By Hannah Brockway (Photo/Mark Briscoe)
With the season opener for the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League just around the corner on June 2, the Alexandria Aces are starting to get into the swing of things. Manager David DeSilva has spent a long time assembling a roster of ballplayers from multiple programs for the summer season, including several strong NCAA Division I and Division II schools. After qualifying for the playoffs the past two years, they’re poised and ready for a run at the 2015 league championship.
“Essentially it’s never ending. I’m already working on players for next year right now,” said DeSilva on the recruiting process. “It’s really about relationships; it’s a fluid process, but the deeper my relationships run with college coaches the more willing they’re going to be to send me their top guys every year.”
Turnover of the roster is inevitable given the nature of summer leagues, especially as players have plenty of options across the country for places where they can hone their skills. However, the Aces are unperturbed.
“Each year is different, you have a new group of guys, new personalities, but everyone is there for one reason, and that is to play baseball. You come in with a common ground that we’re here to play baseball, we’re here to enjoy ourselves, we’re here to get better,” said DeSilva.
DeSilva is returning for his fourth season with the Aces and his third as manager. He led them to a winning record of 27-17 in 2013, then followed that up in 2014 with a mark of 23-17. DeSilva has led the Aces to the playoffs for the past two years and doesn’t plan on slowing down.
“When I started three years ago as the manager, it was something that I wanted to build,” he said. “I think this year we have taken the next step to put a better product on the field. But even though it is a completely new squad, our goal is to progress every year. We want to put up a better record, we want to have a playoff run and hopefully bring home a championship to Alexandria.”
The lack of returning starters doesn’t deter the coaching staff, even though they are likely to have limited numbers for practices and their opening games of the season. Many players are set to compete in the NCAA playoffs and the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. through
mid-June, but DeSilva believes this will not present any setbacks for the team’s development.
“Last year, we had two players from Texas Tech that went all the way to the College World Series, those players didn’t come in until late June,” DeSilva recalled. “This year we have 12 players that could potentially be late: several ACC guys, [players from] Clemson, Florida State, UVA, College of Charleston, Stony Brook, Rice, all of those guys are going to make regionals at least.”
In addition to the turnover of the Aces roster, the Cal Ripken League has also undergone some significant changes ahead of the new season. The league is now divided into North and South divisions based on geography, with the top two teams from each division joined by the two teams with the next best records in the six-team playoff competition.
DeSilva said he and his team is excited to be a part of the changing league, especially as it continues to attract more and more quality players from around the country.
“Our ultimate goal is to win both the regular season league championship and the playoff championship,” he said. “The coaching staff is hard at work with the game plan and strategy. These guys are going to go out there every day; they’re going to play hard and we’re obviously trying to win.
“As it gets later in the season that strategy might change to try to position us a little bit, to try and set us up for a strong playoff run, but ultimately I want them to get the experience and put a good team on the field, so I don’t see [the division restructuring] affecting us too much.”
Confidence is key this season, and the Aces have it, especially with the depth of talent on offer to DeSilva and his coaching staff.
“I think we’ve upgraded from a program perspective,” he said. “Meaning the schools and the programs that we have drawn players from, this is the first year that we’ve had top 25 Division I programs. These players are coming from top quality programs, both Divisions I and II, they know how to win and what it takes to win and these players are very driven to succeed and get better.
“That’s really all I can ask for when I’m recruiting these guys. I want somebody who is going to come in, really enjoy the experience, loves getting after it every day, coming to the ballpark. Our team is stacked and I feel good that we’re going to put a competitive product on the field every night.”
With the team expecting strong home support and having already gotten community involvement to help their players off the field, the Aces expect 2015 to be one of their best seasons yet.