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April 21, 2014

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Whether playing concierge or steward, 51s’ clubhouse manager has the bases covered

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Las Vegas 51s clubhouse manager Steve Dwyer hands Eric Thames a stick of pine tar from his closet Friday, June 15, 2012.

51s Clubhouse Manager

Las Vegas 51s clubhouse manager Steve Dwyer begins the process of sorting, folding and putting away laundry Friday, June 15, 2012. Launch slideshow »

Steve Dwyer stands in relative silence in the Las Vegas 51s clubhouse at Cashman Field, plotting his next move and enjoying a rare minute of down time.

With the exception of radio play-by-play man Russ Langer’s voice lightly coming through speakers in the background, there appears to be little activity in the clubhouse midway through the home game against Colorado Springs.

Dwyer knows the quiet won’t last.

He’s the clubhouse manager, and he keeps an ear to the game because it will cue his next move. The routine has become second-nature for the 32-year-old who has worked for the Triple-A team for nearly 20 years. (And yes, the math works; he’s been a fixture in the 51s clubhouse since he was a 12-year-old batboy.)

As soon as the game ends around 10 p.m., Dwyer and his staff of three assistants will be slammed with tasks that keep them occupied until the wee hours of the morning.

“The hours can definitely wear on you, especially when working an eight-game home stand,” Dwyer said. But he lives and dies with every game. “I’ve been here since I was 12, so it’s been a big part of my life. I love being around these guys. Some of the guys who have been through here are the best friends I’ve had in my life.”

While each 14-plus hour day features more than its share of mundane chores — such as washing more than 12 loads of uniforms before, during and after each game — he’s also something of a personal assistant, making sure there’s plenty of a player’s favorite cereal for the pregame and postgame food spreads and helping players organize their lockers. And little wonder he’s so attentive: Not only does he get paid by the club but also earns tips from the players.

Dwyer’s philosophy: No task is too trivial. He picks up family members from the airport, fetches prescriptions from the drugstore, hauls ice bags to the trainer, buys groceries and on occasion helps a player and a fan exchange contact information.

“It is for the single guys. They are looking, and there are girls who are doing the same,” he said. “They’ll send their number to the players.”

Situated underneath the stadium at Cashman Field, the clubhouse is Dwyer’s home away from home during the five-month season. On nights after extra-inning games, Dwyer and his assistants have been known to sleep on sofas in the clubhouse instead of commuting home and back to the stadium for an afternoon game the following day. He’s never called in sick.

They pack uniforms and equipment for road trips, clean dirt off the bottom of shoes and ensure the meals are in accordance to the Toronto Blue Jays (the 51s’ parent club) nutrition guidelines. They split their time in the visiting clubhouse, where the relationships aren’t as formal but the responsibilities are equally daunting. Home stands are typically eight days, meaning more than a week of consecutive 14-hour days.

At age 19, Dwyer was named the manager of the visiting team’s clubhouse. In 2010, he was promoted to oversee both sides of the stadium.

“He has built up a lot of relationships with different players,” said Josh Stone, a clubhouse assistant. “It makes it easier on me because players come here knowing they are going to get treated well because of their past experiences with him.”

It’s labor of love and a lifestyle Dwyer is passionate about, partially because the former reserve on the Bishop Gorman High School team lives out his dreams every day by being around the game.

He’s in the team photo, stands on the first base line for the national anthem and shares in the celebration when a players receive a promotion to the big leagues. That’s when he’ll contact the clubhouse manager in Toronto with information on what size uniform to have ready for the player and any other specific needs he might have.

“That is the best part of this, seeing guys get that dream (a big league promotion) and getting to that part of their life,” he said.

The 51s players aren’t alone in their aspirations to advance to the major leagues. That’s also a dream of Dwyer. He sends his resume to a few big-league teams each off-season, but knows opportunities at that level are far and few between. Mike Murphy, the San Francisco Giants clubhouse manager, has been with the team since 1958 — a fact that speak volumes to opportunities for advancement.

“Even if I am there for a year, I just want to experience it,” he said of the big leagues. “You work so long and so hard for something like that, ultimately you want to get to the highest level.”

The 51s say Dwyer would do well in the majors. “From what I have heard from the players, he is certainly one of the better guys in the league,” said Chuck Johnson, the Las Vegas 51s general manager. “Stevie does a lot of everything to make sure the players are happy in the clubhouse.”

Still, Dwyer — who is married and has a young son, and works during the day in the youth ministry at a local church — would be perfectly content spending the rest of his career at Cashman Field with the 51s. His Henderson home is filled with memorabilia from his years on the job (autographs nowadays are made out to his son) and some of his closest friendships were formed during those long hours at Cashman Field.

“The players respect the job he does,” Las Vegas manager Marty Brown said. “The big thing is making sure the players are comfortable and it is an atmosphere in which they want to be here. He does a great job in allowing them to come in and making sure it is their home away from home.”

And, for Dwyer, that is Cashman Field — his home each spring and summer.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21.

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