Early Sunday morning, the first possible day major league and minor league clubs could communicate about new affiliations, Billy Beane, the Oakland Athletics executive vice president, called Don Logan.
The 51s president, who was at the San Diego airport when he received the call from his longtime friend, was evidently very receptive to what Beane was saying; the two agreed to enter a Player Development Contract for the Athletics and 51s for the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
The Athletics will bring their Triple-A club, which was previously in Nashville, Tennessee, to break in the new Las Vegas Ballpark, which is currently being constructed in Summerlin.
“They had a great conversation,” Athletics general manager David Forst said. “We made it clear that they were our first choice and likewise they said they were hoping we would want to be there.”
In past years, Las Vegas has been the least desirable location because of the facilities at Cashman Field, but that wasn’t the case this year as the A’s were not the only major league team to contact the 51s. But they were the one that seemed the most logical to the 51s.
The A’s were the only West Coast team available in this cycle and they have a history of fielding competitive minor league teams, two things which can help raise attendance.
“Geography matters,” Logan said. “How much it matters, I don’t know, but when you’ve got the list of teams available and there’s one West Coast team, which is Oakland, it just made sense and the fact that … Billy and I are friends.”
The remaining teams without a PDC in place are the Milwaukee Brewers, Texas Rangers, Houston Astros and Washington Nationals.
The 51s were partnered with the San Diego Padres from 1983-2000 and the Los Angeles Dodgers from 2001-08, before affiliating with the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets in large part because of the undesirability of Cashman Field. As the Mets were leaving for Syracuse, New York, Logan had talked earlier this month about how “geographic sense” in Triple-A Baseball would help everybody out.
Las Vegas is known as being one of the most geographically desirable locations in the Pacific Coast League because of the number of nonstop flights out of McCarran International Airport to cities around the country.
That was a selling point for the Athletics, who also had an option of going to Fresno, California. Fresno is closer to Oakland, but is considered the most difficult travel location in the league with limited nonstop flight options to many destinations.
“The ability to get anywhere basically with a direct flight is a huge drawing point of being in Vegas,” Forst said.
But working with Logan and his staff was perhaps the biggest draw for the Athletics.
The Athletics played some regular season games in 1996 at Cashman Field while Oakland Coliseum was being renovated for the Raiders. Forst said a lot of the people who were with the A’s at the time fondly recall working with Logan and have kept in touch.
“More than anything we’ve learned over the years that our affiliations at every level are about the relationships that you have with the people at the team, the people in the city and there are a lot of people here with the A’s that have a long-standing relationship with Don and the opportunity to work directly with him was very attractive for everyone here,” Forst said.