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Saturday, March 15, 2014
Collins holds court in Las Vegas

By Todd Dewey | Special to ESPNNewYork.com

LAS VEGAS -- Holding court with the media at Las Vegas’ Cashman Field on Saturday morning, Mets manager Terry Collins recalled his days as a player and manager in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.

“I’ve seen some balls six feet high go out of here,” he said.

A light-hitting career minor leaguer who played parts of six seasons for the PCL’s Albuquerque Dukes, Collins joked that the ball flies so easily out of the league’s ballparks that even he was able to hit one out once.

"I hit a home run one day in Albuquerque. They’re still talking about it," said Collins, who actually had six home runs in 2,009 career at-bats in the minors. "The other team’s manager was Rocky Bridges. When I hit it, he said, 'Oh no. Not you.'"

In all seriousness, Collins said he doesn’t think pitching in Las Vegas, New York’s Triple-A affiliate, and other PCL parks adversely affects Mets prospects.

“There’s bandboxes in the big leagues, too,” he said. “You’ve got to learn how to make pitches. It doesn’t hurt them.

“I know guys are going to hit home runs out here. If you’re hitting the ball hard, you’re going to hit home runs in the big leagues. Balls fly out of Philly just like they fly out of here. They fly out of Cincinnati just like they fly out of here.”

Collins and Sandy Alderson touched on several topics regarding Las Vegas, including the subpar facilities at the aging ballpark and the performance of 51s manager Wally Backman, who guided them to an 81-63 record and a division title last season.

Collins on the facilities: “I know they hired a new groundskeeper and the field looks absolutely great. But the issues have always been they need an indoor batting cage here when it’s 120 degrees in the summertime. They do a great job here, but the game has changed, with all the new parks around. I just hope there’s a chance one of these days there will be a new one built here.”

Alderson on the facilities: “I think the 51s would admit their facilities here aren’t ideal, with an outdoor batting cage and things of that sort. But they continue to make improvements. They have a new groundskeeper here and I think they’re moving in the right direction.”

Collins on Backman: “Wally Backman is one of the best baseball guys you can be around. He knows how to win. He’s done it. That’s been his whole life. He exudes the kind of player he was. ... Players take on the personality of the manager. If the players that leave Las Vegas take on Wally’s personality, we’re going to be better.”

Alderson on the possibility of the Mets renewing their affiliation with Las Vegas after this season: “We’ll just have to see how things develop. We didn’t anticipate being here last year, so the last thing I’m going to do is speculate about next year. But we have a good relationship with the 51s staff here and there are some positive aspects to being out here. Frankly, I think it was a nice change from Buffalo.”

Ike and Duda updates: Collins also discussed the progress of first basemen Lucas Duda and Ike Davis, who both remained in Florida to rehabilitate injuries.

“They did their morning workout, they hit, they did their ground balls. Duda is still ahead of Davis. There’s a good chance we’re going to run [Duda] on the bases tomorrow [Sunday]. We’re hoping Monday or Tuesday he’ll be in the lineup.”