Looks can be deceiving, and president of the Reno Aces — and the Reno 1868 soccer club — Eric Edelstein is a prime example.
Edelstein, 40, has been underestimated and tested since he was hired at the age of 24 to his first general manager position with the Wichita Wranglers. He’s now in his 12th year as a front-office manager and sixth with the Aces, the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“I think I still have that kid look,” he said. “People just expect the leader of an organization to have a certain look. But I’ve used it to my advantage and built something of it.”
Edelstein has helped Reno baseball team reach franchise highs in marketing partnership, suite leases, group event and partial-season ticket plan sales. He’s the driving force behind annual business plans and operational budgets, including the recruitment and development of more than 50 full-time associates with the Aces and Reno 1868.
In addition to his busy days in the office, Edelstein makes sure to give back to the community. The Aces and the Reno soccer club have donated 35,000 pounds of food since 2018.
“It’s always something new here and I love it,” he said. “It’s those types of involvements with the community and the great staff we have here that makes this position fun.”
Edelstein found his love for the game on the field growing up in Cleveland, Ohio. He played baseball through high school and followed the Indians through the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s sports section.
He didn’t have big-league skills as a player, so he aimed his future toward a sports career off the field.
“I was fortunate to know early in high school that there wasn’t going to be a future beyond playing (at that level). I was fortunate to live far enough in the future to realize sports wasn’t going to be the move on the field. So even at 14 or 15 years old, I was trying to find a path to stay around the game without playing it.”
By his junior year, Edelstein dabbled with broadcasting various high school sports. He soon abandoned the microphone and focused on a sports management degree.
“When I found sports management … I felt like I could work really hard and have a chance to succeed and be apart of it. … It felt like I had to make a promise to myself.”
Edelstein graduated from the University of Bowling Green, a large research institution in Ohio. The university was the only school in the nation at that time to offer a sports management degree. Edelstein made the switch and jumped into the career path at the perfect time.
“It was still early days for that type of degree, but it’s worked out pretty well,” he said. “I was an Ohio State fan, but they didn’t have any degree like that so I looked elsewhere. … It was just the early days of something that blew up. “
After college, Edelstein was immediately thrown into the fire of professional baseball upper management. He interned with the Buffalo Bisons, current Triple-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays.
At 24, he was hired as general manager of the Jamestown Jammers, a short-season Single-A affiliate of the Florida Marlins, from 2001-2002. There, Edelstein developed the vigorous work ethic it takes to handle a professional sports franchise.
“Best experience I could’ve had,” he said. “It was a three-person office. Yes, I was the general manager but I was also writing the press releases, updating the website. Virtually every piece of the business I had to learn enough of it to perform it.”
[pullquote]“I always say tickets sales are the trunk of the tree. If it’s not strong, nothing else matters.” [/pullquote]Edelstein grew some facial hair as a disguise to make himself look older to clients around the Jamestown area.
“My very first sales call in Jamestown was something,” he said. “I went to meet our biggest client and he looked up, shook my hand and went ‘Wow you’re young.’ At 24, I had to do something to look older, so I grew out a goatee just to look older. … Now that I’m in my 40s, I don’t need it as much.”
From 2003-06, Edelstein was in his second general manager stint with the Wichita Wranglers, the Double-A affiliate for the Kansas City Royals.
He oversaw moving the Double-A squad to Northwest Arkansas in 2008. He served as the Naturals’ general manager during their inaugural season and built the team from the ground up, stadium and all.
“Timing is as much of it as anything,” he said. “Two years in a row, two general managers stepped aside in succession in a window where I was available, willing and they trusted me. And I knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass on.
During his tenure with Northwest Arkansas, the Naturals won numerous awards including 2008 Ballpark of the Year 2010 STMA Professional Field of the Year, 2010 Arkansas Tourism’s Henry Award, 2012 Texas League Organization of the Year and Baseball America’s 2012 Bob Freitas Award recognizing excellence in operation for Double-A Baseball.
They also won the Texas League Championship in 2010.
“It made me realize how much I appreciate what got me here. Nothing in life is easy and my time there showed me that. From the stadium to the promotions, building a fan base and gaining sponsorships and community advertisers for a baseball-needy town.”
