There’s Baseball in Las Vegas?

Cashman CenterPhoto by Eric J. Miller
The Las Vegas 51s:
Our home town baseball team

Few people think of the Neon City as a sports town. A sports gambling town, sure. Big leather chairs, air conditioning, a dozen or more big screens, exotic parlays, waitresses in skimpy referee outfits doling out free drinks – that’s sports in Vegas, right?

Well, not entirely. A recent outing to Cashman Field to watch the Las Vegas 51s play the Sacramento River Cats convinced me that this town is desperately hungry to cheer for a home team. With a still-growing population of over two million in Clark County (including Las Vegas, Henderson, North Las Vegas and Boulder City), an eager fan base exists, but it will likely have only its fun, scrappy, minor-league baseball franchise to cheer for in the foreseeable future. That’s because major league sports remain wary of our legalized gambling institutions.

Cashman CenterPhoto by Eric J. Miller
Cashman Center, the 51s’ home

Not that the 51s aren’t entertaining. They are, even if you’re not a huge baseball fan, and they attract about 5,000 fans per game. Their mascot is a huge, fat, bluish-purple alien that probably didn’t train at Juilliard but dances with gleeful abandon anyway between innings. Seats are inexpensive and close to the field. Many local businesses buy season tickets that would cost thousands of dollars in a bigger stadium and they give them away freely.

I was lucky enough to be sitting in the T-Mobile seats along the first-base line. Every double play, every race to the bag was right in front of our eyes. The strikes thrown against right-handed batters were at our eye level and clearly evident, even without the ump’s call. It was a windy evening, the kind that probably would feel good in the baking summer heat, but we enjoyed watching it carry two long balls over the centerfield wall for home runs. The stadium is 25 years old, but it’s easily accessible just north of downtown, parking is convenient and cheap (only $3), and the food and beer options are very affordably priced.

Cashman FieldPhoto by Eric J. Miller
Great — and affordable — seats
at Cashman Field

Cashman Field was built in 1983 and named after “Big Jim” Cashman, who founded the first Cadillac dealership in Las Vegas sometime around 1915. His companies later played an integral role in the building of the Hoover Dam, and his family has remained involved in Las Vegas planning and city government ever since.

Known as the Las Vegas Stars from 1983 to 2000, when they were the AAA affiliate for the San Diego Padres, the 51s have been the AAA affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers since 2000. The team got its name from the infamous Area 51, which is located about 80 miles north of Las Vegas and is ground zero for UFO believers, conspiracy theorists and perhaps even a few grey beings from another world. The team logo includes a likeness of one of the Greys, the species of UFO alien that purportedly crash-landed outside Roswell, N.M., in 1947. Many locals believe the government secretly moved them to Area 51 for further study and research.

An ominous cloudPhoto by Eric J. Miller
An ominous cloud above Cashman
Field suggests the new owners
should think twice before changing
the 51s’ name…

Sadly, Mandalay Baseball Properties sold the 51s on March 24, 2008, to the Stevens Baseball Group, and the new owners have announced their intention to change the name of the team for the 2009 season.

But there’s still hope for fans of aliens and baseball alike, as the Stevens group is rumored to be considering opening the naming process to a public vote. In the meantime, in a city known for neon, Elvis, the Rat Pack, dancing girls, poker chips and its mob past, one of our only home teams proudly bears its extraterrestrial name, and remains the most fun semipro sports game in town.

Comments

16 responses on “There’s Baseball in Las Vegas?

  1. This is great… I loved getting to know the history of the 51s and the Roswell aliens. Sorry to hear Stephens is going to change the name — don’t suppose they’d think the “Grays” would have enough pizzazz…

  2. There are a couple more pro sports teams that claim Las Vegas as their home town — The Las Vegas Gladiators (Arena Football), The Las Vegas Wranglers (Hockey) who may well bring home the championship and the Sin City Rollergirls (Roller Derby). The affiliation with the Dodgers ends this year as well. I really enjoyed learning about the history of the field.

  3. Great article. Ominous cloud? Looks like the mothership is not pleased with a name change..

  4. Megan said “Sorry to hear Stephens is going to change the name”.

    From the R-J article linked to from the original article, I don’t think “Stevens Baseball Group” is related to the Stephens Media that owns the paper.

  5. Hi, Tom!! Thanks for pointing out my spelling error — they’re not the same outfits, and it’s definitely worth noting. Hope you’ll be back in Las Vegas soon!

  6. What a fun evening we had at the 51’s game! I will certainly go back to Cashman Field to see a game. Next time, however, I am going to make a mental note to look for the guy selling Cracker Jacks. No game is complete without them, after all.

  7. Nice piece Eric. They have to be crazy to change the best nickname in sports “the 51s!”

    That cool cloud in your photo is called a “lenticular” cloud. They are standing wave clouds common in the mountan west.

    Party on.

  8. I think I’ve now seen more minor league ball than major and there’s no question about which I prefer. Cheap beer and quixotic dreams is way more fun than watching grown men get paid millions to play a game.

    Just one detail missing from your story, however. What’s on tap?

  9. Great article! Makes one want to got out to the ballgame. And the photos, credited to the author, add to the story. Especially the one of the “flying saucer” cloud. We should start a petition to keep the new owner from changing the name.

  10. What a charming article that makes one realize Los Vegas is not just all about gambling and shows. Something to add to ones list of “things to do while in Vegas.”

  11. Neat article. The Vegas team should have buxom women walking the base lines between innings to signify the inning, as in boxing, no? If they paid you less than $500 for the article, they stole it from you!

  12. Take me out to the ballgame. Thought the lazy, hazy daze of summer would be more exciting with a crowd of baseball fans cheering. A beer and hot dog couldn’t hurt the scene. Good Article, Eric. Keep them coming.

  13. Dodger Blue has left the building…. The Los Angeles Dodgers today announced that they won’t be extending their contract with Cashman Field and so the Area 51 Baseball team no longer exists.

    Cashman Field is looking for an alternative major league club to move their Triple Affiliate program here…

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