The Las Vegas Cougars were founded in 1997 by Bill Huggins, a former minor-league prospect. The team, which was named the Las Vegas Braves originally, competed in what was then known as the MSBL/MABL (Men’s Adult Baseball League). Although the national organization still operates under that name, the Las Vegas chapter changed its name to VVBL (Vegas Valley Baseball League) roughly two years ago.
The Early Days
Huggins managed and financed the team from 1997 to 2001. He was able to establish franchise solidarity by fielding consecutive teams without interruption. After a previous uniform variation, the Braves donned navy blue sleeveless jerseys which enabled players to wear red or blue t-shirts underneath for color variation. The Red Sox ‘B’ was placed on the left side of the button up jersey which also featured white numbers on the back and no last name. Caps were red with dark navy blue bills and had the Red Sox ‘B’ on the brim. The uniform replicated those of the old Boston Braves.
In 2002, the team changed hands as Seth Turner took over all managerial and financial duties. Turner, who served as Braves assistant coach and player under Huggins for all but one season, subsequently changed the team’s name and color scheme. Under Turner’s direction, the team finished the ’02 campaign 13-11. With that mark, the team placed third in regular season standings and earned a playoff berth losing to the eventual champions in round one.
Following the 2002 season, the team disbanded amid financial struggle and roster issues. The young local talent Turner was able to harness made their way onto the semi-pro scene and also began to play with other league teams based on relationships built from the semi-pro venture. Turner also went his separate ways moving to Nashville to record a country western music album. It wasn’t until 2006 the team competed together again.
Reunited (and it feels so good)
What started as a joke at a Las Vegas 51’s minor league baseball game quickly became serious. Nostalgia took over as the core of the ’02 squad, most of whom were not playing baseball at the time, expressed their acute interest in re-forming the Cougars. Mike Villa, who played for the franchise in 2000, ’01 & ’02, had been playing with the Dirtbags during the Cougar hiatus. Also during that time, the Dirtbags had gone from league futility to league dominance. Villa seized the opportunity and was able to field a team. He assumed managerial duties for the fall 2006 season and posted a 7-6 record. The team also earned fourth place in the regular season and a postseason berth. They were eliminated in the first round.
Present & Future
Managerial positioning shifted yet again in 2007. Andrew Anderson, who served as assistant to Villa, took over the reigns. The move was a no-brainer however, considering Anderson’s excellent game knowledge, savvy and varsity high school baseball coaching experience. Together Villa, who serves as team GM, and Anderson have able to attract premium local talent with the help of current teammates and friends. These players have kept the team fresh and competing at a championship-caliber level.
Expectations are high, and with the addition of former 4A Southern Nevada high school baseball coach of the year Willie Rivera adding invaluable baseball insight, all indications point to strong and competitive Cougar baseball for seasons to come – and great friendships being built along the way.