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September 16, 2014

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Little Leaguers showing the world another side of Vegas

Las Vegas’ marketing geniuses have done wonders to help attract some 40 million visitors a year here. With sticky tag lines, bold advertising, aggressive use of social media and old-fashioned word-of-mouth, there are few destinations in the world better known for fun and frivolity.

As a result, that’s largely how we are known: for our world-class resorts, fine dining, high-end shopping, amazing entertainment and state-of-the-art gambling.

But those images are a two-edged sword, because if you mention Las Vegas, people think of self-indulgence, late nights, gluttonous feasts, bling, booze and blackjack — none of the trappings of a typical American community.

So those images can backfire when a company is being recruited to relocate here. What tourists envision as a fantasy-fueled getaway is seen by a CEO as a threat to his employees’ well-being. Is this the kind of place to raise a family?

So we’ve got to try another line of recruiting, one that sells not the veneer that creates the Vegas image, but the substance that tells the world who we really are.

Let’s start that campaign with a loud and proud shout-out to the Mountain Ridge Little League team that landed with a big exclamation point in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.

With jaw-dropping play, the explosive wonder team from the northwest valley — along with its dedicated coaches, families and friends — has done us proud. Mountain Ridge, made up of players ages 12-13, won all six of its regional games and its first three games at the World Series. For the summer, they are 16-0 and have outscored their opponents 184-27 (as of press time, the team had not played its U.S. championship game against either Illinois or Pennsylvania, teams Mountain Ridge had already beaten 13-2 and 8-1 in Williamsport).

The city has embraced the team and, with an assist from Sports Illustrated cover girl Mo’ne Davis of Philadelphia, the nation is getting a good, long look at our kids.

The Aug. 20 game against the Pennsylvania team was the most-watched in event history, drawing a 3.4 national rating and 16.3 rating in Las Vegas.

So it’s time to create a new ad campaign for Las Vegas, one that promotes an aspect of our community that few people on the outside seem to understand.

It would highlight the Smith Center for the Performing Arts, the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, the arts district, the expansion of the Galleria Mall to the east and the creation of Downtown Summerlin to the west. We’d talk about cutting-edge research in renewable energy at UNLV and water conservation at the Desert Research Institute, and of course our ballfields, because Las Vegas is as American as, well, baseball, hot dogs and apple pie.

For decades, people have dismissed Las Vegas, seeing only its Sin City image. But as we all know, real people live here and experience all that life has to give. And people move here because of the great quality of life the valley offers. It’s a place where kids can play baseball in top-quality ballparks.

If anything, our Little League success story is a reflection of Las Vegas itself. People come here to achieve their version of the American dream, and there’s little to hold them back aside from their own desire.

Las Vegas is, in fact, a quintessential American city, an international destination created by people with a strong work ethic who didn’t let the fear of failure stop them. Las Vegas isn’t defined by the Strip. It’s made by the communities of people who achieve every day in school, careers and life.

It makes perfect sense, then, that a group of kids from here would make it to Williamsport. The ballplayers are terrific ambassadors for a world-class city built on the dreams of carpenters, casino magnates, small-businesspeople and now Little-Leaguers.

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