loving, kind, sweet person who lit up the room and always wanted to help others.”
Donor Network West is the only nonprofit organization authorized by the federal government to recover organ, eye and tissue donations across northern Nevada and northern California. The organization supported six Home Run for Life baseball games during the 2023 Aces’ season, with this being the final Home Run for Life game of the season. In its second year, the partnership has brought critical awareness about organ donation to the northern Nevada community and its sports fans.
“Austin’s decision to register as an organ donor gave others a second chance at life,” Janice Whaley, president and CEO of Donor Network West, said. “Donor Network West is humbled to be able to honor northern Nevada’s organ donors and their families. Together, with our partners at the Reno Aces, we further our life-saving work by shining a light on the tremendous impact of organ, eye and tissue donation in the community.”
Throughout the 2023 season, brave individuals and families in the northern Nevada community have been honored by taking a ceremonial trip around the bases, with each team lining the baselines. Individuals honored have been personally impacted by organ, eye and tissue donation.
“Our partnership with Donor Network West over the last two years has brought 12 Home Run for Life games to Greater Nevada Field and our fans,” Chris Phillips, general manager and chief operating officer for the Reno Aces said. “Each game participant has shown bravery and generosity in sharing their stories with our community in efforts to encourage others to say yes to organ donation.”
The Reno Aces and SK Baseball have announced the first significant renovation plan in Greater Nevada Field’s history with a multi-year, multi-million-dollar transformation for the 14-year-old ballpark today.
Working with 505 Design, the Aces have set into motion phase one of its three-year facility makeover, which will touch every facet of the ballpark, from increasing the fan experience to continuing to keep the facility within MLB compliance with the team’s PDL.
“Our ownership team continues to substantially reinvest to maintain Greater Nevada Field as one of the premier facilities in the country,” said Reno Aces General Manager & COO Chris Phillips. “We take pride that our ballpark is a jewel for the city of Reno and Northern Nevada, and these renovations will ensure that when fans come to an event here, they enjoy a world-class experience long into the future.”
Phase one of the renovations will include the following areas of Greater Nevada Field.
Home Clubhouse Renovations
The Reno Aces ballplayers will enjoy an upgraded clubhouse, which includes converting the original visitor’s clubhouse into an upgraded player’s lounge with relaxation spaces that incorporate big-screen televisions and a new food service area. A female staff locker room will be created by modifying the original visitor’s coaches and manager’s offices to comply with MLB PDL guidelines.
The Club Upstairs at Greater Nevada Field
Greater Nevada Field’s most extensive offseason renovation will be at the former Bugsy’s Club. Fans will enjoy a brand-new and revitalized premium experience featuring the reconfiguration of the club with additional seating and giant windows facing downtown Reno!
Jack Daniels & Coke and Jack Daniels & Coke Zero Double Play Deck
Fans will have the chance to enjoy a brand-new concourse suite at Greater Nevada Field. A new private group area for 40–50 people with food service will be located right on the concourse along the first-base line at section 106, which will offer the closest views of any of the group areas.
High Noon Home Bar
The right-field berm area at Greater Nevada Field will have a new landmark as the existing bar space will enjoy a reimagined experience with a reimagined space highlighting the laid-back attitude of a summer day at the ballpark, which will include a new wooden trellis and fan system to keep the Aces fans cool throughout the season.