Chris Bando, new manager of the Scrappers, is impressed by Cafaro Field.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
NILES -- This time, Chris Bando is staying.
Settling into his role as first-year manager of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, Bando got a glimpse of his future, and he liked what he saw.
Cafaro Field was snow-covered. The clubhouse was silent. The stadium was empty.
None of that mattered to Bando, the former Cleveland Indian who was wide-eyed and full of smiles Thursday as he got his first look at the Class A short-season facility.
"I've heard they have some hard-core, vocal fans," Bando said of the Mahoning Valley. "Youngstown was always one of my favorite stops on the press tour. This is a good sports town."
Went to Akron: Bando, 45, was named manager before the 2001 season before Indians' management reassigned him to Double-A Akron. He guided the Aeros to a 68-74 record.
"It's hard to believe the facilities are this nice again, even on this level," said Bando, who managed at Akron's highly-regarded Canal Park last season. "Players who play in a facility like this, it definitely helps their development."
Bando is the first Scrappers manager to hail from Ohio, and he will make the 40-mile commute from his home in Solon during the season.
He has seven seasons of minor league managerial experience, the first six in the Milwaukee Brewers organization. Interestingly, he has never played or managed at the Class A short-season level.
"My desire was to manage one of the [Indians'] minor league affiliates in Ohio," said Bando, who returned to Solon to care for his father, Sal. "I'm able to stay home with my family and be part of a tremendous organization."
Unofficial start: Bando's arrival Thursday in Niles unofficially commenced the Scrappers' fourth season in the New York-Penn League.
The Scrappers won the Pinckney-Stedler Division title in their first two seasons under Ted Kubiak, before a team devoid of talent tumbled into last place last season with Dave Turgeon at the helm.
Each season brings a host of new players into Mahoning Valley, most of whom are college draft picks.
Now, Bando gets his turn to lead.
"I like to play action baseball and push the game along," Bando said of his style. "I like to run and do those things that make the game more lively."
Development: Still, Bando knows the No. 1 priority is player development.
"As you go down the [minor league] ladder, your emphasis is on development," he said. "At the same time, you want to develop them and teach them how to win."
Bando will be assisted by Turgeon and pitching coach Ken Rowe, who held the same role last season.
"I love working with kids," Bando said.