Before the first-ever Reno Aces home game in 2009, Aces staffers were eager to talk about a lot of things — the logo, the seats, the food, the mascot. (Full disclosure: I was one of them, serving as the Aces director of marketing for the team's first six seasons.)
But there was one surprise we managed to keep under wraps.During the first-ever seventh-inning stretch, a giant, grinning baseball rose from behind the center field wall. And then it started singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
Based on the fans’ reaction, you would have thought a UFO had just landed.
Mr. Baseball, as the baseball puppet is known, is still a fan favorite nearly 900 sing-alongs later. He’s a reason to stick around for the later innings on chilly nights, or during blowout games.
But what’s his whole deal?
Singing a different tune
Archie, the Aces' furry red mascot, hasa backstory as the “Sasquatch of the Sierra,” a friendlycreature who descended from the foothills to set up shop at Reno’s ballpark. ButMr. Baseball is an enigma. Does he have a first name? Does he have a personality?
Or, at a more basic level: Does he have a body, or is he just the head and hands?
Yes, of course, the entire contraption is justa head and hands. But are we, as fans, supposed to imagine that he’s more than that behind the wall?There are two schools of thought:
1) Mr. Baseball is just a head and hands. What fans see during the seventh-inning stretch is the entire character.
2) Mr. Baseball has a body, but it’s unseen. He’s a humanlike creature,like a Stay-Puft Marshmallow Manwith a baseball for a head, peeking over the wall to sing a song every now and then.
What does the evidence say? What do Aces fans and employees think? I set out to the ballpark on a warm Wednesday night to find out.
It's Aug. 31,a solid crowd for a school night in the middle of the week. The Aces are having a fantastic season on the field whilebuildingthe largest division lead in all of Minor League Baseball. The in-game entertainment team, the Aceball Crew, is knocking it out of the park as well, with new-for-’22 games involving inner tubes, giant tricycles, rubber chickens and fryer baskets.
But I'm here to find the consensus on Mr. Baseball. I ask Adam Nichols, the first-year communications manager for the Aces.
"I think he has a body, yeah," he says, after pondering for a moment.
Sarah Bliss, vice president of event experience and an Aces staffer since year one, disagrees.
"His entire body is just the baseball," she says without hesitating. "I buy the merchandise for the team store, and it just has the head and hands."
Chris Payne, Aces in-park announcer, says the puppet has a Mr. Met-esque body. Or perhaps a Jack Skellington-esque body. Either way, there's more there than just the head.
Members of the Aceball Crew are split almost evenly.
As I ask people — staff and fans alike— a pattern emerges. People are confident in their own answer, and utterly creeped out by the opposite theory.
How would he get around if he didn't have legs? Just scuttle around on his fingertips everywhere?
Or, conversely:He's just a baseball. What would he need with a body?He doesn't need to go anywhere else.
On the diamond, the Aces jump out to a quick lead.By the middle of the fifth, Reno leads Las Vegas, 4 to 1. And in my informal poll, "he has a body" has an 11-6 lead over "no, he doesn't."
I head out to center field to get a closer look at the situation.
Behind the center field fence, Gary Cortes and Eric Regalado are suiting up inside giant inflatable contraptions, a cross between inner tubes andhamster balls. In between innings, they'll waddle at one another full-speed in another fan-favorite promotion, Bubble Ball. The first one to knock down the other one twice wins.
I ask Cortes about Mr. Baseball's true form. He says it's just a ball and hands, but doesn't have a terribly strong opinion about it.
I ask Regalado.
"I don't know what this is," he says, looking at my drawing, and I begin to doubt my artisticskill.
"You know, the singing baseball … at the seventh inning stretch," I say. "Does he have a body, or is he just a head and hands?"
"Sorry, this is only my second baseball game ever," he says.
"He's only been to two games," Cortes echoes.
Regalado eventually agrees with Cortes that it's only a head, possibly because I seemed so insistent that hehave an opinion on such things. A third out is recorded, and the two march out on the field to do battle. Regalado wins two out of three.
I sincerely hope Regalado doesn't think this is what it's like to come to a baseball game — running full-speed at his bubble-wrapped friend after getting grilled by some random guypretending to bea journalist. It would be impossible to live up to the standard on future trips to the ballpark.
Finally, it's the seventh-inning stretch. I sneak through the fence with Aceball Crew member Allicia Blake. She's pursuing a career in sports business;she has zero interest in pursuing a career in puppetry.But on this night— and every night this season— she's in charge of being inside the city's largest puppet, moving Mr. Baseball's lips along with the music.
