Conditions, coaching help Las Vegas players hit MLB dreams

LAS VEGAS (KSNV News3LV) - The Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper and Chicago Cubs' Kris Bryant both went 3-for-10 with two home runs in their first head-to-head series as major leaguers this week.

The Las Vegas natives are two of baseball's biggest stars, but they aren't the only southern Nevadans who have or will make major-league rosters.

Joey Gallo (Double A with the Texas Rangers), Erick Fedde (first-round draft pick of the Nationals) and Chris Carter (Oakland A's, Houston Astros) have had or will have a major-league impact.

So what is so special about baseball and Las Vegas? The simple answer is weather and coaching.

The warm weather allows kids to play year round, said Mike Martin, president of the Las Vegas Baseball Academy.

The former Chicago Cub opened the club baseball organization in 1983.

"Guys like myself that have played the game and experienced the game, there's a lot of us out here (in Las Vegas)," said Martin.

"Mike Martin is a good example," said former Bonanza High School baseball coach Derek Stafford. "There's a lot of good coaches out there, and they are passing on their knowledge."

Stafford coached Bryant, the Cubs rookie sensation, at Bonanza High School.

"I saw him at 14 years old," said Stafford. "He played catch about 10 years older than he actually looked."

Sam Thomas coached Harper, the Nationals perennial All-Star, at Las Vegas High School.

"I had seen Bryce when he was 6 years old, and he was far better than all the other kids that were 11 and 12 at that time," said Thomas. "We're 20 to 30 years away from seeing another Bryce Harper."

While Thomas and Stafford agree Harper and Bryant possess extraordinary talent, they said Las Vegas does offer quality coaching. They're humble when they say, it's not their own coaching they're talking about, but that of those before them.

"I played for Rodger Fairless," said Thomas. "I was fortunate, and there's so many other guys that he's touched in this town, that he's put his brand on them."

Fairless is considered the most successful baseball coach in Nevada's history. He's credited with developing several professional players, including Las Vegas' own Greg Maddux.
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