Las Vegas Lightning
|Name||Las Vegas Lightning
|Other nicknames||Nevada Speeders (1989-2025)
|Previous locations||Reno, NV (1991-1993)
|Colors||Navy, gold, light blue, white
|General manager||James Walker|
|Ballpark||LV Speedway (2025-)|
|Bull Cup championships||(1) 2001|
|League pennants||(7) 1998, 2001, 2003, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2020|
|Division titles||(7) ML East: 1998, 2001, 2003, 2006—2007, 2009—2010
ML West: (8) 1991, 1993, 2018, 2021—2025
|Playoff appearances||(18) 1991, 1993, 1998, 2001, 2003, 2006—2011, 2018—2025|
The Las Vegas Lightning are an American professional baseball team based in Las Vegas, Nevada. The team competes in the Bull League playing in the Metropolitan League (ML) West division. They play their home games at LV Speedway.
The team name comes from the association with Las Vegas, and Nevada generally, with racing, as well as historic Route 66, which passes through the state. The team is a founding club of the Bull League, having been formed in Reno, Nevada in 1989 in the former Central League's west division.
The Speeders currently hold the record for most Bull Cup Championship Series appearances (6), though they have only one the championship once, in 2001. In addition, players from the Speeders have won the most MVP awards, with 12.
The team all-time win-loss record at the end of 2019 was 1236-972 (.560).
- 1 History
- 2 2025 and beyond
- 3 Awards and Other Achievements
- 4 Championships
- 5 Minor League Affiliations
- 6 References
1989-1994: Early successes
The Nevada Speeders were formed in 1989 in Reno, Nevada, as a founding club in the former Central League's west division. Together with the California Tidals and Seattle Salts, they were moved to the newly-formed American Eagle League (AEL) in 1991, when the Bull League underwent a major reorganization into a 12-team league. One other team from the former Central League west, the Ohio Oxen, was moved into the newly-formed Lake League.
The AEL had an abundance of west coast teams, which led to an off anachronism of some teams being geographically misplaced in their divisions. Nevada was in the AEL West division, but California, located in the coastal city of Loa Angeles, was in the AEL East division.
Game 1 of the series was a bizarre double-no-hitter, in which neither team managed to earn a base hit. The winning run, by visiting Chicago, was scored in the 11th inning by Charcoal Simmons on a sac fly from catcher John Mizer. The incomplete box score of the day failed to record how Simmons reached base in the first place, but it is believed he pinch ran for Laffin Leopard, who perhaps reached on an error by Nevada's 2B, Bill Blasphemy.
Both pitcher threw 11 inning complete game no-hitters, with Nevada's Kelly Smith taking the loss on the unearned run, allowing no walks or hits, and striking out just one batter. Meanwhile, Chicago starter Warren Spahn also pitched 11 innings, allowing no hits but one walk, striking out one batter.
The next season, 1992, Nevada had only managed to reach 2nd place by the end of the first half, with a 9-7 record, 4 games behind the Seattle Salts, before the season was unexpectedly ended early. No league championship round was played, and Seattle, having the highest record in the AEL, was named the AEL pennant winners and advanced to the Bull Cup to face the Ohio Oxen, who they defeated.
Nevada stormed back in 1993 with the best record in the AEL, finishing 19-11 (.633) to top the west division. However, this time it was the California Tidals who turned them away from advancing further, winning the best-of-five AELCS 3-2.
In a season marked by poor hitting and multiple no-hitters all across the league, the Speeders managed to shine with one particular offensive player, shortstop East Bank, who led the team with a .247 average, 9 home runs and 34 RBIs in 30 games.
After the 1994 labor dispute that led to that season being abandoned, the whole league underwent significant changes. When the league, and the teams, reformed for the [[1995 Season|19955], everything had changed and Nevada was no longer the ascendant team it had once been.
1995-2001: Long road to first championship
Bank remained on the roster and was an important contributor as the Speeders worked to regain their foothold as the team to beat in the new AEL, and led the team in home runs. Bank won a Gold Crown Award and had a trip to the all-star game that season.
