Saturday, April 30, 2011

Losing in Las Vegas - 51s drop a pair

Las Vegas is not a typical sports roadtrip destination, unless you believe gambling, drinking, and eating to be sports. But there are over 2 million people who live here and they need some distractions of their own. In the summer, the PCL's Las Vegas 51s provide the entertainment out at Cashman Field. Three years ago, the 51s became the affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays which made Las Vegas a compulsory roadtrip objective. So when my brother told me he had a conference here, I checked the schedule and found the 51s would be home at the same time, sowing the seeds for what would become a 3-week west coast trip.

Cashman Field

Located on Las Vegas Blvd. about eight miles north of the Strip, Cashman Field (sometimes referred to as Cashman Stadium, above) is an older venue that still has something to offer fans. The stadium is part of the larger Cashman Center, an entertainment facility that includes a theatre and convention center. There are several lots surrounding the center that offer parking at $4; I used the one off Washington Blvd. as it seemed less popular and easier to exit and return to the highway.

The stadium is a sand and rust coloured structure befitting its desert location. It is connected to the convention center on the third base side so you can't walk around the whole building. There is a single entrance that leads to ramps that go up to the main concourse (above).

Ticket options include dugout seats which are 3 rows of blue seats behind the screen at field level ($20, above), field seats which are the first 6 rows between the bases ($14, yellow in the photo below), plaza seats which are the remaining 20 rows behind the screen ($13, red) and reserved seats, which are benches that stretch down the lines ($10). The plaza seats are mostly covered and are a good option during day games, when the sun can be particularly strong.

You can see a small walkway between the first six rows and the rest of the seating area, so avoid row G unless you want your view continuously disrupted by people walking back and forth. The seating area is not steep, so your view may be blocked if someone sits directly in front of you, but with attendance at 50% of capacity, it's not hard to find a good seat.

There are also a few options outside the seating bowl. First is the club level restaurant which offers a full meal, including soup and salad, for just $9.50. Given that a hot dog is $5.50, the restaurant is a bargain and the food is pretty good too. Tickets are required for tables by the window but there are counters above that are open to the public and provide a reasonable view of the field. I recommend visiting before the game if you are hungry.

If you want to sit away from the crowd, try the Skyy Bar above third base, which provides a complete view of the field and the mountains beyond and offers more than just beer if you are looking for libations.

There are also berms near each foul pole. They were closed before the game, but I noticed children playing in the right field berm later, so they seem to be accessible, but they are too far away to be useful for actually watching the game.

Down the left field line is the Bank of America Patio, which takes up a large amount of foul territory but provides on-field seating and all-you-can-eat ballpark food for groups.

There is only one concourse above the seating bowl but it provides a clear view of the field so you don't miss any of the action while buying food. I didn't try any of the typical fare here as the club restaurant was the best option.

The field is quite interesting as the left and right field walls are perpendicular to the line for most of the way, only turning to meet at center field, which lies 433 feet away from home plate.

The scoreboard is above left field and is quite basic with a linescore and a TV screen that seems to be as old as the stadium itself, as well as the speed gun underneath.

Overall, I really like Cashman Field. The club level restaurant is great after weeks of boring ballpark blech, and there are few distractions from the game. The views beyond the fence are nice and the ushers are friendly and let you move around. Given how noisy Las Vegas can be, you should definitely make a trip over to Cashman to enjoy some relative quiet and AAA baseball as well.

Game 1 - Sacramento River Cats 13 at Las Vegas 51s 9 (13 innings)

I saw two games while I was here, both with the Sacramento River Cats as visitors. I saw these two teams play twice in Sacramento earlier in the trip. Since then, Las Vegas has struggled and came in on an 7-game losing streak.

For the first match, the wind was blowing straight out resulting in plenty of homers, with nine hit on the night. Unfortunately, six of them were by Sacramento sluggers.

After 51s starter Scott Richmond (above, warming up) gave up 4 runs in the first two innings courtesy of a Jai Miller 3-run homer a solo shot to Anthony Recker, Las Vegas replied with 4 of their own, including a 3-run shot from Dewayne Wise that tied the game and chased Sacramento starter Bobby Cramer after just 12 batters.

The middle frames were quiet with Jemile Weeks' solo shot the only damage sustained by Las Vegas. Weeks doubled and scored on an Eric Sogard two-bagger to start the 7th, but Las Vegas added four runs in their half, highlighted by a 3-run dinger from Eric Thames to take an 8-6 lead.

Las Vegas reliever Winston Abreu loaded the bases with nobody out in the 8th but Rommie Lewis and ex-River Cat Daniel Farquhar (above) retired the next three batters to preserve the 2-run cushion. Farquhar remained in the game in the 9th, but he gave up a leadoff triple to Miller, who scored on a single by Matt Carson to cut the lead to one. After two walks loaded the bases, Sean Henn came in. With two out, Henn walked Weeks to tie the game and send us to extra innings.

Both teams scored a run in the 11th, with the 51s coming on a Scott Podsednik (below) double. Podsednik is working his way back from an injury and this was only his third game for Las Vegas.

After a scoreless 12th, Chad Cordero came on in the 13th and promptly gave up three taters, all of which were well hit. Weeks hit one of them which left him just a single shy of the cycle. Las Vegas couldn't respond and the game finally ended with the River Cats winning 13-9. The affair took 4:34, with just a smattering of the 4,094 remaining for the whole thing. It was dollar beer night, and the I'd say half the crowd left when the dollar beers stopped after the 7th inning. Many of those who remained were inebriated so the heckling was pretty entertaining, but the pitching certainly wasn't.

Game 2 - Sacramento 2, Las Vegas 1

I convinced my brother and his wife to join me for this one, as it was UNLV Rebel Replica Jersey night. The wind was again a factor, but this time it was blowing right to left, causing havoc with pop ups and fly balls all night.

Brad Mills took the mound for Las Vegas and pitched six scoreless innings with nine strikeouts. He left with a 1-0 lead thanks to a wind-assisted run scored in the second. Chris Woodward, who had just been sent down, sent a fly ball that got caught up in the wind and fell in between three fielders. Woodward was running all the way and ended up with a double. Adam Loewen (below) then singled him home.

That was all that River Cat starter Graham Godfrey would give up, going six innings yielding just two other hits. In the 7th, Abreu relieved for Las Vegas and promptly gave up a single to Recker. Adrian Cardenas followed with a fly ball that should have been caught but the wind played tricks again and the ball fell in for a double. Josh Donaldson hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game and Adam Heether walked on a wild pitch that somehow bounded over the protective netting behind the plate, moving Cardenas to third. Josh Horton grounded out to score Cardenas and give the visitors a 2-1 lead.

There would be no hometown heroics this night as Sacramento reliever Joe Bateman pitched two perfect innings and Vinnie Chulk tossed a 1-2-3 ninth for the save.

Steve Tolleson from the dugout seats

All-in-all, a rather depressing pair of games for Blue Jays fans but certainly an example of just how different baseball can be; a 22-run homerfest followed by a pitching duel.


The hold might be the stupidest statistic in baseball. In the first game, Farquhar came in with his team up two. He left with the bases loaded and then Henn came in and allowed two inherited runners to score. Farquhar gets credit for a hold while Henn gets a blown save. So the hold depends not on what you do, but what someone after you does. Dumb.



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