Edelstein found greener fields in downtown Reno with the Aces, Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was hired on as the chief operating officer and executive vice president in 2013 and worked his way to president in January 2015.
He was named Ballpark Digest’s Executive of the Year that same year.
“I’m forever indebted to those I’ve worked with (in Northwest Arkansas), but I was ready for something new,” he said. “The ceiling in that company I guessed right, there wasn’t really any movement above the levels I would’ve been at. So six years later, I would say I made the right movement. I think I was ready for a new adventure at the time, and I made it my mission to exit stronger than I could’ve entered.”
After a downward slope in ticket sales since the Reno Aces’ opening in 2009, Edelstein helped bring the Northern Nevada community back to Greater Nevada Field.
Friday night brought a season-high of 6,273. Since Edelstein took over operations in 2015, the Aces have averaged an attendance of 360,276 with an average single-game attendance of 4,103 fans per game.
So far this season, the Aces have an averaged paid attendance of 3,897 with a total attendance of 124,715.
“I always say tickets sales are the trunk of the tree,” he said. “If it’s not strong, nothing else matters. So we came in and really put a strong ticket sales program in. We hired more people and we got in moving in the right direction by meeting with our fans and showing we appreciate them showing up.”
With the addition of the 1868 FC club in 2015, Edelstein has his hands full balancing two professional sports teams in baseball and soccer.
“I feel like we’re moving into a version 2.0,” he said. “With all those tricks and traps and strategies we employed the first few years are coming back. Along with starting a soccer team and all the other things we’ve done is starting to hit a lull so we’re re-energizing it and keep up with what’s new in the world.”
No matter how the Aces perform throughout the year, Edelstein is determined to give fans a pleasant experience each time they stop by the ballpark.
“Every market has its positive and negatives,” he said. “But overall, this is a great minor league sports market and we want to give our fans that experience. There’s something about this ballpark that is special in that way. … If you used to the Major League stadiums, everything about this is going to feel super intimate.”
Aces drop first game of series to Redbirds, 10-4
The Memphis Redbirds, Triple-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals, laced 18 hits en route to a dominant 10-4 victory. First baseman John Nogowski went 4-for-5 with home run, three RBIs and two runs.
The Aces had nine hits. Juniel Querecuto went 4-for-5 with a double and one RBI. Travis Snider was 1-for-3 with a double and RBI. Caleb Joseph finished 2-for-4 with a double. Reno’s home-run-a-game streak was snapped at 25 games.
Reno starting pitcher Matt Koch was tagged with the loss. Koch surrendered four earned runs on nine hits and three walks in six innings. Evan Kruczynski picked up his third win of the season, giving up two earned runs on six hits and three walks in five innings.
Memphis jumped out to a 1-0 lead. Both teams scored one run apiece in the third inning. Memphis plated two more runs in the fifth. The Redbirds exploded for one run in the seventh and five more in the eighth. Reno’s two runs in the ninth was too little too late.
Cron family history in Toronto: Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Kevin Cron hit his first career home run on Friday in a 8-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays. Over their respective careers in professional baseball, Kevin and his older brother, C.J. Cron have both homered on the same day 15 times. C.J. Cron also hit his first career home run against the Toronto Blue Jays on May 10, 2014 with the Los Angeles Angels. Chris Cron, manager of the Reno Aces and father of Kevin and C.J., has two career hits in the Major Leagues. Both hits have come against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Notes: The Memphis Redbirds of the PCL’s American Northern division and Reno Aces squared-off for the first time since the 2017 MiLB season. … The Aces have played six games in the month of June. In four of the six games, both teams combined to score 17 or more runs. There have been three games with more than 20 runs. … The Aces are 3-6 on Friday this season.
On Deck: Reno, 25-35, face Memphis for the second game of the four-game series at 7:05 p.m. Arizona Diamondbacks infielder Jake Lamb begins his rehab assignment with the Aces. Taylor Widener is expected to take the hill for the Aces. St. Louis Cardinals’ top pitching prospect Alex Reyes is the probable starter for the Redbirds. It’s Star Wars Night. May the force out be with you.
— Isaiah Burrows