Friday, July 3, 2009 | 2 a.m.
Fans flocked to Cashman Field on Thursday night for more than an evening of minor league baseball.
The 9,214 in attendance assembled for one of Southern Nevada’s oldest Fourth of July traditions — the Las Vegas 51s’ annual fireworks extravaganza.
The nine-minute display, which capped the 51s’ 2-0 victory against the Reno Aces, is in its 27th year and is annually one of the club’s most anticipated games. The 51s host multiple fireworks nights each summer, but none with the significance of celebrating Independence Day.
It was one of the first fireworks shows to commemorate the holiday this year in Las Vegas. The franchise will also have fireworks after Friday’s game, where another large crowd is expected.
“We try to make five or six games each year, but we never miss fireworks night,” fan C.J. Washington, 43, said. “This game is something our kids look forward to. We always make sure to get tickets.”
The stadium had an Independence Day feel with the team’s logo painted in red, white and blue on the grass in front of each dugout. A singer performed “God Bless America” during the seventh inning stretch, and patriotic music played between innings.
“It was an outstanding crowd tonight that gave us great support,” Las Vegas manager Mike Basso said. “There was a lot of entertainment for this game.”
It was also Dollar Beer Night, the club’s popular promotion that always spikes attendance on Thursday nights, with beer lines a good 50 people deep on the both sides of the stadium. The crowd was vocal from start to finish cheering for the home team.
The fans in the stadium weren’t the only ones enjoying the show.
A group of roughly 200 tailgated outside on the grass between the parking lot and the stadium. Several arrived two hours before the 7:05 p.m. start and barbecued during the game.
Anthony Patterson, 30, was busy grilling sausages and hot dogs for 60 family and friends who attend the Fourth of July fireworks night each summer.
“This night is about family and creating a family tradition,” Patterson said. “This is a time of the year we are thankful for. There are guys fighting and putting their life on the line everyday for us.”
As for the game, Las Vegas starter Brad Mills, who took a perfect game into the seventh inning, gave up three hits and struck out seven in eight scoreless innings.
It was Mills’ first start in Triple-A Las Vegas since being demoted by the Toronto Blue Jays, the 51s’ parent club, after giving up eight runs and eight hits on June 27 against the Philadelphia Phillies.
“He commanded three pitches tonight and threw all three for strikes,” Mills said. “When you are throwing strikes like that, it is hard for the hitters to figure out what is coming.”
Las Vegas (36-45) scored both its runs in the first inning. Joe Inglett doubled to lead off the bottom of the first and scored on an Aaron Mathews double. Mathews scored on a sacrifice fly from Brett Harper.