Reno Aces bearded slugger Cody Decker smashes baseballs at the plate and forearms in the dugout.
An 11-year minor league veteran, Decker, 32, launched a 2-0 fastball over the wall in left field for his 200th career minor league homer — a two-run shot — in a 12-8 loss to the Las Vegas Aviators Tuesday night at Greater Nevada Field. He finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs. In 1,011 career games, he has 209 doubles, 635 RBIs and 1,713 total bases.
Whether he is the home run hitter or the congratulating teammate in the dugout, Decker will supply a arm-to-arm connection, popularized in the juicy 1990s by Oakland A’s Jose Canseco and Mark McGuire, who were called the Bash Brothers.
“It’s not really a forearm bash, it’s more of an explosion,” he said. “I started doing that when I was in El Paso in 2014. … (teammate) Travis Buck and I would always pull that out.”
Along with a forearm explosion, Decker provides plenty of pop and personality since his arrival to Reno on April 8, 2018.
“The guys only do it with me,” he said. “I have my own forearm explosion and handshakes with some of the guys. But it’s pretty fun here.”
Since his first game, Decker’s powerful swing was destined for The Biggest Little City. Similar to his 200th, he launched his first Aces homer over the scoreboard in left field in his Reno debut against the Fresno Grizzlies. Decker had two more home runs on April 9.
“I’ve gotten to know Reno a lot over the last eight years,” he said. “Just being an opposing player and going up against them. It’s a very comfortable place to be, great place to hit. It’s very easy to navigate compared to other places that aren’t so easy to navigate.”
Reno may have been a change of scenery for Decker, but Greater Nevada Field isn’t anything new to the bearded basher. He’s grown accustomed to windy, high elevation ballparks playing his 11th season with 13 minor league teams. Five teams are in the Pacific Coast League.
“I think it gets a much bigger reputation than it actually deserves,” he said. “There’s other places in this league where the ball flies just as well like El Paso, Albuquerque and Vegas. It’s not really all that unique. … We are elevated, but I think it’s just the reputation of the Pacific Coast League itself.”
In an interview with Tahoe Onstage last season, Decker proclaimed he has the best beard in baseball. His personality follows him off the field.
“I have a lot of interests outside of baseball that I like to go after,” he said. “I do some acting roles here and there. I do some radio stuff. I like just going to the movies. During the off-season, I’m just as busy as I am during the season.”
On the field, it’s Decker’s experience and knowledge of the game that can translate to a manager position, tying a bow on a career full of laughs and dingers.
“It’s something I’ve thought about,” he said. “I’ve turned down a couple of manager jobs over the past couple of years. It’s there if I want it.”
Decker is making the most of his Aces’ tenure. He’ll serve as the team’s first base coach on off-days and made sure to stick with the team when he was in extended spring training at the beginning of the year.
“You gotta do what you gotta do,” he said. “When you’re not on the roster you need to do whatever you can to make yourself as useful to the team as possible.”
The love of the game bleeds through Decker, and he isn’t ready to call it quits on his baseball dream just yet.
“I enjoy playing baseball, I just love playing it,” he said. “There’s other aspects of the game that I don’t like as much but playing baseball is my favorite thing to do. … My life has always been baseball oriented for the last 15 to 20 years.”
Cron, Payton, Riordan ejected in Aces loss
Reno Aces manager Chris Cron, Las Vegas manager Fran Riordan and Aviators right fielder Mark Payton were all ejected from the game.
Cron was tossed in the bottom of the sixth inning arguing balls and strikes with home plate umpire Malachi Moore. Cron has two ejections on the season.
Payton had a few parting words for Moore after striking out in the eighth inning, which led to an early shower. Riordan came storming out of the visitor’s dugout to argue Moore’s strike zone and was ejected soon after.
After taking the first two games of the series, Las Vegas battled back to take the last two games. Franklin Barreto was 4-for-5 with three doubles, triple and two RBIs.
Reno had 10 hits. Matt Szczur went 3-for-3 with a solo shot in the fifth inning. He’s homered in back-to-back games. Wyatt Mathisen went 1-for-5 with an RBI single. Marty Herum went 1-for-4 with an RBI single.
Starting pitcher Taylor Weidner pitched 4.2 innings in a no-decision effort. The right-hander surrendered eight earned runs on nine hits and three walks with seven strikeouts. Weidner’s fastball touched 95 mph, but couldn’t locate his off-speed slider and changeup, which led to an offensive onslaught by the Aviators.
Ryan Atkinson was tagged with his first loss of the season, giving up three earned runs on three hits and one walk in 1.1 innings.
Both teams scored two runs in the second. Las Vegas added another in the fourth and five more in the fifth. Reno answered with a run in the fifth and five runs in the sixth. The Aviators ran away late with a four-run seventh.
Big weeks from Leyba, Tomás: Yasmany Tomás and Domingo Leyba both earned recognition during the homestand. Tomás was named PCL Player of the Week. The Havana, Cuba native hit .400 (12-for-30) with seven home runs, 13 RBIs and seven runs scored. He hit four homers against the Tacoma Rainiers on May 20. Leyba was named to MLB Pipleline’s Prospect Team of the Week. The Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic native hit .520 with three homers, six doubles and 12 RBIs in six games.
Notes: Bradin Hagens’ five-inning outing on Monday marked the longest relief appearance by an Aces pitcher this season. … Abrahman Almonte was walked three times in the loss on Tuesday. … The Visalia Rawhide, The Arizona Diamondbacks’ High-A club, lead the California League with a 33-14 record. Second baseman Jancarlos Cintron is hitting a team-high .292. Right-handed pitcher Josh Green has five wins on the year, tied for the league lead.
On Deck: Reno, 21-31, hit the road for a five-game series against the Albuquerque Isotopes. Braden Shipley is the expected starting pitcher for the Aces. Peter Lambert will take the hill for the Isotopes. The Aces return to Greater Nevada Field on June 4 to kick-off a seven-game homestand against the Nashville Sounds and Memphis Redbirds, Triple-A affiliates of the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals.