Sports: Bottom of the Ninth
Five things we’ll miss about baseball at Cashman ...
Few, if any, tears will be shed when the last out is recorded at Cashman Field on Monday, September 3. Entering its last month as a venue for minor league baseball after 36 summers, it has been disdained for its lack of amenities and even essential provisions for players. For fans, however, Cashman’s very lack of pretense has been an underrated delight since the U.S. Army’s Golden Knights parachuted in during its opening in 1983. Here are five things we’ll miss about Cashman Field when a new $150 million home for Triple A baseball opens next spring in Downtown Summerlin.
Nostalgia is woven into the sport as tightly as the seams of a baseball. Cashman Field, the first part of a $26 million complex, was responsible for the Pacific Coast League coming to Las Vegas. It opened to great fanfare to house the Las Vegas Stars, sporting brown, gold, and orange-trimmed uniforms as an affiliate of the San Diego Padres.
Several members of the inaugural team (including league MVP Kevin McReynolds and future Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, who played only 17 games for the Stars on an injury rehab assignment) became key contributors to the Padres’ first World Series appearance in 1984. Catcher Bruce Bochy, who will likely be inducted into the Hall of Fame as a manager, hit the first PCL home run at Cashman.
The Stars won championships in 1986 and 1988, and the Triple-A All-Star game brought national attention to Cashman on July 11, 1990. A record crowd of 15,025 saw Bo Jackson and the Chicago White Sox play the Cubs during the Big League Weekend exhibition on April 3, 1993. The Oakland A’s (among the possibilities to become the team’s parent club in 2019) played their first six games of the 1996 season at Cashman because Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum renovations were not complete.
In 2001, the team playfully embraced the legendary Area 51 and took on the colors and affiliation of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Toronto Blue Jays (beginning in 2009) and New York Mets (2013) have also used Las Vegas as the final stop for their player-development systems.
You can’t talk about Cashman Field’s legacy without noting its Downtown location. Baseball was born amid the promise and perils of big cities, and Cashman genuflects to those urban roots. No fan-friendly activities are within walking distance, and you can’t see the field from the street or parking lot. Once you pass the gates, with a sweet anticipation you walk up the ramps to see that placid expanse of dirt and grass.
What was a state-of-the-art venue in the mid-’80s, Cashman is the second-oldest park in the PCL (the oldest, Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, Washington, was built in 1960 and renovated in 2011). Evocative of a smaller, simpler Southern Nevada, its 9,334 seats are easy to navigate. In the later innings on a languid night, who hasn’t wandered to get under the misters and a better view than what you paid for?
Cashman’s consistency has comforted baseball purists. It opened with a 10-foot outfield wall, and fans could spread blankets on berms beyond it. But home runs were deemed too easy, and the wall was soon raised. Dugout seats behind home plate eliminated some foul territory, but little else has changed. The Party Zone down the left field line and a modestly updated scoreboard have been among the few notable additions in three-and-a-half decades.
Just $5 gets you into the parking lot and $11 through the gates, a stark contrast to the major league prices to which we’re being introduced these days for the NHL and NFL. Discounts and group deals have been consistently available through the years, as have dollar beer and menu nights. The new park will feature more price points for seating and more choices at the concessions, so expect things to be more expensive next year. But team officials assure fans that minor league baseball will remain an affordable, family-friendly option 70 days and nights a year.
Not stately and not beloved, Cashman’s blandness gives it repose amid the chaos of Downtown Las Vegas. The memories endure: children (and some adults) rolling down the grassy banks from the upper parking lot; sudden appearances of aircraft out of Nellis Air Force Base; wispy clouds over Sunrise Mountain creating majestic sunsets; those daunting 20-foot outfield walls with two decks of advertising; and the air-conditioned comfort and alternate vantage point of the Club Level.
Employee and youth-group outings, frequent giveaways, fireworks nights, and even, likely, beer and menu specials will continue at Las Vegas Ballpark. Nonetheless, without Cashman Field there would be no Triple A baseball in Las Vegas, and for that it deserves our respect, however —
in some cases — begrudging.
... And Three Things We Love About Soccer at Cashman
The atmosphere. The Las Vegas Lights have set up a section just for the “ultras” — the die-hard, hometown fans who bring their trumpets and drums, making noise like there’s no tomorrow. With flags a-waving, supporters’ groups like the Electric Company make their home behind one of the goals, urging the team to attack — and rewarding everyone by setting off colored smoke devices every time the team scores. Owner Brett Lashbrook has said he wants games at Cashman to feel like those in Europe and South America, and fans like these help make it possible.
The future. Sure, it’s a little awkward having games on a baseball field. There’s a whole chunk of the outfield that’s just dead space. But when the 51s move to the ’burbs, the Lights have carte blanche to make the stadium over. (Added bonus: It’s at their expense, not taxpayers’.) Since part of the stadium is already at a right angle, it wouldn’t be hard to make Cashman soccer-specific. Maybe those changes could include some sorely needed renovations, too — can we get more concessions and bathrooms, please?
The magnets. See, the Lights do something clever while you’re at the game. As you’re sipping a beverage and watching the beautiful game, the team has folks go into the parking lot and slap a Lights magnet on your car — gratis. It may take you a little bit of time to find it (depending on how dark it is or how many beverages you’ve had), but it’s a neat memento and a way to show your support for the team. Casey Morell