Willie Aviles was with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers in the franchise's first two years of existence before being reassigned in the Cleveland Indians organization for the 2001 season.
"Last year when they told me I was going to Burlington, I wasn't disappointed that I was going to the Appalachian League," Aviles said. "I was disappointed that I wasn't coming back."
Aviles was part of the Scrappers' two Pinckney-Stedler Division crowns.
"Those are unforgettable years for me," said Aviles, who resides in Orlando, Fla. "The first year, 1999, no one expected us to do anything, but we went to the finals against Hudson Valley.
"And then we come back in 2000 and repeat [in the division] and lose in the finals again," Aviles recalled.
The Scrappers fell short of New York-Penn League titles both times, losing best-of-3 series to Hudson Valley and Staten Island 2 games to 1.
"I credit all of that to the players we had and [manager] Teddy Kubiak," Aviles said. "He knows how to communicate with the players; he knows how to get the best out of the players.
"I just sat back and watched how he operated and I learned a lot about the game from a coaching standpoint."
Aviles was supposed to coach at Burlington this season, but when Scrappers coach Dave Turgeon left the organization, Aviles was assigned to Mahoning Valley. His three years with the Scrappers are more than any other coach.
"Congratulations and welcome to the Cleveland Indians organization."
Those are the magical words a first-year player hears upon being drafted or signed. Then, the process begins.
A player's first year in professional baseball is one big adjustment. The Indians try to make that transition easier by stressing patience within their system.
Aviles, with manager Chris Bando and pitching coach Ken Rowe, carries that responsibility with the Scrappers, and he tries at the outset to put things into perspective.
"Don't try to come in here and impress us again," Aviles tells them. "You've impressed the scouting department; that's why they signed you.
"If you come in here and start trying to impress the coaching staff, you start pressing. Just relax and play your game."
The Indians want their minor league players to learn about the pro game. Therefore, they tell coaches to let players play for the first 30 to 45 days and avoid tinkering with their mechanics.
"You're playing seven days a week. I call this a 24-7 job," Aviles said. "They have to cope with that, they have to cope with being away from mom and dad again, they have to cope with living with other guys.
"They have a lot to adapt to before we sit down and say, 'Let's talk about your mechanics.' "
In other words, the Indians want players to have fun in their first year.
"I don't really get to mechanics much the first year," Aviles said. "I like to stress drills. I'm a 100 percent drill guy. If I can install the drills that we use in this organization in their first year, hopefully the mannerisms will take over."
So, what does the future hold for Aviles in professional baseball? The former New York-Penn League player is in his fifth season with the Indians and continues to gather knowledge about the game.
"My first five years, I wanted to sit back and learn as much as I can," Aviles said. "I let the organization know that I want to manage, and I think I can manage. I think I'll be a good manager one day."