51s will get sold — eventually

When the 51s open another Pacific Coast League season tonight against the dreaded Sacramento River Cats, they will know who their pitcher and catcher is, and who’s on first, second and third and in the outfield.

Adeiny Hechavarria will play shortstop. He’s known as a slick fielder. Most shortstops are slick fielders in the way that most left-handed pitchers are crafty.

The 51s will not know the identity of their new owner. This is more surprising than receiving a free bobblehead doll on Opening Day, because wasn’t the new owner supposed to be announced last July?

“It’s convoluted. (The 51s) are gonna get sold in the not-too-distant future,” said Don Logan, Las Vegas’ very own “Donnie Baseball,” whose responsibility as executive director of the 51s is to broker the sale of the club to responsible new owners with deep pockets.

The responsible new owners must be willing to reach into those pockets to build a new ballpark, renovate Cashman Field or at least erect some batting cages so the Toronto Blue Jays don’t relocate their Triple-A affiliate to Kamloops or Medicine Hat, or somewhere like that.

This is what the Dodgers did a couple of years back. Only their Medicine Hat was called Albuquerque, and it had a renovated stadium with batting cages.

“It’s a lot of money and it’s complicated,” said Logan, adding that in today’s world, people with a lot of money are a lot more careful about how they spend it.

At first, it was thought that Chris Milam guy from Texas was going to spend some money on purchasing the 51s. A story published last May said that Milam had agreed to buy the club and that ownership would be transferred by the end of July.

In fairness, it didn’t say July of what year.

Milam was the guy who was going to build a sports arena on the site of the old Wet ‘n Wild water park on the Strip. And when that fell through, he was going to build something called the Las Vegas National Sports Center, which would feature a new ballpark for the 51s and privately owned and financed NBA and Major League Soccer venues — at a proposed cost of $1.95 billion.

It sounded like pie in the sky, even before politicians let a funding bill die.

As Logan said, these things require a lot of money, and they are complicated. Now the 51s reportedly are in talks with Tony Hsieh, the head of Zappos.com, and/or the Howard Hughes Corporation about buying the club.  

So, to paraphrase the immortal words of Charlestown Chiefs hockey goalie Denis Lemieux in the movies, “Who own da 51s?” And will they be moving to Florida to hang out by the pool?

Logan said the 51s still are primarily owned by Stevens Baseball, headed by Derek Stevens, who bears no relation to the Derek Stevens who chopped broccoli on “Saturday Night Live.” (Stephens Media, which owns the Review-Journal, has a 10 percent stake in the club.)

Stevens Baseball wants to sell the 51s to focus on Stevens Hotel-Casino, because it also owns the Golden Gate and the former Fitzgeralds downtown, now called D Las Vegas. I’m assuming the “D” stands for Derek, the Stevens brother who owns 78 percent.

The new owners are spending $15 million on a modern renovation of the Fitz which, when completed in the fall, probably means I will have to find somewhere else that serves cold Pabst Blue Ribbon for $1.

Had Stevens Baseball been willing to spend $15 million at Cashman Field and rename it D Ballpark, perhaps there would be spiffy new climate-controlled batting cages and maybe some spiffy new restrooms too, and 51s fans wouldn’t have to stand in line to use them on Fireworks Night.

But, as they say, it’s his money.

The last time I saw Derek Stevens, who was supposed to keep a low profile because the baseball establishment frowns on casino types owning its ballclubs, he was standing out front of the Golden Gate and wearing a peach-colored sports jacket, like something the Riddler would wear on “Batman,” except it wasn’t green and plastered with question marks.

He was surrounded by some of those busty young women who dance on the bars out front where they sell daiquiris, looking understandably pleased, and new batting cages and restrooms at Cashman Field appeared to be the furthest thing from his mind.   

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.

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