September 3, 2018 - 12:18 am
Shortly after Cashman Field closes its doors to baseball fans forever on Monday, the facility will be transformed into a soccer stadium with most, if not all, references to baseball quietly wiped away.
A wave of excitement is rising over the future of the 51s — for a new affiliate, a rebranding and most notably, a new stadium, the Las Vegas Ballpark, under construction in Summerlin — but a sadness also lingers as the team prepares to vacate the only home it has ever known.
“My day typically always began here for 35 years,” team president Don Logan said. “And just think about that. Nobody does anything in the same place for 35 years anymore.”
Cashman Field, which opened in 1983, has seen better days in its usefulness as a facility, both for players and for fans, and nobody knows that better than Logan, who led the push for the new stadium.
But it has also earned a place in the hearts of many who passed through, from those who spent a countless number of hours attending games, playing ball or working at the park to those who celebrated important life milestones, including engagements and weddings, there.
And though baseball no longer will be played at Cashman Field, the memories made there will last for many. It is, after all, the people who make the park more than anything else. Here are a few of their stories:
Steve Dwyer has quite literally grown up around Cashman Field.
First hired when he was 12, Dwyer grew from a teenager to a young adult to a grown man with a family while working for the 51s for the past 26 years.
“People that have been around here for as long as I have have known me almost all of my life,” Dwyer said. “I moved here when I was 6, and I started working here when I was 12, so of my Las Vegas days, this has been home.”
Some nights, it actually was.
Dwyer, the team’s clubhouse manager, is often the first to arrive and the last to leave, finishing his work in the early hours of the morning. On more than a few occasions, he has slept over at Cashman on couches, training tables or anywhere else he could find.
As the team prepares for the move to Summerlin, Dwyer has helped with the design of the clubhouses at Las Vegas Ballpark. And though are certain functionality aspects of Cashman, like the washing machines, that make his day longer, he said there might be some sadness when they’re packing up.
“I spent a big chunk of my life here. It’s like leaving an old house where you might be building a bigger (house), but you still have memories in that house,” Dwyer said. “I met lifelong friends here as far as staff, players, people that are just in my life.”
It’s hard to imagine Colin Cowherd being nervous.
The sportscaster now hosts a three-hour national show — “The Herd with Colin Cowherd” — on Fox Sports Radio and Fox Sports 1 and is not afraid to voice his opinion, no matter how unpopular it might be.
But when he first started with the then-Las Vegas Stars, just being on the air for one inning evoked that reaction from him. Logan had hired him right out of college to do sales and a single inning of play-by-play.
“I was petrified,” Cowherd said. “I was just sweating. I would literally prepare for days for one inning.”
Cowherd said he considers Cashman Field to be the place where he got his start.
“My Las Vegas chapter is nothing but good memories,” he said. “I don’t have any negative memories other than a couple of bad hangovers.”
Cowherd said he hasn’t been back to Cashman in about four or five years, when he had to drop his daughter off at the Cashman Center for a food drive, but he will always remember it — and the Stars — for leading him to the career he has now.
“It was the first great break in my life. I probably didn’t deserve to have a job that good when I had it,” he said. “There is no question that that break is a seminal part of my career.”
Just one day after he was born, Larson Accardo was paraded around the 51s’ clubhouse. His dad, Jeremy Accardo, had to get back to work.
“People thought I was crazy, but I wasn’t one of those parents that had to keep him inside and stuff,” said Jeremy Accardo, a former 51s pitcher. “It was awesome. It was fun. My first son, I wanted to show him off. It was a cool place to do it.”
He recalled having all kinds of fun in Las Vegas, once getting batting practice canceled to go get married at A Little White Wedding Chapel, ordering mini motorcycles to the park and putting up a 3D deer target for bow and arrow shooting.
Flash forward eight years and many of his memories are tamer, centering on his kids. Now the team’s bullpen coach, he is just one of a few to both play and coach for the franchise.
Larson, with long, blond hair and a strong throwing arm, was a common sight around Cashman this season, fielding ground balls, playing catch with players and sitting with his dad in the bullpen. At one point, all four of the Accardo kids came out to Cashman.
