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July 25, 2014

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Ron Kantowski:

51s may end month as orphans

If Dodgers go for site with more amenities, local minor leaguers will need new parent

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Las Vegas Sun file

A smattering of fans watch from the stands during a game between the Las Vegas 51s and the Memphis Redbirds at Cashman Field in May 2006.

Goodbye, Dodger Dogs.

Hello, fish tacos.

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If the Los Angeles Dodgers return to their former Triple-A home in Albuquerque, which team would you like to see replace them as the Las Vegas 51s' parent club?

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Actually, they quit selling Dodger Dogs at Cashman Field last year. But if the Dodgers don’t hurry up and change their mind about retaining Las Vegas as their Triple-A affiliate, it could be fish tacos — as in Florida Marlins fish tacos — along with peanuts and Cracker Jack and $1 beers on Thursday at Cashman Field next season.

Normally, the Dodgers and the 51s would have a deal by now. Normally, they would have a deal by spring training.

The 51s want to continue the relationship. The Dodgers, apparently, do not.

During spring training, the Dodgers told the 51s they wanted to wait until Opening Day before extending their player development contract. On Opening Day, they said they wanted to wait until the All-Star break. During the All-Star break, they said they wanted to wait until the trading deadline passed. When the trading deadline passed ... well, they didn’t say much of anything.

The drop-dead date for extending the contract is Sept. 30. Don Logan, the 51s president, said it doesn’t look good that the Dodgers will be back. He says they’ll most likely return to their old digs in Albuquerque, where they have a new stadium with nice batting cages and all the other amenities the Dodgers have been asking for since they moved their Triple-A affiliate to Las Vegas when the Albuquerque Sports Stadium closed for renovations in 2001.

“We’re guaranteed somebody,” Logan said Tuesday, a day after the 51s concluded another successful Pacific Coast League season at the turnstiles. “There’s 30 teams.”

But most already have re-upped with their Triple-A affiliates, and the ones that haven’t don’t really work geographically with Las Vegas. Logan said when the wheeling and dealing is done, the Marlins and the Washington Nationals may be the only big league clubs still shopping for a new Triple-A home.

Of course, there’s still a chance the Dodgers will reconsider and decide they want to keep their top farm club closer to home, which is advantageous in getting players to and from Chavez Ravine on short notice.

Logan said there was a game this year when Juan Pierre, on rehab assignment, was sitting in the 51s’ clubhouse in flip-flops at 3 p.m., when somebody got hurt in Los Angeles. Pierre left for McCarran Airport still wearing his flip-flops, catching a 5:10 flight to Burbank. By 7:30, he was in the Dodgers’ starting lineup.

Conversely, if the Marlins sent Dan Uggla here on a rehab assignment and somebody got hit by an errant fungo in batting practice, somebody else would have to play second base for Florida. Unless Chuck Yeager is flying the plane, it’s hard to get from Las Vegas to Miami in a couple of hours.

“My gut tells me they want to go back to Albuquerque,” Logan said of the Dodgers.

This decision, or lack of one, couldn’t have come at a worse time for the 51s, who had planned to rename the franchise during the final home stand. But that announcement has been put off because the Las Vegas team doesn’t even know what its colors are going to be, because it doesn’t have a parent club.

And what if the arrangement with the Marlins or the Nationals is only short-lived, until somebody more attractive and/or closer to Las Vegas should become available — say the San Diego Padres, who had a nice marriage here for 18 years before the 51s filed for divorce when the Dodgers became available?

“The facilities are so much better (in other PCL markets) but everything else about here makes more sense,” Logan said. “But I understand it. You see the stuff everybody else has, and it makes it kind of tough. The Dodgers are one of those organizations who want their players to have the best of everything.

“But if they weighed everything, they should come back.”

But if they don’t weigh everything, it looks like we’ll get to watch the Florida Marlins’ or the Washington Nationals’ stars of tomorrow miss the cutoff man and fail to move the runner along. And Logan’s going to need some new business cards. Just about everything that isn’t nailed down at Cashman Field has the Dodgers’ logo on it.

Even some of the things at Cashman Field that are nailed down — like those Dodgers Hall of Fame displays that ring the concourse — will have to be taken down or replaced.

Do the Marlins even have a Hall of Fame?

You can almost hear dads talking to their baseball-playing sons on their way into the ballpark.

“Hey kids, they replaced Jackie Robinson’s plaque with Mike Lowell’s. Get up here fast — and bring the camera.”

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