On the Road: Rain Delays and Triple Plays in Reno

I’ve traveled quite a bit over the past four seasons, and in that time I’ve kept meteorological misfortune to a minimum. The only time whilst “On the Road” in which I experienced a rainout was in 2010, when a vicious Chattanooga thunderstorm put a halt to any and all Southern League activities that had been scheduled for that evening at AT&T Field (or, as I like to call it, “Orphan Initialism Field”)

When I arrived at Reno Aces Ballpark on a recent Thursday it was decidedly overcast, hardly the sort of day that sets hearts to fluttering.

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“But, still,” I thought to myself,” “This is Reno. I don’t think that there are ever rainouts here. It’s, like, near a desert or something.”

This was an exact thought-quote.

Upon entering the ballpark (which, as you may be able to infer from the above pictures, is located in downtown proper) I met with Aces marketing director Brett McGinness and we embarked on a tour of the facility. For some reason, the very first picture that I took is of a deserted (for the time being) cornhole bago area.

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“This started as a bocce court, but bocce didn’t fit the Reno aesthetic,” Brett told me. “Bago has been much more popular.”

Also representative of the Reno aesthetic are huge meat smokers in the shape of a train.

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Aces Ballpark is the centerpiece of Reno’s entertainment-centric “Freight District” and the city is a major trucking and transit hub in general, so the train motif makes sense. There are train tracks located directly beyond left field, for goodness sake.

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The scene is different in right field, as there one finds the Truckee River.

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To the right of right field, out in the distance, on the horizon, there are mountains.

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But as for the more immediate surroundings? Take a look:

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Refreshment options abounded, actually.

Outside there were food trucks, or, as nobody calls them: vehicular comestible purveyors.

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Upstairs, this was the scene at “Bugsy’s.

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“Bugsy’s” is so named because “Bugsy” is the nickname of Aces manager Brett Butler. Butler got that name during his playing days, when his snazzy sartorial sense inspired teammate Mike Krukow to remark that he dressed like mobster Bugsy Siegel, and the name stuck.

Keep in mind that I was walking around the ballpark with a guy named Brett [McGinness], who told me that “Growing up Brett Butler was my favorite player, because there were no other Bretts playing baseball. Now when I’m walking around the ballpark Brett [Butler] will see me and say ‘How’s it going, Brett’ and I’m like ‘Wow, dream come true!’ Brett Butler knows my name!”

Such interaction is par for the Brett Butler course, actually, as prior to the season he requests short bios of the Aces front office so that he can competently make small talk with them when the need arises. That’s just the kind of guy Brett Butler is!

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There are plenty of food and drink options at Aces Ballpark — especially if you DON’T want to watch the game. There’s an entire attached entertainment district that is collectively referred to as “The Freight House.”

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Bago can be found up here as well,  beneath the upper torso of a glowering neon baseball player.

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It is rumored, but not confirmed, that this player was modeled after veteran infielder Cody Ransom.

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Meanwhile, game time was almost upon us. In the following Vine, the PA announcer’s exhortation to “Play Ball” occurs about half a second after a jagged bolt of lighting cuts across the sky. Baseball and lightning are, generally speaking, incompatible.

But the game had begun and there was nothing to do but keep on keeping on, despite the less-than-ideal conditions. The evening’s originally scheduled “designated eater” (you know, the individual who consumes the ballpark delicacies that my gluten-free diet prohibits) was a local DJ/Aces superfan/Reno man-about-town named Chris Payne.

Payne was recently voted Reno’s “best public figure to fantasize about,” so have at it:

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Unfortunately, Payne’s own recent set of dietary restrictions — he had given up red meat– rendered him unable to adequately perform designated eating duties.  All I could do was admire his tattoos and footwear and move on.

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“I take what I do as a fan to the next level,” said Chris. “I’m always thinking eight steps ahead of everyone else.”

