The Las Vegas 51s changed their major league affiliation, changed ownership, constantly changed their roster and somehow changed their fortunes this season. For the first time since 2002, the city’s Pacific Coast League baseball team is in the playoffs.
Game 3 in the best-of-5 league semifinal series against the Salt Lake Bees starts at 7:05 p.m. today at Cashman Field. The 51s lost Game 1 on Wednesday in Salt Lake City, 4-3, and Thursday’s second game ended after this page’s deadline. If Games 4 and 5 are necessary, they’ll begin at 12:05 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Cashman Field.
The postseason is a great reward for the team and its fans after a season of off-field headlines. The outdated facilities at downtown’s Cashman Field have made the team the least desirable Triple-A affiliate in the big leagues, leading to a short-term relationship with the Toronto Blue Jays and this season’s switch to the New York Mets. When the 51s were purchased this year by Summerlin Baseball LLC — a partnership between former pawnshop owner Steve Mack and Summerlin developer The Howard Hughes Corp. — the focus shifted from the diamond to a new stadium plan and whether the public would be asked to cover some of the construction tab.
None of those issues mattered to the players and new manager Wally Backman this season. Despite constant call-ups from the flailing Mets churning the team’s roster, the 51s went 81-63, winning the Pacific Southern Division.
This city’s professional sports franchises have often had fleeting success at best before fleeing or failing altogether. The 51s, however, have been more than dependable since beginning play here 30 years ago as the Las Vegas Stars. The entire 51s organization should be lauded not only for a great season, but for continuing to represent the city well. Congratulations to the 51s, and best of luck in pursuing Las Vegas’ first PCL championship since 1988.