The Indians' minor league team will open at home on June 21.
BOARDMAN -- Three championship series appearances in a team's first six seasons is not common for the New York-Penn League.
That's why the Mahoning Valley Scrappers short-season Class A baseball team are preparing to promote their unusual success.
Coming off their playoff series sweeps of Auburn and Tri-City last September, the Scrappers will begin defense of their league title June 21 against the Jamestown Jammers.
In 1999 and 2000, the Scrappers also played for the league title, losing both series.
Dave Smith, the Scrappers' second-year general manager who has been an employee with the seven-year-old franchise since 1999, told the Curbstone Coaches on Monday about the team's plans to celebrate its championship.
"Fun and affordability" are the Scrappers' goals for their fans, Smith said. "As we get ready for the 2005 season, we hope to able to build off our successes both on and off the field."
Two of last season's most popular promotions are back. Fireworks will be shot off following the home opener and every Friday game at Eastwood Field in Niles.
And Thursdays again will be "Buck Nights," with regular ticket prices ($8, $7 and $6) reduced to $3, $2 and $1.
Also, food and beverage prices will be $1 at those games.
"We'll have dollar sodas, dollar hot dogs and dollar beers," Smith said. "I don't think there's a better offer in the Valley."
Those promotions helped the Scrappers draw 167,000 fans last summer, including the team's one-millionth customer.
The 2004 home opener, which was on a Friday, attracted more than 7,200 customers to the 6,000-seat facility behind the Eastwood Mall. Smith said it was the first home opener to sell out since 2000.
Smith said the franchise is proud to be part of the revived Cleveland Indians' minor league system that saw three other teams -- Triple A Buffalo, full-season Single A Kinston and the Dominican Summer League team -- win crowns in 2004.
"That's something you don't see a lot in baseball -- four teams with one organization winning titles," Smith said. "[The Indians have] been putting a lot of money into building their minor league systems and scouting departments."
Smith said the Scrappers' player development contract with the Indians has been extended for two more seasons.
"Gone are the days when the Indians are going to go out and spend on $75 [million] to $100 million contracts," Smith said. "The misfortune in that is that players like Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez have gotten away."
Scouting a must
Instead, Smith says that Indians GM Mark Shapiro must now rely on scouting and a stronger minor league system to offset expensive players that mid-market teams no longer can afford.
Smith says 12 former Scrappers have major league experience, including Indians pitcher C.C. Sabathia and catcher Victor Martinez, Rangers pitcher Ryan Drese and Nationals outfielder Ryan Church.
"While we are a lower-level team for development," Smith said it's possible to see future big leaguers at Eastwood Field.
Of the Tribe's current top 25 prospects list, nine played for the Scrappers.
In 2004, the Scrappers peaked in late August to win the league's wild card berth then eliminated the Auburn Doubledays (last season's best record) in two games to earn another championship series appearance.
Most of the 2004 players are now at Eastlake. Smith estimated that perhaps six will return this season. Most of the team will be players that will be drafted in early June.