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April 20, 2014

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The Opening Line:

Secret’s out about field we can’t talk about

Area 51, the top-secret military installation tucked away in a remote part of the Southern Nevada desert, apparently wasn’t always so top-secret.

While doing research for a story on the Las Vegas 51s and their nickname, we stumbled on a satellite image of Area 51 on Google Maps. After we zoomed in as close as possible, there is one fixture that sticks out among the myriad buildings and runways: a baseball diamond. Actually, based on the skin infield, it’s probably a softball diamond — a lighted softball diamond, at that.

Who in the world — or elsewhere — would be playing softball in the middle of the Mojave Desert? Is it even really a softball diamond? Perhaps it’s some sort of cloaking device masking a recovered UFO as a softball diamond. Or maybe it is a softball diamond, used by the military to assimilate captured aliens into our culture by teaching them the game of baseball.

Inquiring minds that we are, we decided to place a call to the public affairs office at Nellis Air Force Base to find out exactly who — or what — is using the field.

“We can’t talk about anything that goes on out there,” was the response from the courteous spokeswoman.

But she did offer a written statement from the Air Force that said, in essence, revealing who plays baseball and/or softball at the “operating location near Groom Dry Lake” would constitute a breach of national security. Or something like that.

“There are a variety of activities, some of which are classified, throughout what is called the Air Force Nevada Test and Training Range Complex,” the statement read. “The range is used for the testing of technologies and systems and training for operations critical to the effectiveness of U.S. military forces and the security of the United States. There is an operating location near Groom Dry Lake. Some specific activities and operations conducted on the Nevada Test and Training Range, both past and present, remain classified and cannot be discussed.”

But it didn’t always used to be like that. A quick search of the Internet turned up a newsletter on dreamlandresort.com. It was produced by the Reynolds Electrical & Engineering Co. for its “employees of the Atomic Energy Commission’s Nevada Test Site.”

It’s dated Sept. 17, 1965.

It seems the members of the Area 51 softball team, nicknamed the “8-Ballers,” spent at least as much time on the softball diamond that fall as they did tending to their electrical and engineering duties. One of the items in the newsletter details the 8-Ballers’ five-victory run through the 1965 Slow-Pitch Playoff Tournament, including a decisive 14-4 victory against pesky Area 12 in the championship game.

We doubt, however, that any otherworldly beings were used as ringers by the Area 51 squad that year; it failed to win the 1965 Mercury Slow-Pitch Softball League’s regular-season title.

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET

PBA H&R Block Tournament of Champions, Wednesday through Sunday,

Red Rock Lanes

One of four Major events on the Denny’s PBA Tour, this year’s Tournament of Champions has expanded its field from 32 to 52, including the 37 most recent PBA winners.

TICKETS: $19-$59 (for Sunday’s TV finals)

ON THE WEB: www.pba.com

ALSO WORTH A LOOK

Championship Bull Riding world

championships, Friday and Saturday,

South Point Equestrian Center

In case you missed the National Finals Rodeo in December, 45 of the CBR’s best riders will be in town vying for the world championship title and a share of the $200,000 purse.

TICKETS: $25-$75 ($15 for seniors, children 12 and under, and military members)

ON THE WEB: www.cbrbull.com

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