Monday, Sept. 17, 2012 | 5:55 p.m.
When the Las Vegas 51s open the Triple-A baseball season next April, they’ll be affiliated with a new big-league team.
The franchise announced Monday a new two-year Player Development Contract with the New York Mets, ending a four-year run as the Toronto Blue Jays' top minor league team.
Toronto is expected to sign a two-year contract with the Buffalo Bison, which the Mets were affiliated with the past four seasons.
“We are looking forward to working with the New York Mets as our new affiliate,” 51s General Manager Chuck Johnson said in a statement. “The Mets will continue to provide quality players for us on the field that our fans will enjoy watching play. We are also excited to have the New York 'brand' in the Las Vegas market.
“From the 51s' perspective, nothing is going to change from our end,” Johnson continued. "We will continue to provide affordable family entertainment to go along with the promotional nights and the outstanding caliber of competition that typifies PCL baseball.”
The Mets will be the fourth organization to be affiliated with Las Vegas in the Triple-A franchise’s history.
From when the franchise debuted in 1983 until 2000, Las Vegas was the top farm team of the San Diego Padres in reaching the playoffs seven times. They were called the Las Vegas Stars when affiliated with San Diego.
From 2001 to 2008, Las Vegas switched affiliation to the Los Angeles Dodgers. They also dropped the Stars and became the Las Vegas 51s.
Next spring, prospects from a new organization will occupy the home dugout. The Mets, of the National League East, will likely appeal more to Las Vegans — several New Yorkers call Southern Nevada home — than the Blue Jays did the past four years.
“We are excited about our new partnership with the Las Vegas 51s and the city of Las Vegas, one which values equally player development, winning and community involvement,” Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson said in a statement.
With the 51s' home stadium of Cashman Field outdated and lacking amenities of other Triple-A facilities — players take batting practice in a small cage adjacent to the parking lot and there is a lack of proper rehabilitation equipment, among other shortcomings — aligning with Las Vegas comes with a risk.
“We understand with the lack of player amenities at Cashman Field and the proximity of Buffalo to Toronto (100 miles), it makes sense geographically to move to Buffalo,” Johnson said.
Buffalo finished with a 67-76 record last year, finishing last in the International League’s North Division.