Friday, August 23, 2019

Reno Aces 4 at Las Vegas Aviators 10 (PCL) - August 20, 2019

Three new ballparks opened in the minor leagues this season, meaning that I had three visits in order to continue to be able to say that I have seen a game at every active minor league venue. I had travelled to Fayetteville back in June, and then did a quick stop in Amarillo at the beginning of the month. That left Las Vegas, who finally replaced Cashman Field and also adopted a new identity as the Aviators, as the team is owned by the Howard Hughes Corporation. Vegas is a bit far from NYC for a single trip, but I was able to combine that with a couple of Blue Jays at Dodgers games, so ended up spending a beautiful Tuesday evening in Vegas.

Well, actually, I spent most of the evening in Summerlin, which is where the new ballpark can be found. Despite the location, it has been dubbed Las Vegas Ballpark, through a naming rights agreement with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Just in case you forgot where you were, I guess. Summerlin is northwest of the city and takes about 20 minutes without traffic along Highway 215. Parking is plentiful and free; we parked in the overflow lot next across the street, next to the Lazy Dog. This eatery has excellent craft beer and a great happy hour that ends at 6, perfect for the 7:00 start at the ballpark. The surrounding area is known as downtown Summerlin and contains an outdoor mall of sorts, with several shops and restaurants within a short walk of the stadium. The main entrance (above) is next to a traffic circle, and there are crossing guards to ensure that you get across without getting hit.

Tickets can be a bit expensive here and most of the good seats have been snapped up by season ticket holders. Still, they don't show up for every game, and ushers aren't aggressively checking, so moving around isn't a problem. I picked up a pair down the line for $15/each, a small savings on the $22 face value, though similarly priced tickets could be found at the box office. Either way, Sharpy and I sat much closer to home plate for this one.

On the way in, I was handed a free program, and very detailed game notes are available at Guest Services. After dropping those off at my seat, I began to make my way around. First, a note on the seats, which are 4Topps mesh, similar to what you see in an office. Very comfortable and a nice change from the typical Kelly green in most ballparks. My shadow makes its first appearance of the season as well.

Looking back to the West, the Red Rock Casino and hotel is just up the street, and a great place to stay if you are there for a few games. The Vegas Golden Knights practice facility is just behind left field, though not clearly visible in the picture below. As you can tell, the sun shines into the seats down the right field line, though it was not a problem by the time the game started.

The outfield fence is clear in parts, and that is to allow those in the berm and the pool area to see the game. There is also a full-service bar known as the Hangar that should see its fair share of home runs landing there.

Yes, there is a swimming pool that is reserved for groups. At $2,000 per game with 40 tickets, it is actually a very good deal. Unfortunately, I do not have 39 friends in Vegas; otherwise I would have been sitting here.

As you make your way around right field, there is a large party deck with foosball and table tennis for those who need a bit of activity.

There is a ramp that takes you down to field level behind the outfield fence. There is also an entrance here which leads to the main parking lot.

At the bottom is a kids' area with some water features. It does get hot here and it wouldn't surprise me to see a few adults sneaking in to cool down.

There is also a concession stand that has a Mexican take on BBQ here, with Burnt Ends Burrito one of the items on the menu. Having eaten beforehand, I did not try any food, but I did hear good things, though prices were a bit high.

Beyond the BBQ stand is another ramp that takes you back above the fence as you move around the outfield. Below is the view from left-center field, with the whole structure visible. The upper level is club and suites and not open to those without that type of ticket.

Looking back toward right-center field you see the kink in the fence where the pool is.

The 4Topps Corners are the final sections down each line, which are ideal for scoring with tables in front of the seats. These are for groups, however, and include food and beverage. There are drink rails along the concourse though, which is where I would set up next time.

Concourses are wide and there was never any problem navigating the ballpark.

A look down the third base line, which is shaded and much cooler before the game.

Finally, the view from behind home plate. No doubt this will become one of the most recognizable ballparks in the minors with the large signage over left field and the palm trees in right-center.

Overall, Las Vegas Ballpark is another excellent new addition to the minor league stadium list. I am certainly a bit jaded having been to 185 venues in the affiliated minors, but this is one place I'd love to return to for an extended visit.

The Game

It was a battle of Nevada as the Reno Aces (Arizona) were in town to take on the Aviators (Oakland). We lucked out with the starting pitching matchup as Reno's Josh Duplantier, the D-backs #6 prospect (above) took on Oakland's top prospect Jesus Luzardo (below). Luzardo gave up a run in the second on a sacrifice fly from Blake Swihart, who was DFA'd by Arizona a week prior. He has a World Series ring from last year, though he went 0-2 in the Fall Classic.

That was the only run Luzardo allowed, while Duplantier was perfect through three in a game that was delightful to watch. Unfortunately, even in AAA, arms are protected and both pitchers had been injured recently, so the delight was short-lived. Duplantier was replaced for the 4th by Connor Grey (20th round, 2016) who promptly gave up 5 runs, including a 3-run homer from Sheldon Neuse (38th, 2015 by Texas, now Oakland's #8 prospect). Luzardo was removed just an out shy of being in line for the win, having thrown 78 pitches. His replacement was Kyle Lobstein, trying to work his way back to The Show after stints with Pittsburgh and Detroit between 2014-16. Lobstein loaded the bases, but got out of the inning, and when Vegas added singletons in the 5th and 6th to make it 7-1, the last few frames were academic. Each team scored thrice to make the final 10-4 Vegas, with 13 of those runs the fault of the bullpen.


You might have noticed that Luzardo's jersey says Reyes. This is for Reyes de Plata (Silver Kings), which is the name the team uses on Tuesdays as part of MiLB's Copa de la Diversion (Fun Cup). Nevada is the Silver State and has a history of mining the precious metal, hence the name. The Copa promotion is designed to include the Latinx fan base, who make up a large part of the minor league audience, and there are 72 teams participating this season.

Not only are the uniforms different, the tickets say Reyes de Plata, and there was a Mariachi band outside the back entrance (below) and colourfully clad dancers (above) performed on the dugouts before and during the game.

This was the first time I had seen one of these games and with the schedule available, I'll look for more opportunities next year. I'll have a few, with 5 more new ballparks opening.



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