Though the Speeders finished in last place, their 34-44 (.450) actually put them just 4 games behind the division champions, Denver. The team had one of the best offenses in the AEL, with 6.1 runs scored per game, and an AEL-leading 115 club home runs. But with few of their star pitchers from the 1991-1993 years left, they were prone to giving up runs and struggled defensively overall.
The next two seasons they were above .500. Bank was gone, signed to California as a free agent, but the team signed a solid-hitting veteran, Paulo Tilano, who replaced his offensive numbers, going .323 and hitting 23 homers in 1996. Other names made an impact on the Speeders roster as well, including catcher Dave Terry, former Chicago outfielder Bud Letterlite.
Tilano, who would go on to an eventual Hall of Fame induction, continued to produce for the Speeders, as one of the AEL's premier run scorers and batters. The club finally achieved a playoff berth for the 1998 campaign, topping the east division with a 47-33 (.588) record, and besting the Richmond Ravens 3-2 in the best-of-five AELCS. They were blanked by the New York Minutemen in the Bull Cup series, but the season had shown that Nevada was a contended once more.Carl Simms, had joined the club, after signing a 7-year, $51 million contract following his release to free agency from the Chicoutimi Cinquantes. Simms rewarded the Speeders generosity by hitting .373 that season, tallying 27 dingers, and scoring 79 runs. He led the AEL in doubles with 31, and RBIs with 74, and was named as the Most Valuable Player — an award he had previously won with Chicoutimi in 1992 and which he would eventually go on to win a total of six times during his career (a total of five times with Nevada). Simms name eventually would be given to the MVP award as a permanent honor.
See article: Carl Simms
The Speeders stumbled again the next year, but righted their ship for the 2000 season, hitting a franchise best 55-25 (.688) record, and finishing in second place, just one game behind Calgary.
But the 2001 season finally saw it all come together for Nevada, as they once again topped the division, going 50-30 (.625), and once again topped the AEL in league batting, scoring 6.0 runs per game, whilst only giving up 4.0 runs per game through the year. The Speeders led all AEL teams in runs scored, home runs, and OPS, and also pitched 10 complete games, including 7 shutouts, and struck out 607 batters, all to lead the AEL.
Their postseason campaign that year saw them sweep the California Tidals out of the AELCS in three games, a team that nearly had as much power and better overall batting than Nevada. They then went on to fight a pitched battle against a much stronger Chicoutimi (who had won a Blue Rose Award for leading the LL in both pitching and hitting that season) in the Bull Cup championships, finally overtaking them 3-2 in the best-of-five series, earning their first Bull Cup.
As curiously happens often with championship teams, the very next season, 2002, the Speeders found themselves in the basement of their division, crashing to a 35-45 (.438) finish, their worst in team history. Though much of the batting lineup remained from their previous championship season, a nearly wholesale changeover of pitchers had crept up on the club.
Dave Cassell had gone from hero to zero in his second year with the franchise, following his 6-5 record of 2001 where he had a career best 3.11 ERA and 111 strikeouts, to a 2002 where he finished 1-8, burdened by an inflated 6.21 ERA.
A successful veteran starter, Marty McSouthpaw, had joined the team as a free agent from the Montreal Metros, signing a $27.2 million, 2-year deal just weeks after the Speeders won their Bull Cup. But after going 4-1 through the first weeks of the season, and crafting a career-best 2.09 ERA, the sure lock for the Sandy Koufax Award suffered a partially torn labrum, causing him to miss the rest of the season. Much of the rest pitching corps could not keep opponents from scoring.
Although the 2002 Speeders had produced the second most runs/game, and led the AEL in home runs once again, the pitching was the worst in the league, featuring an inflated 4.93 team ERA, well above the league average of 4.14.
Aside from Simms earning a back-to-back MVP award, there was nothing much to celebrate with Nevada's poor showing that season.
