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Aviators manager Fran Riordan soaks in new city

Aviators manager Fran Riordan is enjoying his new home.

Town.

And stadium.

“It’s fun when this is your office,” Riordan said last week from the home dugout inside Las Vegas Ballpark. “It’s once in a lifetime opportunity to open up a new stadium. And everyone in this organization is pretty excited about it.”

Riordan, now in his fifth season with the Oakland Athletics’ organization, has risen through the managerial ranks and is relishing the chance to lead the Aviators during their inaugural season in Las Vegas.

The 43-year old is easygoing in nature, and the team has embodied his approach while developing a culture based on three key aspects: Winning, learning and development.

“These guys still have things they work on to be successful as big league players,” said Riordan, who played first base at the Independent League level, and hopes to someday manage in the majors. “There’s always things to work on and I think from a staff standpoint we try to cultivate that environment, and make it place where not only people want to learn and want to get better, but they go out and execute a plan to do that.”

Riordan, a Virginia native, played professionally from 1997-2003 and debuted as a player-manager in 2000 at the Independent League level. He transitioned into a full-time manager in 2004 — dividing a decade between the Frontier League and the Northern League — before joining Oakland’s Class A affiliate, the Beloit Snappers, in 2015.

He credited his progession to his willingness to learn, and said he “likes to gain knowledge” from anybody and everybody.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a player, another staff member, somebody that works in the front office,” he said. “I’m always trying to grow in my profession and keep that growth mindset. I think that enables me every to improve every year.”

Riordan managed a handful of Aviators players last season with the Nashville Sounds, and third baseman Sheldon Neuse says he’s “had a blast playing for him” the last 18 months.

Catcher and top prospect Sean Murphy said “guys like playing for him and have fun playing for him,” and outfielder Skye Bolt said “he understands what he’s doing.”

Added Bolt: “He’s easy to talk to, and he answers ever question. You just trust what he’s telling you.”

So far, Riordan hasn’t had to tell anybody too much. He instead relies on the talent of his players, insisting only that he expected the team to be pretty good amid a 15-9 start, after losing five in a row to El Paso

He is, indeed, a player’s manager who loves managing his players.

“You get to come out and get to hit and work out and practice on this beautiful field every day,” Riordan said. “You get to come 15 minutes before the game, look around and see the the stands filling up, feel the excitement, the energy and the crowd. …

“It’s just been a really really great situation here in Las Vegas, and I know the guys are excited to come to the park every day.”

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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