Desperate times call for desperate measures, so Into the designated eating void stepped Brett McGinness himself. And first up for Brett was the $15 Triple Play sandwich, which consists of 18-hour smoked brisket and pork shoulder, BBQ-glazed meatballs, cole slaw, three pieces of Texas toast, pickles, and peperoncinis. After you order it, you are given the following sign so that an Aces food service worker can come out and hand deliver it.

(In the below photo, senior sous chef Brad Radack is holding the sign. We’ll meet Brad in just a bit.)

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What a beauty this thing is!

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Have at it, Brett!

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As Brett methodically consumed the above item with grace and aplomb, the situation on the field went from bad to worse.

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Say what you will about radar, it is incapable of untruths. And, sure enough, about 10 minutes after the first pitch, the skies opened up. It was a veritable deluge, and Brett abandoned the Triple Play sandwich in favor of tarp duty.

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The concourse, in which elbow room had once been so plentiful, quickly became a mob scene.

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Two brave — or would that be insane? — souls stuck it out in the stands.

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The Aces’ tarp work was exemplary, and after the situation was under control Brett returned. (His sandwich, however, did not. I have no idea where that thing went.)

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The Aces had prepared a rather ambitious schedule for me, involving many aspects of the game day experience, but the rains rendered this schedule moot. (At the time the rain hit I was preparing to take part in a trike race, because, as Brett said, “We figured we’d put you on a metal object in a thunderstorm.”)

Okay, fine. Plan B: watched Brett eat more food. What a life. This time we headed up to Duffy’s, a member in good standing of the Freight House conglomerate:

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Brett, still soaking wet, soon had before him Duffy’s version of a reuben: corned beef, french fries and dressing on rye, cooked in a woodstone pizza oven.

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Chef Radack reported that this is a new item, and it has been popular as a late night selection (Duffy’s opens 90 minutes before the game and then stays open until midnight or so). Brett, he enjoyed it.

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It’s not on the menu, unfortunately, but Chef Radack and his crew were kind enough to prepare me some gluten-free pizza. On the left is pepperoni, on the right is the veggie-centric “Farmer’s Market” (onions, zucchini, peppers, pomodoro sauce).

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Radack and crew, awaiting my reaction:

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Thumbs-up, guys! (Seriously, please don’t kill me.)

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It really was good — I’m not sure what type of flour was used, but it resulted in a crisp thin crust and that’s all I ever ask for. (Well, that and fresh ingredients. And impeccable presentation. And affordability. And a complete and total obsequiousness to my every passing whim.)

Meanwhile, outdoors, the rains had subsided. That was the good news. The bad news was that so much rain had fallen in so little time that the field remained sodden and certainly would remain sodden for some time.

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Well, okay, then. In order to pass the time I resumed my new favorite activity: watching Brett McGinness eat. Here’s a Caesar wrap on a spinach tortilla, Brett. Do with it what you will.

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“I’m like the Homer Simpson of food critics,” said Brett, commenting on his perhaps-less-than-discerning taste. “This is awesome, too. I love it!”

Well, then, you may as well keep right on eating. Here’s a Frito Pie Dog, in which a 10-inch hot dog is topped with chili, cheese, and Fritos.

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Previous Homer Simpson-esque proclamations notwithstanding, Brett was starting to get a little burned out.

“This, it tasted like a Frito Pie Dog,” he said. “Whatever you imagine it tastes like, that’s what it tastes like.”

This would prove to be Brett’s first and final tautological culinary observation of the evening, as word soon came over the PA that there would no more Pacific Coast League baseball on this rain-besmirched Reno evening.

My sentiments exactly, videoboard. My sentiments exactly.

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2013 marks the Aces’ fifth season, and this was just their third-ever rainout. What a disappointment for such an anomaly to occur on the lone night that I was in Reno, as there is so much of the Aces experience left to be seen!

Perhaps, through a combination of technological chicanery and good old fashioned elbow grease, I’ll be able to find a way to show you some of these things. Who really does know?

Stay tuned…

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

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