On the Road: Alien Nation in Las Vegas

To see all posts from my August 6 visit to the Las Vegas 51s, click HERE. To see all my posts from my August 2016 “Out West” road trip, click HERE. To see all my “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts covering a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right).

On Saturday, August 6, I woke up in Visalia, California. My next destination was Las Vegas, Nevada, home of the 51s. The distance between Visalia and Vegas, “as the crow flies” is approximately 230 miles. But that theoretical crow would be flying directly across both Sequoia and Death Valley National Parks, which is an impossible feat via automobile. My route was considerably less direct.

vegas I enjoyed the drive, however. It was scenic.

It’s a disorienting sensation, driving to Vegas, one that has been commented upon many times before. After hours and hours encompassing hundreds and hundreds of miles of wide-open rural desert expanse, the calming nothingness slowly gives way to the gaudy excess of Sin City. The tumbleweeds begin to be complemented, and then overtaken, by billboards advertising the likes of Rich Little and Englebert Humperdinck.

Amid the seemingly infinite entertainment options that Vegas offers, it could easy to forget that the city has long been home to a Pacific Coast League baseball team. The Las Vegas 51s, Triple-A affiliate of the New York Mets, play in Cashman Field.

This is the only Minor League Stadium I have ever visited that featured a disassembled Arby’s in the parking lot.
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It was well before game time, but a formidable line had already congregated outside of the facility. The people in this line wanted to make sure they received that evening’s pint glass giveaway.

img_0245I’m no architectural expert, but Cashman Field almost feels as if its from the Brutalist school of design. It is drab, the color of desert sand, and monolithic.

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Cashman Field opened in 1983 and has hosted a PCL team for the entirety of its existence. This team was originally known as the Stars, but changed its name to the 51s in 2001 as a tongue-in-cheek homage to the extraterrestrial activity rumored to have taken place at (relatively) nearby Area 51.

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The free pint glasses, emblazoned with the team logo, were clearly a draw.

img_2434But it was also Superhero Night. Just look at all of these superheroes, all in one place. Even Yankees Man was there.

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The Thing needs his own handler, apparently.

img_2428To my mind, the best thing about Cashman Field is the view — a mountainous backdrop visible from a colorful, mildly dilapidated seating bowl.

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The view in the other direction is not recommended (at least not until the sun goes down.)

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The reception I get from teams varies from ballpark to ballpark, but the 51s win the award for “least interested.” I was alone and adrift the entire evening, a very strange sensation and a complete anomaly when compared to the other 26 teams I visited in 2016.

Speaking of alien sensations…

img_0251The above piece of apparel was one of many such items for sale in the team store. What I loved the most, however, were these shelves of ’80s-era trading cards and other pop culture ephemera. These shelves reminded me of my childhood, as these were the sort of things I would reliably spend my allowance money on.

img_0253I refrained from making an impulse purchase, returning to the concourse in time to witness an ear-shattering National Anthem. This was a preview of what was to come, in that the PA at Cashman Field was blasting at high decibels throughout the ballgame. (This, combined with malfunctioning microphones, did not lend itself to high-quality between-innings entertainment.)

Shortly after the game began, I did something I rarely do at a ballpark: Sit in my seat.

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At least two fans were sporting Wally Backman jerseys, in honor of the New York Mets icon-turned 51s manager (he and the Mets organization parted ways after the season).

img_2439In case you forgot, it was Superhero Night. Eric Campbell seemed on the cusp of making a Web Gem.

img_0259Pretty soon, the wandering urge took over again.

Apparently, it was also Supervillain Night.

img_2444Throughout the evening, the booming voice of Bruce the Beer Man reverberated throughout the stadium. Later in the ballgame, I tracked him down and got an up close and personal sampling of his auditory power.

Shortly thereafter, I wrote and disseminated my Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day.

The Pacific Coast League is known for long, offense-laden games, and this one was no exception. The 51s and Fresno Grizzlies combined for 26 hits, and when all was said and done the home team won by a score of 10-8. Josh Smoker pitched the ninth for the 51s and struck out the side, with Andrew Alpin being his final victim.

The evening concluded with a minimalist version of Launch-A-Ball, clearly a commentary on the mindless excess to be found elsewhere in the Sin City. A single Hula Hop was placed in the outfield, and that was it.

img_2463Good night from Las Vegas.

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***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

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