It was 10:35 a.m. Wednesday, three days before the UNLV baseball team's unofficial season opener against its alumni and nine days before the official season opener at Loyola Marymount, and a worker at Wilson Stadium was applying a fresh coat of bright red paint to everything that had turned dull pink since last season.
Proving once again that it's impossible to happen onto Wilson Stadium on a bright, sunny day and not bear witness to some sort of sprucing-up project under second-year coach Tim Chambers' watchful eye.
Minutes later, in his office that overlooks the Freddy D's 335 Club portable grandstand flanking the right-field foul pole, Chambers said this brand of red paint was the good stuff, the kind that won't fade during the offseason because it has sealant or space-age polymers or a spritz of Armor All built into the finish.
Chambers said he's also renovating the concession area, so Rebels fans yearning for peanuts and Cracker Jack won't have to ask for it through a little hole in the window, like a perpetrator at the county jail trying to reclaim his personal belongings.
The last time I ordered Gatorade at Wilson Stadium, I thought they were going to serve it in a plain brown envelope, like in "The Blues Brothers," with my car keys, an empty box of Tic Tac and $1.37 in loose change.
Don't get Chambers started on the topic of home improvement. He's the Bob Vila of the Mountain West Conference. Check his equipment bag: bats, balls, shin guards, power sander, paint brush, work boots with steel toes. Protective cup.
Finally, we got around to recruiting, what I wanted to talk about. Specifically, I wanted to talk about his recruitment of Las Vegas-area student-athletes. Normally, I refer to these as "athlete-students." But because Chambers' team has a collective grade-point average of 3.16, one is willing to make an exception.
Not only have most of Chambers' players read "A Tale of Two Cities," most also grew up here. Isn't that the Dickens?
Unlike many of his UNLV coaching brethren, Chambers has zero qualms about recruiting locals. As I have said, perhaps you couldn't beat Wisconsin in football by playing 11 kids from Southern Nevada. But you might be able to beat Southern Utah.
Last season, Chambers had 15 locals. It didn't prevent the Rebels from winning 33 games in his first year.
This season, he has 19, plus four more from College of Southern Nevada, plus Cole Wilstead, a freshman first baseman from St. George, Utah, which is practically local, as anybody from down here who has driven up there to buy a car, or anybody from up there who has driven down here to buy booze -- you know who you are -- will attest.
When the Rebels take the field at Loyola Marymount next week, their starting lineup will feature six or seven local kids, contingent upon whether the Lions throw a lefty or a righty. Chambers says the advantages to recruiting locals are numerous and significant, beginning with the most important one: You can win with them. Las Vegas kids play baseball year-round. They are savvy, know how to crow hop and hit the cutoff man and whatnot.
They're also much cheaper. For what it costs for one out-of-state player in tuition and fees, Chambers says he can sign three locals. When you have 11.7 scholarships to divide 27 ways and the state legislature just trimmed your budget by 20 percent, that's huge.
And then there's what Chambers calls "the other part."
"Getting the community behind the program and having lots of butts in the seats," he says.
"For every local guy that's on the team, you get a minimum of eight to 10 high school teammates, high school coaches, their parents, their families, their relatives, their girlfriends, their girlfriends' families and relatives. Then you start to win some games, and the next thing you know, you're playing in front of 2,500 or 3,000 people on the weekends. And that makes for a pretty exciting environment for everybody involved."
Home is where the heart is. For Chambers, home also is where the pitchers and catchers and infielders and outfielders are.
It's difficult to put a dollar value on the good will Chambers derives from recruiting local kids, but the fact you can win with them, as he seems to be proving, makes you wonder why more UNLV coaches don't do it, especially during these challenging economic times.
If nothing else, with the money they would save and generate by playing Las Vegas kids, a lot more stuff could be painted bright red.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.