Friday, September 09, 2005

Fear and Loathing at Cashman Field

(The following was written on a half dead laptop in a hotel room at the Gold Coast in the early hours of 9/7/2005. It is presented without any editing for spelling, grammar, or content)

I was a few miles north of the Strip, near the border between Vegas and North Vegas, when the hot dogs kicked in.

Ahem. I can't possibly do a spoof or tribute to HST justice, so I'll just stop there.

I love baseball. Those of you who regularly read my blog have quite likely noticed that. A few weeks/months back, I decided that one of the things I would love to do is eventually try and see a ballgame in every state. Now, this is not the time or the place to discuss the logistics of such, as I've done so before. When I decided to head to Vegas for Labor Day, I realized that I had the potential opportunity to add Nevada to the list. Which was great, because the first time I was in town, I had no real way to get to Cahsman Field, home of the Las Vegas 51s, the AAA affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Second time I was in Vegas, it was December and January, so there was obviously no real hope of seeing a game then.

Cashman Field. It's quite a unique park. The outside construction does not immediately look like a baseball stadium. It is blocky in various earth tones, a description that doesn't do the park justice, as I thought it was a rather attractive park. Beyond the outfield, as is the case in most of Vegas, there are the mountains. The shame, though, is that the outfield walls are all quite tall, which I believe is meant to be a compensation for otherwise short outield dimensions.

Still, seriously, a hitters park no doubt.

Thatnight the 51s were in the first game of the last series of the year, against the AAA affiliate of the Angels, the Salt Lake Stingers. The game itself wasn't really anything to write home about. In fact, I'm almost ashamed to admit it, but it was such a lopsided blowout, and since I was meeting up with other people, I left after the 8th inning with Salt Lake up an astounding 13-1, after an offensive performance that included several home runs, including one grand slam.

Seriously, a hitters park no doubt.

But it was an interesting place to see a ballgame. It was quite comfortable, as there were misters that acted as a sort of air conditioning for the stadium. Seriously, it was quite noticably several degrees cooler in the seating bowl than it was outside the stadium, which is something that they really do have to do, as the temperatures at game time in Vegas can be easily north of 100 degrees. In the shade. I can't imagine out there on the field. If Vegas ever does get a major league team, something that I do hope they pull off eventually, I seriously hope they go dome. At the very least, one of the new retractable roof jobbies that they've got in Houston. Though I can't really imagine when you'd ever want to have the roof open if such was an option in Vegas.

It was a good crowd. They were in the game, there were some Salt Lake fans, enough to mix things up as far as cheering went, and people were staying at the park better than I would expect in a 13-1 drubbing. There weren't any cheers that seemed specific to the team in any way, but that was alright. It was a fun place to see some baseball. Though there are very few bad places to do such, when all things are said and done.

And...there wasn't a slot machine in sight. Which is great, because the purpose of baseball is that it's a great family game, somewhere that mom, dad, kids, grandparents, they can all come, gets some dogs (which were way overpriced for a minor league park, as the prices for items were the same as in RFK Stadium) and watch some baseball. Slots would be an excuse to not pay attention to the game, take away from the game, and would bring betting entirely too close for baseball. And that's important. The biggest spector over baseball, before the steroids boogeyman started, was gambling. Gambling is what is keeping Pete Rose out of the Hall of Fame. And it's the biggest question that baseball, or any sport, has about bringing a major league franchise to the city. Which is a shame, because I think the city could and would support a team. They are starting the process, and have the right idea. The city is in strong consideration for the NBA all star game in a few years, which would be two interesting precidents set. First, it would mean hosting the game at a non-league city, and it also marks the Nevada lawmarkers doing exactly what they needed to do: they passed special legislation stating that betting on the game will be illegal in state casinos.

The only other rule like that in the books right now is that UNLV sports cannot be bet on. A similar law passed surounding whichever pro sports franchise eventually breaks Vegas's cherry, moving it from being a major league city, will go part of the way to assuaging any fears. Though, I think there will always be that hesitence to put a team in this city.

Anyway, I'm drifting away from the game.

I've seen pictures of Cosmo, the 51s mascot, before. However, I never entirely wanted to believe that it existed. For those who haven't seen pictures, he's a large grey alien. Not a Grey Alien, mind you, he's just the color grey, not the prototypical triangular head with almond-shaped eyes. Nope. Instead, he has a huge muzzle with massive teeth, ears that sweep down to his shoulders, and two stalks coming out of the top of his head. Sound familiar?

When I was buying a Cosmo doll, I actually asked the lady checking me out, "does it bother anyone that you mascot is Jar-Jar Binks?" She was defensive, but with a sense of humor. I'm sure she's heard similar questions many many times in the past. She points out the differences, but I'm sorry, there's really very little questioning that the thing is a grey Gungan. The timing is even right, as the minor league team was establish in 2001 as the Vegas Stars (the 51s name came a few years later). So, to any 51s fans reading this, who are shaking your heads, I'm sorry, but your mascot is Jar-Jar.

Other odd thing is the 51s uniforms. Unlike most baseball uniforms, they have chosen to wear their numbers on both the fronts and backs of the jerseys. Thus, on the front, the righthand side has a 51s logo, and the lefthand side has the number in blue. I...have to say I'm not a fan. Because of the different torso lengths of the players and styles of wear, for some people the numbers barely missed the belts, for others there seems to be a good foot between the number and belt. It didn't look all that uniform, frankly.

So. To wrap this rather long and rambling post up:
* Cashman Field = Cool
* Vegas = Major League ready
* Cosmo = Jar-Jar
* 51s uniforms = Ick


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