By Jim McElhatton (Photo/Jim McElhatton)
Dozens of players from the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League are drafted each year by Major League Baseball teams, including former Aces pitcher Kyle Zimmer, a first-round pick for the Kansas City Royals in 2012.
The interns of the Alexandria Aces aren’t much different, although they won’t show up on any box scores. They’re here for the experience, hoping to land a job in professional sports in the future.
“We’re affiliated with Major League Baseball, which puts money into the Cal Ripken League, and so it’s going to be a great resume builder,” said Aces team director Frank Fannon.
“We wanted to enhance the intern program and what we’ve done this year is let these guys run the operation and organization. I’m here as the shepherd so to say, but they’re the ones with their feet on the ground taking care of the day to day operations.”
The Aces are a nonprofit organization, one of 11 teams in the league. Like Fannon, members of the team’s management have outside jobs. That puts an unusual level of responsibility on the interns compared to other internship programs in D.C. area.
A few weeks ago, the morning before the Aces beat the league-leading Bethesda Big Train, three of the interns gathered around a conference table in an office in Old Town to discuss the week ahead.
With Fannon on hand, Ali Murphy, a student at Morehead State University, opened the meeting with a discussion of upcoming sponsorship nights. She’s in charge of overseeing who is tasked with just about every off-the-field job on game day.
The group went on to discuss subjects important to any baseball executive at any level: balance sheets, accounting, gate sales and corporate sponsorships. Their work might not be as obvious as that of the players on the diamond, but it’s vital in running the team.
“We’re hands on,” she said. “We’re getting a lot of experience and doing a bit of everything, not just marketing or business management.”
Along with Murphy, three other interns joined the Aces this year — Brandon Bunce, Patrick O’Connell and Tyler Remerow. Bunce is a student at Virginia Tech, O’Connell went to Bishop Ireton and Remerow grew up in south Florida.
“I had no clue what we were going to be doing, but that first day we were out selling sponsorships and thrown right into the mix,” Bunce said.
Lukas Favale joined the Aces as an intern three seasons ago. Now, he’s the team’s play-by-play radio announcer and the team’s writer, posting reports after each game to their official website.
A recent graduate of Syracuse University, Favale says hockey is his favorite sport, but you wouldn’t know that listening to him call Aces games.
“Ballgame over! Aces win!” he shouted enthusiastically just after the team’s huge victory over Bethesda, which featured a complete game by right-handed pitcher Sean Thompson.
Favale said that while he’s not from around here, he must like Alexandria because he keeps coming back.
One of his predecessors in the Aces broadcast booth, Matt Krause, worked for the team from the eighth grade until college. He’s now broadcasting games for the Burlington Royals, a minor league affiliate of the Kansas City Royals in the rookie level Appalachian League.
“You see how the organization has grown in just a couple of years,” Favale said. “I was the only intern here aside from Matt and so it’s been good to see more interns. They have a more defined role.”
Fannon said the team, which also has other interns, probably won’t have fewer than five from now on. He said the team also has worked with T.C. Williams High School on internships.
“This has been our most successful season off the field with the leadership these guys have all brought to the organization,” Fannon said. “It’s like any job. You have to be up to the task.”