Friday, January 18, 2013

January 18- Las Vegas 51s

There are very few logos within baseball that bring me to my knees in a state of absolute awe. When it comes to the Minor Leagues, no one does it better than the Las Vegas 51s. This particular hat has been around since 2003, the early part of the Los Angeles Dodgers time frame of having them as their AAA affiliate. The Dodgers had them from 2001-2008, the Toronto Blue Jays had them from 2009-2012 and the New York Mets took over for the 2013 season. Which is actually a funny coincidence since Travis d’Arnaud spent all of 2012 there as a member of the Jays, only to be traded to the Mets as a key piece in the RA Dickey deal back on December 17, 2012; which will more than likely be where he’ll be starting out in 2013. Over the last decade a lot of Major League talent donned this cap, and I couldn’t think of two more talented guys to sport than #41 and #50.

#41 was kind of an obvious choice: Matt Kemp. Kemp played for the 51 from 2006-2007. Playing in only 83 games in those two years, he went on to put up .343/7/56. Yah, that’s right! Kemp only hit seven home runs during his time in Sin City. Obviously his performance the last few years in the Majors has proven his worth as a top prospect for the Dodgers, but still! Seven home runs in AAA? Unreal! A of other talent obviously swept through Vegas: Andre Ethier, Cody Ross, James Loney and Jayson Werth (WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF!!!) for example; however, not one really had the talent as #50.

#50- Chin-Feng Chen. Unless you’re an avid Dodgers fan, you probably don’t have a clue who this guy is. Back in 1999 he played for the San Bernardino Stampede, along with other notables like Mark Grudzielanek, Bubba Crosby and former National League Rookie of the Year Todd Hollandsworth. 1999 was also the first year I was bat boy for the Bakersfield Blaze. So needless to say, I saw Chen do some work against the ball club I worked for. That season Chen posted .316/31/123; absolutely monstrous. At that time I was lucky enough to see him crush four bombs in Sam Lynn Ball Park; two of which cleared the sun visor in center field. Now, you’re probably thinking, what does this have to do with the 51s? I’m getting to that. Chen was a borderline lifer for the 51s, playing from 2002-2005. During those years Chen got called up for a total of 19 games. During his time in Vegas Chen hit 87 home runs, knocked in 298 RBI and batted .283. Pretty solid stats for AAA. Unfortunately, in the 19 games he played in LA, he was only able to muster two hits and two RBI. But, Chen was still the first Taiwanese player in MLB history and opted to return to Taiwan rather than signing an extension with the Dodgers after the 2005 season. Chen’s two hits both came in 2005, thus allowing Chin-hui Tsao to be the first Taiwanese player to get a hit in MLB back in 2003 with the Rockies. Chen currently plays in Taiwan still for the Lamigo Monkeys, and sadly is not a member of the World Baseball Classic roster. Shame.

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