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Graney: Aviators’ Fran Riordan deserves shot as major league manager

Updated March 29, 2024 - 10:49 pm

His job is to develop players for baseball’s top level, to ensure they have been given every opportunity for advancement. But he also has major league dreams. He also wants to experience such reality.

And he deserves the shot. Fran Riordan has put in his time.

He has paid his dues.

Riordan, 48, began his 24th season as a manager Friday when the Aviators opened their season with a 4-2 loss to the Reno Aces at Las Vegas Ballpark.

It’s his sixth year managing the Triple-A affiliate with the Oakland Athletics and fifth in Southern Nevada. It’s his ninth season with the organization.

“I’ve been doing this for a lot of years in a lot of different places and a lot of different leagues and a lot of different levels,” Riordan said. “Obviously, I have ambitions of my own to manage at the major league level, to coach at the major league level. I just try to understand it takes opportunity, and the opportunity hasn’t come yet. When it does, I can promise you I’ll be ready.”

Even-keeled guy

Temperament is almost always tied to being a successful manager. And those who best know Riordan tell you his is the ideal kind to get the most out of players. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. But those who typically reach the next level are consistent in their messaging and attitude. Even-keeled.

The whole, you know, never-too-high, never-too-low personality.

You take things week to week and month to month and season to season and keep learning, keep growing. Riordan has done that. Twice the Pacific Coast League manager of the year in the past four seasons, he ranks eighth among active leaders in minor league wins with 1,235.

He’s also 30 wins shy of becoming Las Vegas’ all-time leader in wins, set to pass Jerry Royster’s 323.

“When you look for common denominators and especially of the guys who have been here and been successful and got to the next level, they’re consistent day-in-and-day out,” Aviators president Don Logan said. “It’s a fricking grind, man. If you have a chink in your armor, it gets exposed. Fran is always the same guy. If we get hammered 10-2 and make five errors, he’s right back here the next day doing the work. Just that consistent mentality.

“He belongs in the big leagues. When you do what he has for this long, he deserves the chance. There’s a confidence and comfort with everybody on the team that when he says something, he knows what the hell he’s talking about.”

It used to be — and perhaps still is in some places — that the thinking went like this: Managers in the major leagues should have played at the higher levels, preferably the highest of them.

Riordan took a different route, an independent league first baseman/outfielder who appeared in 501 career games over seven seasons. He then spent 14 years as a manager at the same level.

It shouldn’t prevent that opportunity he awaits from arriving, though. If you’re good enough, you’re good enough.

He’s ready

He has been elevated to the organization’s major league staff at the end of four seasons, able to see such a level from a coaching point of view. Able to watch and interact with players that he managed in the minor leagues. And he soaks up every minute.

“I still love what I’m doing,” Riordan said. “There’s nothing better than coming to (the ballpark) each day. I’m very passionate about what I do, very engaged to where each player stands in his career and if there’s something I can do to help them.

“It’s rewarding to see the results of hard work and watching players get to that next step.”

It’s one he also thinks about, one that he is deserving of as well.

Fran Riordan, like those he instructs, has major league dreams.

And he’s ready. He has been.

Ed Graney, a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing, can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on X.

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