It was 51s Back-to-School Tin Lunchbox and Mouse Pad Night at Cashman Field on Saturday night.
It should have been Maximum Strength Drano and That Snake Thing That Plumbers Use to Unclog a Toilet Night.
A stench emanating from field level wasn’t the smell of the 51s falling out of first place on the home stand that ended Saturday night (they’ve since won two straight to retake the top spot, though the El Paso Chihuahuas still are nipping at their heels).
It was the smell of sewers backing up near both dugouts.
Team officials said it was much worse on the 51s’ side. They confirmed it had nothing to with the team losing eight of 11 games before Friday night.
Also, although the 51s have been jonesing for a new ballpark for some time now, sabotage was ruled out.
By the middle innings it got so odoriferous in and around the 51s dugout that chalk lines were put down in front and Las Vegas players were allowed to watch the rest of the game from field level rather than tread lightly on wood pallets.
Photographs were posted on social media accounts. In one where you can see the players sitting on chairs in front of the dugout, the first row of box seats behind the Las Vegas bench is empty, except for two spectators.
They must have been Phillies fans.
“It was bad,” said Las Vegas president Don Logan, who spent most of the night dealing with the foul smell and watching his step. Logan said the first thing he did when he got home after the game was throw away his shoes.
He said the toilets near the Cashman dugouts feed into one sewer line. When the line got blocked, the commode near the 51s dugout minutes began to bubble. This was about 10 minutes before Mayor Carolyn Goodman was to throw out the first pitch.
Mayor Goodman and others of her ilk have been proposing Cashman Field be turned into a soccer stadium.
After Logan had to lead her through the stands to perform the first pitch honors because the usual route to the field was blocked by floating debris, perhaps now she, too, will see the need for a new ballpark.
“This place is so done,” Logan said before going shopping for a new pair of loafers on Sunday.
It wasn’t pleasant, especially not with a big crowd of 10,961 literally turning up noses at the smell. But these things tend to happen in the minor leagues. For instance, from time to time you’ll hear about the sprinklers coming on during a game and disrupting play.
This was a little worse than sprinklers coming on, however.
Cashman Field does not have a tarp, but a tarp wouldn’t have helped rectify this situation. And if there was a tarp, I doubt seriously whether the players would have wanted to do belly flops on it to entertain the crowd.
When the 51s were allowed to watch the game from field level and fans learned why, some took to Twitter to weigh in and crack jokes.
“That’s the Mets’ AAA home. Bartolo (Colon) must be on a rehab assignment down there,” posted one.
“It looks like a typical day in Oakland,” wrote another.
Could Brian Schlitter have had anything to do with it? Schlitter is a pitcher for the Iowa Cubs who had a rough go with the Chicago Cubs this year. But the 51s were playing Omaha, not Iowa, which left Las Vegas after Tuesday night’s game for Salt Lake City.
Besides, it’s spelled Schlitter. With an “L.”
Jim Gemma, the 51s’ longtime public relations man, said “it wasn’t a good thing” the sewers back up. But the 51s won for the second straight night, and El Paso lost again. Those were both good things.
So literal stink is better than figurative stink, and whatever had been bothering the team seems to have been flushed out of their system.
The players and manager Wally Backman on Sunday were on their way to New Orleans, where they are used to sewage backing up, to begin a key eight-game road trip.
This was one instance where the players probably didn’t complain about leaving Cashman Field behind. As for the toxic dump in the dugout on Saturday night, they pretty much went with the flow, Jim Gemma said.
I swear those were his exact words.
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.