NEW YORK-PENN LEAGUE Scrappers opener Tuesday
The defending league champions will play an exhibition game Sunday.
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
NILES -- Matt Haynes still gets goose bumps when he talks about last season with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers.
The Scrappers, entering their seventh season in the New York-Penn League (Class A short season), are coming off a championship year, their first-ever title.
"It was a magical year and the ending was the best part," said Haynes, a native of Marochydore, Australia, and in his fourth season of professional baseball, the second with the Scrappers.
"There we were heading into the final series needing to win all three games just to get into the playoffs," Haynes added.
"It was just an unbelievable season that I'll never forget.
The Scrappers, who returned to Eastwood Field Thursday for their first workout, defeated the Auburn Doubledays in two straight games in the opening round of the playoffs, 4-3 and 7-3.
They did the same thing in the championship series against Tri-City Valley Cats, winning 6-5 and 4-2 to claim the title.
The team will play an exhibition contest Sunday at 7 p.m. at Eastwood Field against the Allegheny Athletic Club.
Admission is free.
Jamestown in opener
The Scrappers will open defense of their New York-Penn League championship Tuesday night when they play host to the Jamestown Jammers in the first of a three-game series at 7 p.m.
Eight members of the championship team will return this season. They did have nine, but pitcher Dan Cevette was called up to play for Lake County team Thursday morning.
Besides Haynes, a right-hander who posted a 4-4 record last season, the Scrappers have five other pitchers returning.
They are left-hander Ryan Knippschild of Lawrence, Ka.; Scott Lewis, also a left-hander from Washington Court House; Justin Pekarek, a left-hander from Staplehurst, Neb.; Nelson Hiraldo, from Puero Plata, Dominician Republic, and Mark Jecmen, a 6-foot-8, 235-pounder from Diamond Bar, Calif.
Other returning players are catcher Omar Casillas of Cidra, Puerto Rico, and infielder Chris Clem, another Australian, from Brisbane.
Four draft picks on roster
The Scrappers have four picks on the roster from the recent amateur draft, and are expecting to have more as they are signed by the Cleveland Indians, the Scrappers' parent club in Major League Baseball.
The four are pitcher James Deters of Portage, Mich., who played at Calvin College, and twice this past season struck out 20 batters in a game.
Catcher Justin Pouk of Streator, Ill., joins the Scrappers after playing for Texas A & amp;M, while infielders Andrew Lytle of Highlands Ranch, Colo., comes in from the University of Iowa and Jordan Brown from Vacaville, Calif., last played at the University of Arizona.
The Scrappers will be led by first-year manager Rouglas Odor, who spent the last four seasons with the Indians rookie league team in Burlington, Vt.
The team will also have a new hitting coach in Jack Mull, and a new pitching coach, Tony Arnold. Both were with Lake County in 2004.
Odor is the fifth manager in the seven-year history of the Scrappers, replacing Mike Sarbaugh. Only Ted Kubiak, who managed the team for three seasons, has managed for more than one year with the Scrappers.
Haynes wasn't happy with his first season with the Scrappers.
Learns to pitch again
"I really didn't have a good year, but coming from Australia, I had to learn how to pitch all over again," he said.
"I've added some pitches this year, including a changeup, and I'm looking forward to having a much better year," he continued.
"This is a great place to play baseball," he said. "The stadium here is one of the best around and the Mahoning Valley fans are definitely the best around.
"I look around and there is some great talent on this team and that gets me even more excited about getting this season started," Haynes added.