Pence, Panik make Triple A experience great

With a beautiful mountainous backdrop overlooking third base, the Reno Aces continue to provide the region an affordable opportunity to watch the next best thing to the big leagues.

The Sacramento River Cats, affiliate of the Giants, brought some star power as they conclude a four-game series tonight at Greater Nevada Field. World Series champs Hunter Pence and Joe Panik joined the team this week as they continue on assignment before getting back to San Francisco to help the struggling Giants. You will also recognize several other names across the PA system with Travis Ishikawa, Andrew Susac and Colby Tomlinson starting for Sacramento.

This is what makes minor league baseball great.

While it’s not the majors, Triple A is the last stop for many who began their journey with rookie ball. Some joined immediately out of high school while others gave college a shot before jumping into professional baseball. It’s a rewarding experience to progress from the lowest level to Triple A where you’re on the brink of making it to The Show.

Several hot commodities have graced the Reno field since its inception in 2009.

Giants favorites like Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner made stops in Reno. The Aces, an affiliate of the Diamondbacks, have seen similar success stories run through their program before heading to Arizona. Aside from the Giants and Diamondbacks, Mike Trout, Sonny Gray, Josh Donaldson and even Manny Ramirez made appearances in the Biggest Little City.

This season has been a treat to Giants fans with Pence and Co. headlining this week’s round of stars coming to Reno. Two-time Cy Young winner and World Series champ Tim Lincecum pitched against the Aces last month as he threw his final tune-up game before his call up to Anaheim to throw for the Angels.

The crowd was electric, even for a day game while the kids were in school. A sold-out, heavy Giants contingent witnessed a once-dominant pitcher trying to come back to the big leagues. He didn’t disappoint and the fans reminded everyone that Northern Nevada roots for the Bay Area.

The area roots for the Aces regardless of affiliation. They’re the hometown team much like the Wolf Pack. Diamondback fans really don’t exist and it’s evident when the A’s or Giants’ Triple A team comes to town. The Aces turn into the visiting team when it comes to noise level.

The arrival of the Aces seven years ago came at a time when the economy turned for the worse. People needed a distraction and baseball provided it.

Whether you’re watching the next great big leaguer make his way to the top or a former great doing a rehab assignment, professional baseball doesn’t get any better. The price is family friendly and the entertainment and opportunity to watch these stars take the field make Triple A baseball great. Mackay Stadium had this magical feel about it, especially when Coach Chris Ault roamed the sidelines in his last stint as the team’s commander.

Thomas Ranson can be contacted at


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