By Boots Giblin | [email protected]
Get ready: the Alexandria Aces’ 2022-2023 season will begin next week, on June 7, at Frank Mann Field.
After advancing to the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League Championship Series last year and falling to perennial powerhouse Bethesda Big Train, the Aces will look to build off of what was their best season in the organization’s history, with a 22-15 record. The Aces are also adapting to the challenge of preparing for their first season with no COVID-19 restrictions since 2019.
As a nonprofit organization, the Aces benefit from being sponsored by Alexandria small businesses. The pandemic had a two-year stranglehold on these businesses – mostly restaurants – putting the Aces’ management in a difficult position they were eventually able to work through.
Aidan Lansburgh, the team’s general manager, touched on the difficulty he and the rest of the management team faced during the 2021 season.
“While it was great to experience the on-the-field success the team had last year, which definitely garnered a lot of support and attention from the community, the business side of things posed problems. In years previous, we had been fortunate to receive support from local businesses that were heavily restaurants in Alexandria,” Lansburgh said. “As we all know … the restaurant business suffered so much through the COVID times, they weren’t able to support us like normal, and we had to pivot to other ways to find sponsorships and donations.”
While the period may have been a scramble, Lansburgh said the management team was able to pivot to other sources of financial help.
“We moved to going door-to-door of local businesses in the Del Ray area, as well as reaching out to previous donors, and we were lucky to receive really large and generous donations,” Lansburgh said. “We have continued the door-to-door approach as businesses are still feeling the effects.”
As the business side was built up, so was the performance of the team on the diamond.
“Our transition was certainly difficult, but we were able to do things successfully which has put us in a good spot for ourselves in the future to build off of, similarly to where the team is now on the field, they have really built a great foundation, and are only looking to improve,” Lansburgh said. “The Aces, an organization that as a whole, is on the rise.”
Chris Berset, in his fourth year as Aces head coach, didn’t shy away from saying that this year’s team will have the same expectations considering it will be a very talented group on paper.
“We had a great team last year, but this is a new year, and yes, we are developing these guys,” Berset said.
The Aces roster is comprised of the highest level of collegiate baseball players, all attending Division I schools. Two Alexandria natives, Ryan Osinksi and Reese Crochet, will also be playing for the Aces this summer.
Returning players include Adam Tellier, from Ball State University, and Connor Offschack, from Elon University.
Berset was very complimentary of the incoming team and its level of talent.
“We have some great ball players that will be a part of the team this year, and we have a number of guys that will be able to give us great at-bats, and play great defense for us,” Berset said. “Overall, our strength as a ball club will be having many guys who can produce offensively and play in the field for us.”
Berset said pitching depth and consistency will be key to the on-field success of this year’s team, along with the perennial problem of staying healthy.
“We will have the positional players we need, and we definitely have some talented arms for pitching, but staying consistent with our pitching as well as staying healthy will be a key, as we had to work through a lot of positional injuries last year that required a lot of stepping up from other players at difficult parts of the season,” Berset said. “If we can find the right combinations with what we have with our arms, and helping those guys find where they fit in the rotation, we could have a great year.”
Berset has coached noteworthy players like Chris Alleyne, an outfielder from Maryland, who is in contention for Big Ten conference player of the year, others who have played in all levels of professional baseball, and for prestigious programs like Vanderbilt and Davidson. He said he receives a large amount of satisfaction from seeing his players develop.
“I put a lot of trust in the other college coaches I know, having known their expertise when recruiting kids for our program, and to see these guys gel with each other and play well individually, and play winning ball it’s really nice to see,” Berset said.
The combination of continued growth each year under the tutelage of Berset, an experienced college coach, and post-COVID-19 improvements on the business side, aid the Aces’ chances at on-field success this summer.
They still have areas for improvement, such as building more sponsorships and enhancing the process by which players who are here for the summer secure housing. But the Alexandria Aces are looking to build something special as they take on the Olney Cropdusters on June 7 to launch their 2022 season.