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Beauty of Aviators home extends where it matters most for players

Updated May 5, 2019 - 5:42 pm

It’s what you can’t see. Beyond the pool that we all hope to soon watch team president Don Logan jump (be gently nudged?) into. Beyond the 3,930-square-foot scoreboard and swanky party decks and pristine club suites.

Beyond all the gourmet food items and palm trees and stunning views of The Strip once the sun sets and welcomes the next night game. Beyond the free parking.

Complimentary is such a corporate term, no?

It’s free, and the Aviators should be shouting about it from one end of their gorgeous Las Vegas Ballpark to the next.

Beyond all of it and, well, under it.

What you can’t see is arguably the most important parts of the best Triple-A ballpark going, in the bowels of such beauty.

Who knew an indoor batting cage at room temperature could cause such unbridled happiness?

Make that a 15th straight announced home sellout to begin the season, the Aviators on Sunday scoring six in the first inning en route to an 11-2 thrashing of the Fresno Grizzlies.

But as memorable an experience as ballpark amenities offer those watching — and there are plenty — this is still about developing those competing.

It’s what the Oakland A’s care about when it comes to the affiliate and what players want most, owning the best opportunity to put themselves in position when the parent club needs roster spots filled.

Eric Campbell knows the deal. He has seen the best and worst of things, the latter more aptly described as Cashman Field. He has 438 Major League at-bats with the Mets and is now with the Aviators, back in Las Vegas and yet in much different surroundings.

Which means nobody has to worry about plodding through whatever mess oozes from busted pipes.

“Cashman was a place that instead of showing up to park at 1 p.m. (for a 7 p.m.) game, we’d come in around 3,” said the first baseman Campbell, who went 1-for-5 Sunday with the ballpark’s first inside-the-park home run, after which the 32-year-old may or may not have demanded oxygen. “We got our work done, but it was nothing like this. It just makes things easier in terms of getting done what needs to be done. The clubhouse, the indoor cage, the whirlpools, the training room, the weight room. … Everyone will really appreciate all of that in June and July.”

When the weather gods turn unforgiving yet again and triple-digits become part of our daily existence, the development part will no longer be hindered as it was at Cashman.

The environment is far more controlled now. More purposeful work can be accomplished.

The same goes for visiting teams. Credit much of that to Logan.

Whether it’s the short walk from their rooms at Red Rock Casino Resort & Spa to a large shared weight room to their own indoor cage to a clubhouse far bigger than your linen closet to an actual lounge, opposing players have it better than any at this level.

“This isn’t like back in the day when they painted the (visiting clubhouse) with pink walls and all that (bleep),” Logan said. “That’s not the right thinking. Treat others how you want your team treated. We’ve had guys come through here already who played with or against us at Cashman and they’re like, “What the hell? You guys really stepped things up.’

“It’s not like hockey, when teams are here for a day, have a morning skate, play a game and are gone. Teams are here 3-4-5 days at a time. We wanted things top notch for them, just like for our guys.”

Oakland or Vegas?

There can’t be better clubhouses across Triple-A than the home side for the Aviators, because I’m fairly certain there aren’t many better ones at the Major League level. I lost count at how many televisions align the walls of the lounge, where between video games, players in 2019 actually watch some baseball.

It sure makes those digs at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum with the A’s seem even more decrepit than they already are, and I say this with intimate knowledge having sat through enough Jon Gruden postgame press conferences held in … a batting cage.

Which begs the question: If recalled today, would Campbell — who has played games at the Coliseum — ask first if the A’s were at home or on the road before packing his bags?

“I’ll be happy to go to Oakland,” he said. “After all, that’s the goal for all of us.”

Meanwhile, in the bowels of such beauty, they develop amid second-to-none facilities.

In the world of a player, everything you can’t see matters most.

Contact columnist Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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