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I was a sportswriter with the Las Vegas 51s back in 1983 when a call came from Bob Jones, a cop with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.
Jones was a baseball fan and he had received an assignment from Larry Koentopp, the owner of the Las Vegas Stars, which were being introduced as the newest member of the minor league Pacific Coast League.
To kick off the season off at Cashman Field in downtown Las Vegas, exhibition games were scheduled between the San Diego Padres and the Milwaukee Brewers.
Jones accepted the challenge of (a) cleaning up the locker rooms and (b) preparing them for the arrival of Major League Baseball. But Jones knew he couldn’t get the job done without help.
I reacted to the call of helping out with enthusiasm. After all, this was big-time baseball in a brand new stadium with incredible enthusiasm for Las Vegas’ newest special addition.
Little did I know the job would be one of the toughest I had ever accepted.
When I arrived with Jones, we started inspecting the locker rooms thinking that they’d be empty. All we’d need to do was add the essentials and we were off and running.
What a mistake.
The locker rooms were filled halfway to the ceilings with boxes of garbage and the rest. In addition, the bathrooms were an absolute disaster only 24 hours before professional baseball players were to visit Las Vegas.
Instantly, I began to think about the unthinkable potential that the Brewers, the Padres and every conceivable executive from both teams were headed for town. In its inaugural season, the interior of Cashman Field was an absolute disaster.
The Padres had players like Steve Garvey, Ruppert Jones and Rollie Fingers while the Brewers featured the likes of Paul Molitor, Robin Yount and Cecil Cooper.
These players and their teams weren’t a bunch of sandlot players headed for Las Vegas. These guys were high-paid stars undoubtedly expecting Caesars Palace-like conditions when they arrived at the ballpark.
The fact that the players could arrive to an absolute disaster area was frightening.
Along with the food came the challenge of accompanying various drinks ranging from water to soft drinks and beer provided by Coors of Las Vegas. When we finally left, for a few hours of sleep, it was thought that our exhausted bodies had accomplished just about everything necessary to make certain that the Brewers and Padres would be happy with what they saw when they arrived.
When we arrived the next morning for the afternoon game, I walked into the locker room to make some last minute checks. Everything looked fine.
Then, in a last-minute inspection, I walked through the locker rooms again for another inspection. Everything ranging from the food to the drinks to the soap and the rest had been prepared.
During one final inspection, one thing suddenly struck me.
I had forgotten all about the towels. We were literally a few hours from game time and all I could think about was the response I’d be hearing from the players from both teams once word had spread about the fact that neither lock room had towels.
Not knowing what to do --- and certainly never having any experience with such a job – I immediately called Mel Exber of the Las Vegas Club in downtown Las Vegas. While I didn’t personally know Mel, I did know that he was a huge baseball fan. He took my frantic call and within a matter of an hour, he had not only agreed to help, but also had someone deliver the towels to Cashman Field where I was eagerly awaiting them.
Learning by the seat of my pants, I immediately started distributing the towels to each locker rooms – and I’m certain that I used at least one of the towels to wipe off my brow.
The Las Vegas Stars have become the Las Vegas 51s and Cashman Field could be replaced by a sparkling new stadium in Summerlin in the next few years.
Through it all, I will never forget the first series at Cashman Field and how a Las Vegas hotel executive bailed me out of what could have been an embarrassing mistake.
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