A's dazzled by Triple-A Las Vegas Ballpark

February 29th, 2020

LAS VEGAS -- With each A’s Minor Leaguer called up from Triple-A to Oakland in 2019, the legend of Las Vegas Ballpark only grew.

Hitters in the A’s Minor League system who spent time with Oakland’s Triple-A affiliate, the Las Vegas Aviators, during the team’s inaugural season last year arrived to the Majors raving about the high rate at which balls were leaving the yard at the home stadium. They spoke of it almost as if it were some sort of magical launching pad placed in the middle of a desert.

Now A’s stars will get to find out for themselves as the club sent a large amount of regulars, including Matt Chapman, Marcus Semien and Matt Olson, to Las Vegas for a special two-game series with the Indians that got underway Saturday as part of MLB’s Big League Weekend.

“I know our hitters were eager to get here,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “Everyone seems to put up really good numbers there."

The legend of Las Vegas Ballpark is now well documented after the Aviators blasted an astronomical 250 home runs for the 2019 season, second-most in the Pacific Coast League.

A’s hitters certainly noticed a difference in the way the ball jumped off the bat in batting practice on Saturday.

“The ball definitely hits a second gear when you get it up in the air,” said Olson, who played five games with Las Vegas during a rehab stint last May. “When I was rehabbing, it was flying a little more. It’s still going pretty decent.”

Perhaps more impressive to the A’s than the number of balls taking flight were the stadium’s facilities. Opened in 2019, Las Vegas Ballpark had the feel of a big league venue to the many A’s players and coaches who got an up-close look at the park for the first time.

“It’s really nice. It’s quite a luxury to have for your Triple-A affiliate, to have the kind of resources they do downstairs,” Melvin said. “You look at the training facilities, the weight room, the clubhouse, it’s all Major League quality.

“And that’s before you come out here and take a look at the field and the luxury boxes. They got a pool out in right-center field. There’s a lot to like about this place.”

These games figure to have a bit more electricity in the stands than your average Spring Training exhibition as Olson recalled the games he played in Vegas last year being sold out and quite lively.

“It’s top notch,” Olson said. “The stadium is awesome. The facilities under it are awesome. When I was here rehabbing, the fans were great and attentive. It’s cool that we’re able to come here and do this.”

The two-game series also spices things up by providing a brief respite from the ordinary routine of Spring Training, which can get stale at times. Many of the A’s on the trip gathered on the Las Vegas strip Friday night for a team dinner.

“Spring Training can be a little monotonous,” Olson said. “Waking up at the same time and doing the same thing every day. This is a good way to break it up. Road trips like this are good to be able to bond like that.”