The team bounced back in 2003, making a third playoff appearance in six seasons, but then struggled to keep the momentum during the remainder of Simms time in Nevada. At the end of the 2005 campaign, a year in which the club finished 3rd with a 39-41 (.487) record, Simms exercised his opt-out clause and left for free agency. The pitching staff had an average age of 32.9, and had suffered years of turnover with no improvement. The departure of so much talent, both in Simms and in their previous high performing rotation and bullpen, spelled the end of an era for Nevada.
2006-2011: Contenders again
There was little hope for the 2006 season then, or so many thought, after the departure of Simms. But the hole left an opening for up-and-coming outfielder Takeo Otomo, who in 1996 had signed with Nevada as an international amateur out of Japan at age 16, taking a $2 million bonus to join the club's international complex in the process. After some false starts, with partial seasons played beginning in 2000, he finally broke into the roster full-time in 2006, replacing Simms at right fielder.
That year, Otomo hit for a .279 average, but more importantly, led the team with 32 homers and 85 RBIs. While his speed remained a concern, his defense was good enough that he played every single game of the 80-game schedule in RF.
Another journeyman, 27-year-old Barry Janmaat, who was in his third season with Nevada after a succession of good years in Hamilton, had his best year ever, a .363 spell at the plate coupled with a career high 50 RBIs and a productive amount of walks and steals. Both Janmaat and Otomo were all over the AEL leaderboards, though only Janmaat would pick up awards in the offseason, winning a Gold Crown and a Platinum Glove Award at 1B
Nevada topped the division, and won the AEL pennant after sweeping aside California, but could not defeat the upstart Ohio Oxen in the Bull Cup.
Undeterred, they repeated their first place finish in 2007, going 53-27 (.662), and this time making through an newly introduced extra playoff round, the Elimination Round, before losing to the Ravens in the AELCS. Catcher Bill Ross earned the MVP that season, and Rookie of the Year recognition was given to Zenjiro Suga, both of whom hit over .320 and had 20+ home runs.
Suga was an international free agent who signed for a whopping $16.3 million, 4-year deal, and was immediately embraced by the Nevada fans and media. He continued his successful run with the club, earning an MVP the following year, and again in 2010 and 2011.
Left-handed pitcher Matt Hanna, who had joined in 2007 as a free agent after leaving Calgary, had signed a 4-year term for $28.4 million, and was an instant success with the team, going 9-4 with a 3.35 ERA in his first season with the club. A 2008 injury sidelined him for the year, but he stormed back and went a perfect 7-0 the next season, crafting a 2.95 ERA and finishing second in AEL Sandy Koufax Award voting.
The Speeders made two more successive Bull Cup appearances, in 2008 and 2009, losing both times but dominating AEL teams in batting. In 2009, the Speeders set what was then an AEL record for team home runs, with 155, nearly double the next team on the leaderboard that year.
They remained the team to beat again in 2010, and once again made it to the AELCS that year. They followed that up with a wild card appearance in the 2011 postseason, though this time they took an early exit in the Elimination Round to Richmond.
But, 2011 would be the last year Nevada were playoff contenders for a long spell.
2012-2024: A long wait to rise again
With the adoption of the 2012 expansion, and each division now hosting five teams instead of four, competition was tougher for Nevada, which now found itself realigned back into the AEL West division, where they had originally been from 1991-1993.
The California Tidals were by now the dominant team in that division, followed at some distance by the Seattle Salts, who ended the year in second place a full 17 games behind the 63-19 (.768) Tidals.2013 and 2016, Nevada broke the .500 mark, but otherwise failed to post winning seasons or make any further trips to the postseason.
The team's record six Bull Cup appearances were all behind them, and it would not be until 2018 when the Speeders finally made another playoff. They took an early exit, losing to Denver in the Elimination Round, but at last had formed a roster that could once again compete, boasting dominant starters like Al Mota and Troy Catley, and an incredible starter-cum-closer in Shi-min Chaim, and coupling them with power-batters like Chitoji Yamada.
