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Big League Baseball A Novel Act in Las Vegas

April 1, 1996

LAS VEGAS (AP) _ The T-shirt making the rounds in the Oakland Athletics’ clubhouse said it all.

Equipment manager Steve Vucinich made up the shirt for staff and players as a keepsake for the novel season opener against Toronto on Monday night in Las Vegas.

Beneath a print of a green and gold slot machine that had three A’s instead of bars to signify a jackpot were the words: ``Can You Believe We’re Here?″

Jason Hekkert is happy they are and has the tickets to prove it. A doorman at the Golden Nugget hotel and casino, Hekkert was headed for Monday night’s game with his girlfriend.

``I was born and raised in Oakland. It’s my very first home opener and it’s not even in Oakland,″ Hekkert said. ``I’m excited.″

Ongoing renovations at the Oakland Coliseum forced the A’s to move their first six home games to 9,353-seat Cashman Field, home of the Triple A Las Vegas Stars. The field became the first minor league venue to host a major league game since Sept. 3, 1957, when the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Brooklyn Dodgers 3-2 in 12 innings at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City, N.J.

Ticket sales for Oakland’s Las Vegas homestand were brisk and the opener was expected to be sellout. Approximately 12,000 tickets were being distributed for the opener, including those for standing room only on grassy berms just beyond the left field fence.

``This is great,″ said Steve Reynolds, a driver for Ace Cab Co. ``It can’t hurt. It can’t do a thing but help this city. There’s a lot of fight for the entertainment dollar in Las Vegas but look at the weather. It’s a great night to come out to a ball game.

``The only thing is it’s not a real major league park. It’s pretty small and they’re going to be pounding the ball. I wouldn’t want to be one of the pitchers, I’ll say that.″

Not everyone knew or cared about major league baseball taking its act to Las Vegas.

``They got a game here or something?″ said Joe Rhodes of Columbia, Mo., as he played slot machines at a downtown casino.

Rhodes did say he thought big league baseball would play in Las Vegas because even with all the glitz, glamour and shows, gamblers need a diversion now and then.

``It’s something else to do,″ said Rhodes. ``If you’re here very long, you can’t just sit here and gamble all day. Like we went to Hoover Dam yesterday. That was a nice break.″

After an off day Tuesday, the A’s resume the series against Toronto and also will play a weekend set against Detroit before leaving Las Vegas on Sunday for another eight games away from home.

The Coliseum, undergoing a $100 million reconstruction as part of the deal that brought the NFL’s Raiders back from Los Angeles, is expected to be baseball ready when the A’s return from their road trip. The team’s Oakland opener is scheduled for April 19 against the Chicago White Sox.

``Obviously, we would have liked to start the season at a newly renovated Oakland Coliseum but that wasn’t possible,″ said Sandy Alderson, A’s general manager. ``But this should be interesting, and it’ll be a footnote to baseball history.″

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