We climb intoMr. Baseball's head,about the same size as a bounce house. The noise from the air compressor is almost deafening. Blake's walkie-talkie crackles to life— it's time to sing. Sheflips a few switches and the Mr. Baseball platform quickly rises and lurches out and over the center field wall. I'm suddenly very aware of how high off the ground we are, and how there are no handrails protecting newbies from stepping off the edge.
I cling to a steel pole near the back of the platform while Blake works the bellows-like contraption to lip-synch the words. How long is this song, anyway? I don't dare check my watch lest I let go of the pole, but I estimate we were in the air for about two weeks.
It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience — seriously, I really can't see why I'd ever do that again— but getting inside Mr. Baseball's head doesn't offer any insight into what's in Aces fans' heads.Once my hands stop shaking, I text the team's highest authority: Aces President Eric Edelstein, who teaches a class at the UNR College of Business on Wednesday nights.
"No body," he responds. "Imagine a magician chopping off a head. His head sits on a platter."
Grim! But Edelstein's vote makes it a 14-14 tie.
I need a fan with a sense of imagination and wonder to break the tie.
Chris Payne stops a mom and her son— who appears to be around 9 or 10—making a beeline to the Team Shop.
"Hey, can we ask you a question?"
I show the son my drawing. "What do you think the singing baseball looks like— does he have a body, or not?"
We have unwittingly summoned the world's most analytic child, who explains to me patiently that the ball is inflated before the seventh-inning stretch, and then lifted up and over the wall on a platform. (Adults, man. Sometimes you have to explain the most obvious things to them.)
Still all tied up. My last stop is back in the press box, where I ask Dora Cantu, the Aces' production and game entertainment coordinator. She's a veteran of sports entertainment at every level, from the Oakland A's to the Bismarck Larks. She casts the final, deciding vote: Yes, he has a body.
There you have it, according toa highly unscientific poll: On this particular Wednesday night, in the imagination of fans and staff, Mr. Baseball is indeed more than just a head.
Brett McGinness is the engagement editor for the Reno Gazette Journal. He's also the writer of The Reno Memo — a free newsletter about news in the Biggest Little City. Subscribe to the newsletter right here. Consider supporting the Reno Gazette Journal,too.
More:The Reno Memo's guide to the Biggest Little City's civic feuds
More:Unbuilt: The Northern Nevada that might have been
"Archie, the Reno Aces mascot, is responsible for visiting and entertaining fans and being involved in in-game entertainment as requested," the team said in the post.Who are the Reno Aces a farm team for? ›
#Dbacks announce their 4 Minor League affiliates for 2021: Reno (AAA), Amarillo (AA), Hillsboro (advanced-A), Visalia (A). The team will also have an entry in the Arizona League and Dominican Summer League.What stadium do the Reno Aces use as their home field? ›
Greater Nevada Field, home to Triple-A Baseball's Reno Aces, is Northern Nevada's premier sports, entertainment and event venue! This 9,534 capacity stadium sets the standard for venue excellence with state-of-the-art technology, comfort and amenities.Who owns Greater Nevada field? ›
|Record attendance||10,520 (July 4, 2016)|
Triple-A (officially Class AAA) has been the highest level of play in Minor League Baseball in the United States since 1946.How long is a baseball game? ›
The average length of a nine-inning MLB regular season game over the last 10 seasons is just north of three hours. The last time the average length was less than three hours was in 2015.How much do Reno Aces tickets cost? ›
For the current season, Reno Aces tickets are starting as low as $10.00, with the most expensive tickets priced at $396.00. The average price of tickets for the 2022 season is around $55.16.What is the Las Vegas aviators mascot? ›
Cosmo is a survivor of a spaceship crash who spent time at "Area 51" and was a baseball phenom on his home planet of Koufaxia. Cosmo makes numerous appearances at elementary schools, businesses and charity functions. For more information regarding Cosmo, call the Aviators office at (702) 943-7200!How much do Minor League Baseball players make? ›
The resulting situation is that salaries in the minor leagues range from around $4800 to $14000 per year. Per year. If you work full time at a minimum wage job, you will make $32,344 per year. You would be earning more than double what most professional baseball players earn.What level of Minor League Baseball is the highest? ›
Triple-A (officially Class AAA) has been the highest level of play in Minor League Baseball in the United States since 1946.
Minor League Baseball (MiLB) is professional baseball below Major League Baseball (MLB), including teams affiliated with MLB clubs and independent baseball leagues consisting of unaffiliated teams.