I started going to Big League Weekend in Vegas about six years ago, back when the Cubs regularly played the White Sox in the middle of spring training. Tickets for the ballgame were under $20, and Downtown Vegas was just getting going as an alternative destination to the Strip. The slots were looser, the drinks were always free, the hotels were cheaper, and the pit boss would easily bestow upon this regular craps player a complimentary buffet. However, it seems those days have passed.
The cheapest seat for 2016's Big League Weekend, which was actually held on a Thursday and Friday, was $45. The hotel prices have doubled, and the popularity of Downtown has raised the prices of everything from the craps tables to the buffets. The common argument I hear against my complaints about inflation are "Hey, the market is just going to get what the market can bear!" I agree with that sentiment. But this reporter is here to tell you that at least as far as Big League Weekend is concerned, the market can't bear it.
I didn't attend the Thursday night game as I was ticketless and hit traffic driving up from Phoenix, so we checked into the Downtown Grand right at game time. But I did run into this guy Angel (guy on the right in photo 4), who had attended game one of the two-game set and left the game a bit early due to long beer and food lines. I had met Angel two years earlier at BLW and immediately recognized him while I took a break from the $3 craps table at the Fremont to cool off my $35 in winnings. He said the lines for beer were too long, so they took off. After all, the Cubs everyone had some to see, Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward, Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, etc, had already taken two or three at-bats and replaced with the likes of Yasiel Balaguert, Kristopher Negron and John Andreoli. I personally rarely leave games early, but I understood why they left. Cashman Field is not a great place to watch a ball game.
There are no bleachers at Cashman Field per se. However, there are uncomfortable metal benches with backs along the right and left field foul lines. These are the "$45 cheap seats". Instead of facing the infield however, they face straight out towards the outfield, forcing fans to crane their necks left or right. The sight lines continue to be a problem though. Because unless you're in the very first row, you have to find a window between heads to see the action.
I realize it's a minor league park, but I can buy three tickets from the box office at Wrigley for $45, sit in nosebleed, and still see the game better. Like most things in Vegas, besides the Main Street Station brunch buffet, and the Fremont's $3 Craps table, it's just not worth it. And I don't think I'm the only one who feels that way.
The cheap seats were pretty full, but the more expensive and seemingly more comfortable seats in the shade had large patches of emptiness. As of game time, there were tickets available from the box office for both games. So capitalists, the market couldn't bear it. Maybe they should try throwing BLW on an actual weekend. Might help.
The Friday game I attended is truly the reason I say this series cannot be called "Big League." The substitutions for the Mets and Cubs began almost immediately with only one at-bat from Bryant, Heyward, Schwarber, Rizzo and Addison Russell. This game amounted to paying $45 to sit in crappy seats to watch the Iowa Cubs and Tennessee Smokies. Personally, I felt ripped off.
Speaking of ripped off: There comes a time in Las Vegas where every gambler's luck runs out, and that happened to me Friday morning before the game when my friend and keyboard player Gary called to say that my Airbnb guest in Chicago had trashed my apartment and broken into a locked closet, rifling through all mine and my girlfriend Nicole's stuff. Gary turns my place over for the next guests for me while I'm on the road watching the Cubs. It's how I've been able to afford traveling the country watching, singing and writing about baseball. But my luck ran out.
I've had many positive experiences on Airbnb renting to wonderful people. I've also saved tons of money over staying at a hotel using the service as a guest. So by no means does this totally sour me to continue renting out my place. But it sucks. Especially because I had two cancel two more reservations due to this idiot's violation, losing $500 in the process. Not to mention having to replace all the locks on my doors because the offending "guest" ran away with the keys.
Thus, I am currently writing this in a car on the way to Chicago instead of watching baseball in Arizona. Now, it's going to be loss forms, police reports, cleaning up a mess, and seeing what is stolen. What can I say? I'm a gambler. Not with money, but with my life. I took a gamble and I lost. I just happened to lose in Vegas.
Which is also what the Cubs did on Friday. 8-1, behind poor outings by Michael Wagner and Felix Pena. Who, you ask? That's the same question I had as I looked at the missing $45 in my wallet that I could have turned into $75 at the craps table by playing the pass line bet. The beer and food lines were at least two innings long, and there were very few vendors. So at least I saved money not eating and drinking at the game.
To not end on a sour note. I love Las Vegas and I can't wait to go back. I had a much better time the last time I wrote an article about BLW for BCB two years ago. Maybe it was the fact that it was an actual weekend, or maybe getting robbed put a damper on may mood. Or maybe I've just already "been there, done that", and need to take a couple years off.
But Vegas always sucks me back somehow. Downtown is still relatively affordable and just south of the casino action on Fremont st., they are fomenting a vibrant arts scene, where I stumbled upon an arts cube, an open sourced paining project. Plus, the freaks hustling the tourists in crazy outfits on the main drag are a disturbing hoot. I won at craps and Nicole won at roulette. It's a good thing too. Because this little spring training trip ended up costing more than anticipated.
So yes! I will continue renting out my place to follow the Cubs. And yes! I will go back to Las Vegas. But probably not for Big League Weekend. This market can't bear it. I'll go to Vegas to have fun, and watch the Iowa Cubs in Iowa.
*Update on the apartment. I was burglarized and the thieves took about $7500 worth of music and recording gear. Most of it locked away in a closet that they broke into. Everything Nicole and I own was gone through. Plus, they took my banjo. It might be a while before I'm up and recording Cubs songs again, but I'll get back to it ASAP. Police reports have been filed. Stolen items itemized and I'm working with Airbnb. Now, we shall see if their million dollar guarantee is at least worth $7500. Yes, my Cubs fan travels are truly sordid.