It was a game of finals. The final game of the Triple-A season; the final game at Cashman Field; the final game of the Mets’ tenure in Las Vegas; and the final game of the Las Vegas 51s, who will be renamed when they move to a brand new stadium in the tony Las Vegas suburb of Summerlin next summer. So it was fitting that the game came down to the apparent final at-bat of Peter Alonso, the prospect who should be in the majors.
The day had begun without much promise. Despite playing against the Sacramento River Cats, owners of the second-worst record in the Pacific Coast League, the 51s found themselves down 3-0 after the top of the sixth inning. P.J. Conlon had started the game and pitched extremely unevenly. Though he struck out six batters in as many innings, he also gave up seven hits. He finished the season with bad (even for Vegas) ERA of 6.55, and a 1.63 WHIP in 114 innings.
The crowd was fairly listless early on, suffering it seemed from both the mid-day Vegas heat and the mediocre offense. The place was packed, however, for the last day of Cashman Field baseball. Lines for the team store, where Mets and 51s gear was being sold off at bargain basement prices, snaked out into the concourse. The team was also running a promotion that promised fans $1 hot dogs, pretzels, nachos, and popcorn, though the availability of said items was extremely hit and miss.
Fans perked up a bit in the bottom of the 6th inning when the 51s finally plated a run after Colton Plaia hit a single to center field that allowed Patrick Kivlehan to score. The 51s weren’t able to muster any more offense though, and things quickly settled back down.
The 51s showered fans with gifts, handing out baseball card packs, free pancake coupons, t-shirts, mini plush balls, and other goodies. They also were extremely classy in thanking the Mets for six great years. They tried to get fans to chant “Let’s go Mets,” and while some enthusiastically joined it, the chant fizzled pretty quickly.
The couple sitting next to me, who are regular attendees of 51s games, told me that they like the Mets, but were curious about who the new major league affiliate would be. They said the Athletics seem to be the team most fans think will come to town. A gentleman sitting behind me — a longtime 51s fan — told me that though he’s a little sad to see Cashman Field go, he’s happy that the new stadium is so much closer to his house.
The couple next to me left in the top of the 7th inning, apparently too tired of the heat or the losing to stay behind. They didn’t know what they’d be missing. In the bottom of the 7th, the 51s pulled within a run after Luis Guillorme walked, got to third on a single, and then made it home when Zach Borenstein hit into a force-out to bring the scored to 3-2.
Around this time long lines began to form on the concourses as the team announced they’d be allowing kids to run the bases after the game and even meet some 51s players. It seemed like most fans were resigned to the 51s losing, especially as they failed to make anything happen in the bottom of the 8th. Ty Kelly struck out swinging to end the inning and promptly threw a mini tantrum at home plate, smashing his bat into the ground and splitting it clean in half.
Gerson Bautista came on for the top of the 9th and flashed his usual filthy stuff while also having very little command and walking two River Cats before settling down to end the inning with a strikeout. And so the 51s found themselves down 3-2 in the bottom of the 9th. Luis Guillorme woke up the crowd quickly by hitting a ball deep into the outfield that the River Cats had trouble scooping up. He ended up pulling into third base with a stand-up triple. With Peter Alonso on deck, there was suddenly a sense that something big could happen.
When Alonso stepped to the plate, you could feel the electricity surge through the crowd. Alsonso stared down pitcher Tyler Beede and with one whack of his bat, sent the ball flying some 400 feet into the wilds beyond the outfield walls. As he rounded the bases, triumphant, the 51s gathered behind home plate with the crowd on its feet. Alonso flung his helmet high into the air and the team surrounded him, jumping up and down, and screaming.
It was a storybook ending for the Las Vegas 51s and for Cashman Field. It was also something of an indictment for the Mets who still refuse to call up Alonso, despite his continued heroics. Alonso ended his Triple-A season with a .285 average, 36 home runs and 119 RBI’s to go along with a .975 OPS. And though he may not get his Mets call-up in 2018, he will always have the final home run in the history of Cashman Field.