Down on the farm

BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:39 AM ET

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Minor-league life means bus trips.

Maybe for New Hampshire and Dunedin.

Not for the Las Vegas 51s.

The 51s caught a 6:45 a.m. Salt Lake City-Denver Southwest flight Friday and took a bus 72 miles south to Colorado Springs.

"Yep, 4:15 a.m., wake up and we play the same day," said former Blue Jays reliever Jeremy Accardo.

Security Service Field, at 6,531 feet, is the highest altitude stadium in North America, 1,000 feet higher than Denver's Coors Field.

There was an El Paso County Sheriff van parked outside the clubhouse on Saturday afternoon.

Oh-oh, who got into trouble?

As it turned out, none of the 51s.

Security Service Field uses prisoners from a local jail to clean the grandstand from the night before, since 6,241 fans can leave a mess.

Blue Jays president Paul Beeston should be phoning the Don Jail.

COWBOY UP

Las Vegas outfielder Aaron Mathews would stick out in a crowd. Not because of a .324 average with four homers and 10 RBIs in 20 games.

Mathews wears a Stetson, Tony Lama boots and a belt buckle the size of a Wilson football.

What part of Texas is he from?

John Day, Ore., actually.

And in the Southwest lounge Friday morning, Mathews ran into two of his old pals, including Dustin Elliott, 2004 Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association champion bull rider.

"Hadn't seen him since high school," Mathews said. "I saved a seat for him on the plane and we got caught up on old times. Those guys have a worse travel schedule that we do. They were headed for North Platte, Neb.. and then off to Reno."

Elliott is currently ranked 15th in the world.

"We've got three pro athletes from my town," Mathews said of John Day (Pop: 1,672). "Trevor Knowles, a steer wrestler, Dustin and myself."

Mathews' belt buckle was given to given him by 51s general manager Don Logan and reads "1993-2003 Pro Rodeo board of directors."

"Logan told me he thought I'd appreciate it," said Mathews who wears his lid, boots and buckle almost every day and goes to the National Rodeo Finals in Vegas each December.

MAYOR RETURNS

Dennis Holmberg, who has managed Auburn since 2002 opened this season Friday.

Egan Smith picked up the win, as shortstop Gustavo Pierre hit a solo homer. Catcher Calos Perez and first baseman Lance Durham, son of Leon (Bull) Durham, each had three hits. Kleinburg third baseman Randy Schwartz doubled and North York DH Marcus Knecht singled.

Holmberg, 58, a former Jays bullpen coach, is the longest-tenured manager in the Jays system and the New York-Penn League history.

"It's like President Clinton after his eighth year," Holmberg told the Post-Standard of Syracuse. "He was asked if he was any better than in his first year in the office. Every job takes a toll. There are new players to work with. It's always challenging to get the new players improved. Three things make up a good manager. No 1 is patience. No. 2 is patience. No. 3 is patience."

After four years playing in the Milwaukee Brewers system, his son Kenny is following his father's roots, managing his second year in the Texas Rangers system.

REVIEWS FROM THE SPRINGS

"Brett Wallace had a good first month, J.P. Arencibia had a good month, but Jarrett Hoffpauir has been our most consistent hitter," Vegas hitting coach Chat Matolla said. "J.P's paying attention this year, before all he thought he had to do was show up."

"The best hitter on this club is Arencibia, he has a quick, compact swing," said a National League scout covering the Vegas-Colorado Springs Sky Sox series.

"The Jays got a real good one in Aaron Sanchez, I liked his arm a lot, we were interested in on him and are sorry we missed him, he was ready to sign," said another scout who had pro and amateur coverage on Sanchez, a high schooler from Barstow, Calif. The Jays signed Sanchez, the 34th overall pick, for $775,000 US.

BOB.ELLIOTT@SUNMEDIA.CA


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