The thermostat may have hovered around 40 degrees, but fans were energetic and business was booming at the beer and concession stands to signify the return of baseball to downtown Reno.
The Reno Aces kicked off their 13th home opener on Tuesday by hosting the Sacramento River Cats at Greater Nevada Field.
The weather didn’t affect hometown hitters, as the Aces hit 14 hits, including four homers, en route to an 11-4 victory.
The cold weather – coupled with Tuesday afternoon playing weather – likely didn’t help attendance, which officials said hit 4,305.
There were four ceremonial ‘first’ pitches before the game, including KTVN’s Joe Hart, Nevada football coach Ken Wilson, Reno Olympic medal-winning freestyle skier David Wise – and John Doetch, a donor who received a second chance at life 25 years ago thanks to a heart transplant.
Cliff Porter of Reno, a longtime local musician, sang the national anthem and then the first pitch was officially thrown at 1:09 p.m. with a temperature of 39 degrees during the game.
Chris Payne brought his usual high energy as an on-pitch announcer, as he will do all season when he hosts the many games between innings for the spectators.
Aces second baseman Camden Duzenack hit a grand slam late in the fourth inning for the Aces’ first runs at Greater Nevada Field this season. It was Duzenack’s third home run this year and gave Reno a 4-0 lead.
Sacramento manager Dave Brundage wondered if the home run was above or below the yellow line under the scoreboard and was ejected.
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Duzenack said he had his head down around first base when the ball hit the wall; his teammates told him it was, indeed, a home run.
“It’s always good to play with a baseball, and when it gets out of here, it’s even better,” Duzenack said after the game.
Given the cold weather and playing time midweek and midday, he said players were unsure what kind of crowd to expect.
“They showed up and it was a lot of fun. We had a lot of fun today,” Duzenack said. “We had very good crowds last season, and I expect nothing less this year.”
He said dealing with the cold is like playing mind games in your own head to forget about it.
Aces manager Gil Velazquez said the Aces, especially the offense, did just that.
“You get used to it. A game at 1pm helps a bit,” he said after the game. “You felt the energy. I was more locked into the game, but right from the start you felt good energy.”
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“I can’t ask for anything more. Home runs after home runs, good hits with two outs. They’re doing a good job,” Velazquez added of the offense. “Most of the time in weather like this the bats don’t react as well, but I don’t think we’ve given it too much thought. I haven’t heard anyone complain about the weather or the baseball, don’t feeling no grip on the ball.”
Aces starting pitcher Tyler Gilbert didn’t allow a run until the fifth inning, grounding in the middle. He picked up the win after allowing four runs and six hits in six innings.
The River Cats tied it at four in the fifth on a David Villar three-point shot down center left, but the Aces added three more runs late in the fifth.
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Reno’s Matt Davidson hit two home runs; his second gave the Aces an 8-4 lead over the River Cats in the bottom of the sixth. Stuart Fairchild added a right-hand home run in the seventh inning.
Hitting DH, Stone Garrett delivered the Aces’ first hit to GNF of the season, a right-hand single with a runner in the first and two out in the first inning.
The sun peeked out from the clouds throughout the match and a light breeze blew everywhere, but fans seemed to not mind the cold as most were dressed for a winter day.
Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve declared April 12 as “Reno Aces Day” via a proclamation read by Reno Councilman Devon Reese.
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Tuesday’s game featured a shorter pitching clock than last season, a new effort instituted this year in Minor League Baseball to increase the pace of play. Pitchers now have 14 seconds between pitches without runners on base and 19 seconds with runners on base.
Additionally, a batter must enter the batter’s box with at least 9 seconds remaining. Pitchers are also only allowed two pick-off or step-off attempts. Tuesday’s official playing time was 3 hours and 1 minute.
Also new this season, a robot umpire that will signal balls and strikes won’t be used until May 17, as MLB technicians visit various Pacific Coast League stadiums to ensure the technology is connected. and works properly.
The Automated Strike Zone will roll out to all PCL baseball diamonds on the same date. The strike zone, which has been measured for each PCL player, will send the call to the human standing behind home plate.
The human referee will still call all other plays on the court and determine if hits are fair or wrong.
Reno Aces homestand this week
Wednesday: vs. Sacramento River Cats, 6:05 p.m.
Thusday: vs. Sacramento River Cats, 11:05 a.m.
Friday: vs. Sacramento River Cats, 6:05 p.m.
Saturday: vs. Sacramento River Cats, 4:05 p.m.
Sunday: vs. Sacramento River Cats, 1:05 p.m.
Jim Krajewski covers high school and youth sports for the Reno Gazette Journal. Follow him on Twitter @RGJPreps. Support his work by subscribing to RGJ.com.