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April 20, 2014

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RON KANTOWSKI:

Las Vegas 51s’ season ends in whimper

In Triple-A, it’s a cyclical slog

Image

Leila Navidi

Groundskeeper James Edwards rakes the dirt back onto the pitcher’s mound after the Las Vegas 51s’ game Thursday against the Fresno Grizzlies at Cashman Field, the Las Vegas team’s last home game of the season. This season the 51s went 71-73, finishing 15 1/2 games out of first place in the division.

Beyond the Sun

The end of a baseball season should always come on an afternoon when the shadows are long and the weather is crisp. Long shadows and crisp weather on a baseball diamond in late September can make one feel melancholy.

The 51s ended their season in Portland, Ore., on Monday. Their last home game of 2009 was Thursday at Cashman Field. The shadows weren’t long, the weather wasn’t crisp. Yet I sensed a bit of melancholy. It might have been the realization setting in that this was the last $1 beer night at the ball yard until April, but I couldn’t be sure.

The air-conditioning unit in the press box had blown up before the game, but nobody in the crowd seemed too bothered by that.

That’s minor league baseball. Players called up, players sent down. Bobbleheads, fireworks, peanuts and Cracker Jack. Hit the cutoff man, move the runner along. Leave ’im in, take ’im out. Win some, lose some.

The 51s won 71 and lost 73. They finished 15 1/2 games out of first place in the Pacific Coast League Pacific South. Tied for third or tied for last, depending on your point of view.

Does anybody really know where the 51s finished in the standings?

Does anybody really care?

51s President Don Logan cares more than most. He says the 51s had a pretty good season, considering at one point they were 14 games under .500. The new affiliation with the Toronto Blue Jays wasn’t ideal, but both sides seemed to make the most of it.

“From a doing business perspective, the Blue Jays were phenomenal. Nothing but good things,” Logan said.

Off the field, group ticket sales were down, Logan said. The 51s’ staff had to work harder than usual to offset the sluggish economy. Otherwise, this season was a lot like any other season. Just when you think you are going to put it all together, the parent club takes it all apart by calling up the best prospects.

Happens here. Happens in Albuquerque. Happens in Memphis. Happens in Tacoma.

“The game’s the game,” Logan said.

Paint the black, hit a ’tweener. Turn a pair, have a day. Hit ’em where they ain’t, root, root, root for the home team.

The game’s the game.

Eventually the shadows will be long, the weather crisp. One may feel melancholy. The press box air-conditioning unit may break.

And then it will be April. Time to do it all over again.

51s in 2009 by the numbers

71-73 After dropping to 14 games under .500 at one point, the 51s had a chance to finish dead even in the PCL by beating Portland on the last day of the season. Alas, they lost 5-0.

4,752 51s average attendance in 2009. In all, the turnstiles registered 337,388 clicks in 71 home games. The season-high crowd was 10,405 May 11 for Cox Communications School Day. It was the 27th consecutive season the Las Vegas franchise topped the 300,000 plateau in season attendance.

106 Runs knocked in by 51s first baseman Randy Ruiz, the 2009 Pacific Coast League Most Valuable Player. Ruiz batted .320 and hit 25 home runs to become the fifth player in Las Vegas’ franchise history to be named PCL MVP, joining Kevin McReynolds (1983), Tim Pyznarski (1986), Sandy Alomar (1988 & 1989) and Phil Hiatt (2001).

1 Games played in a major-league baseball cathedral. The 51s lost 5-4 to the Iowa Cubs at Wrigley Field in the Chicago organization’s annual Road to Wrigley game Aug. 7.

12 Fireworks shows, spectaculars and/or extravaganzas at Cashman Field in 2009.

30 Pitchers used by the 51s in 2009.

2 Shutouts thrown by 51s pitchers in 2009. David Purcey and Brian Burres each had one.

94 The 51s’ transactions during 2009. Most were for players moving up and down between Las Vegas and Toronto and Las Vegas and New Hampshire.

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