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Las Vegas ready for major league baseball, 2 Hall inductees say

With the Oakland Athletics considering moving to Las Vegas, two longtime locals who know a little bit about the subject said major league baseball would be successful here.

Ryan Ludwick played at Durango High School and UNLV before going on to a major league career. Larry Brown pitched for the Las Vegas Stars (now Aviators) before embarking on a long political career.

Both will be inducted into the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame on Friday at The Dollar Loan Center. They were scheduled to be inducted in 2020, but COVID-19 wiped out the ceremony.

Each new member has a vested interest in whether Las Vegas becomes home to a major league team, and the A’s have been on talks with Southern Nevada officials about a potential stadium while also negotiating to build a park in Northern California.

“I think they could 100 percent host a big league team,” Ludwick said of Las Vegas. “I think it took one franchise, whatever sport that was, to break ground. We’ve seen what hockey and football can do there. There’s no reason baseball couldn’t do it as well. I think the Oakland A’s would be a great fit.”

That one initial franchise was the Golden Knights, who began playing in 2017 at T-Mobile Arena and drew sellout crowds en route to an improbable run to the Stanley Cup Final.

The Raiders followed with their own move from Oakland in 2020 to Allegiant Stadium.

“If the Knights or the Raiders are any indication and certainly the Aviators, this town is ready for sports,” said Brown, 64, who served on the Las Vegas City Council from 1997 to 2008 and Clark County Commission from 2009 to 2020.

The Aviators’ long run as a Las Vegas sports staple began in 1983 at Cashman Field when the Triple-A club was called the Stars.

“I think that sent a signal right away that Vegas could handle that level of baseball,” said Brown, who played on the first two Stars teams. “The crowds those first few years were phenomenal. The team was winning. Great support. I think that laid the foundation for a lot of the professional sports that have come since then.”

Ludwick, 43, batted .363 with 43 home runs in three seasons at UNLV, making the All-Western Athletic Conference team in 1999 before being selected in the second round of that year’s draft by the A’s. He played for six teams from 2002 to 2014, finishing with 154 home runs and 587 RBIs.

His best season was in 2008 with the St. Louis Cardinals when Ludwick made the National League All-Star team and won the Silver Slugger Award. He hit 37 homers with 113 RBIs.

Ludwick rolled off a list of other locals who made the major leagues — from the Maddux brothers to Marty Barrett to Tyler Houston — and established Las Vegas as a baseball hotbed.

“I think it’s always been a baseball town,” Ludwick said. “I think other sports have actually caught up. I think when I was growing up in that town, baseball trumped basketball and football. … When you talk to scouts around the league, there’s been a lot of talent that’s come out of the city for one little city. When I moved there, there were 500,000 people, so it’s grown.”

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @markanderson65 on Twitter.