“I’m always going to remember it,” Jeremy Accardo said of the park. “I’ll remember it from when I got (batting practice) canceled to go get married, from my kids and nowadays coaching and all these guys that I’m with. I have a lot of memories here and it’s pretty wild to really think back on it all.”
Larry Koentopp doesn’t make it out to Cashman Field much these days.
But the former owner of the franchise is one of the people most responsible for bringing the team here.
Koentopp had bought the Spokane Indians and later met with Rossi Ralenkotter and Roy Woofter, representatives from the Las Vegas Visitors and Convention Authority. They already had a stadium and were looking to bring a Triple-A team to town.
“Rossi and Roy Woofter came up to visit me,” Koentopp said. “We kind of met away from the traffic and people and it was like flying down at night, didn’t want anybody to know.”
Koentopp flew down, checked it out and liked what he saw.
“It was the best Triple-A facility in America at the time,” he said.
Now, he is happy to see the franchise thriving — and moving to Summerlin, just a short drive away from his house.
“When I first signed the 10-year contract with the Las Vegas Convention Authority, I thought it was going to be forever,” he said. “Ten years, it went by like nothing.”
John and Bobbi Muije
Wearing matching teal Hawaiian-themed 51s jerseys, John and Bobbi Muije, longtime season ticket holders, celebrated their wedding on June 30, 2005, at home plate at Cashman Field in front of about 1,000 fans, including 150 or so family members and friends.
Bobbi Muije held a glove in her hands with a red, white and blue flower bouquet situated inside. Her veil was baseball-themed, and their three-tiered wedding cake had 51s bobbleheads perched on top.
The two celebrated in the party area with hamburgers and hot dogs, beer and champagne they brought from home.
“It’s not our first marriage, and I figured we spent so much time here anyways so why not?” Bobbi Muije said.
John Muije has been one of the longest-standing season ticketholders, first buying his season tickets in either the club’s second or third year of existence, and the two have spent a countless number of hours at the park, which is about five minutes away from where they live, at one point going to between 60-75 games and now somewhere between 45-50 a year.
“(It’s) my home away from home,” John said.
Jeff and Oscar Pitt
When Oscar Pitt shows up at school wearing her 51s earrings, given to her by a longtime season ticket holder, her students know it’s a game day.
Pitt, an usher, and her husband, Jeff Pitt, an usher supervisor, work together at Cashman Field.
“I could be having a really bad day and knowing that I have to go to work, I come here and it just lifts my spirits,” Jeff Pitt said.
Though Oscar has scaled back the number of games she works in recent years, Jeff still gets asked about her all the time.
“The fans love her. She has a fan base here,” Jeff said. “When she’s not here, that’s all you’d hear is, ‘Where’s Oscar?’”
When the two both worked as ushers and were separated by a section — Oscar between 15 and 16 and Jeff between 17 and 18 — the two used hand signals to communicate, entertaining fans in the process.
“Around the fifth or sixth inning, we would blow kisses to each other, and we’d do silly things like catch the kiss and rub it on our cheek,” Oscar said.
The couple, who both have fans at the park they like to chat with, started working at Cashman for different reasons. Jeff started nine years ago, and Oscar shortly after.
“He loves it because he loves baseball,” Oscar said. “I love it because I just really like talking to people.”
It was December 1997, just a few days after her birthday.
Jen Arden had thought her boyfriend was going to propose then.
Instead, he threw a curveball so to speak.
When Don Logan, then the general manager of the Stars, said he needed to stop at the park for something, Jen didn’t think much of it.
When he said he needed to go look at something on the field, that is when she started to think things were getting a bit odd.
He led her to section 12, row F, just the two of them alone at Cashman with the lights on, and got down on one knee.
“I said ‘Row F?’ and he said for ‘Forever,’ and he’s not that romantic, so that really touched me,” Jen Logan said.
The two got married in February 1999 in a cathedral and had their reception at the club level at Cashman Field.
“I don’t even know who suggested it or how it happened, but a whole group of us ended up running down onto the field, running the bases in my wedding dress and I remember coming off the field and looking at my dress and the whole bottom of it was red clay, and I was like ‘This is never, ever, ever coming out,’ but a lot of memories here at Cashman for us,” Jen Logan said.