A repeat playoff appearance in 2019 proved the team was no fluke. Bolstered by acquisitions like Jim Lahey, who set a home run record in the new 162-game length season of 64, the team wedged their way into the wild card with a 91-71 (.562) record, just 2 games behind the west division title winners, Seattle, and one game behind the sudden up-and-coming expansion Arizona Cowboys.
They again exited early in the Elimination Round, but have now assembled a competitive team that looks to recreate their 2001 success, and has the talent to do it.
2025 and beyond
With the expansion of the ML prior to the 2025, the Speeders looked set to make a huge branding change, but after the departure of Jim Bragg, a key proponent of the rebranding the Speeders decided instead to refresh their look and move to a planned newly built stadium, LV Speedway.
The new-look Speeders are looking forward to leveraging their talented roster and organizational depth that has seen them into the playoffs for seven consecutive seasons from 2018 to 2024.
|Las Vegas Lightning General Managers|
|1995–2016||John Goss||983-787 (.555)||Probably one of the longest serving and most successful general managers in the Bull League, Goss turned a struggling Speeders franchise around and brought them to a Bull Cup championship in 2001, following that up with a long run of playoff appearances from 2006 to 2011. He made was for incoming GM Scott Dummler in 2017, moving to the assistant GM role, where he remained until 2022.|
|2017–2023||Scott Dummler||582-425 (.578)||Scott was a long-serving Nevada GM who left an impact on the club with six consecutive playoff appearances in seven seasons, including four 1st place finishing seasons. He was named GM of the year in 2018, after turning around a 47-53 3rd place Nevada franchise and rocketing to an ML-best 63-37 finish. He oversaw success even through the transition from manager Loren Stevens (201-161, from 2017–2019) to Nap Farrell (176-148, 2020–2021), then to Elliot Simms (208-116, 2022–2023), with the last two managers winning Manager of the Year once each. Under Dummler, the club drafted notable young talent such as 2023 rookie of the year winner Cletus Avery, and playoff MVP Kai Purdy, as well as landmark international free agent signings such as 2022 Carl Simms MVP Award winner and 5-time All Star Chitoji Yamada, as well as the Tak-keung Yang trade with Arizona. Dummler left an indelible mark in the Speeders history book, and retired from the Bull League after the 2023 season.|
|2024||Jim Bragg||91-71 (.562)||Jim Bragg joined Nevada as GM during the 2023-2024 offseason. Originally given an offer by the Seattle Salts, Bragg turned it down after Nevada's GM role opened up. Resigned after 2024 over a dispute with other GMs over scouting ratings.|
Awards and Other Achievements
This section needs updating
Carl Simms MVP Award
See article: Carl Simms MVP Award
- 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002 & 2005 — Carl Simms
- 2004 — Andrew White
- 2007 — Bill Ross
- 2008, 2010 & 2011 — Zenjiro Suga
- 2009 — Takeo Otomo
- 2022 — Chitoji Yamada
Sandy Koufax Award
See article: Sandy Koufax Award
Rookie of the Year Award
See article: Rookie of the Year Award
See article: Woodchuck Trophy
For career hitting percentage records, 2,000 plate appearances are required. For career pitching percentage records, 500 innings pitched are required.
Hall of Fame Players
|Las Vegas Lightning Hall of Famers|
|Player||Position||Years with team||Inducted|
|Narushi "Turbo" Ohata||LF||2018||2022|
Minor League Affiliations
|Las Vegas Lightning Minor League Affiliates|
|AAA||Oakland Dukes||Cow League||Oakland, California|
|AA||Hughes River Bats||Heifer League||Hughes, Arkansas|
|A||Albuquerque Crystals||Calf League||Albuquerque, New Mexico|
|Short Season A||San Diego Wolf Pack||SoCal League||San Diego, California|
|Rookie||Pensacola Speeders||Florida Rookie League||Pensacola, Florida|
- StatsPlus team page (https://statsplus.net/bbl/team/12?page=roster)