The Scrappers play a free exhibition tonight at Eastwood Field.
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
NILES -- Rouglas Odor has some big shoes to fill this season as the new manager of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers baseball team.
The Scrappers won the New York-Penn League's championship last season under manager Mike Sarbaugh, who has been promoted to the Lake County Captains.
Managing in the minor leagues is not an easy job. Winning is important, but developing players for the Cleveland Indians, the Scrappers' parent team, is what the game is all about at this level of play.
"Winning the championship last season was great, but our main objective here is player development," Odor said. "We would like to do both, win and develop players and that's what we'll be trying to do this season."
Odor spent the last four seasons as the manager of the Burlington, Vt., Indians. Last season the team finished in third place in the East Division of the Appalachian League with a 31-35 record. In his four seasons with the Indians, Odor posted a record of 128-142.
Before joining the Indians' field staff at the age of 37, he played six seasons in the Indians minor league organization. He was a 32nd round draft pick by the Indians out of the University of New Orleans. Odor made it to the Class AA level with the Canton-Akron Indians before his playing days concluded.
A native of Venezuela, Odor worked as the Venezuelan Field Coordinator from 1995-98. He also managed the Venezuelan Summer League team in 1999 and 2000, leading the team to a championship his second season with a record of 41-16.
Odor has had most of the players on the Scrappers' roster for the last three months during extended spring training in Florida.
"Most of the returning pitchers and a few others have been working with us in Florida and I had a pretty good idea as to which players I'd be getting to come here and play," he said.
The Scrappers have five college draft selections on the roster and although Odor expects to get more in the next few weeks, he knows he has to handle those players a little differently.
"The kids coming in from college will have to be taught the game as we play it," he said. "A lot of them have been playing a lot of ball with their teams. We'll talk to each of them and get a feel for how they feel and go from there.
"Some of them haven't played in a while, but I know that they've been working out daily, especially the pitchers, and once we've had a good look at them we'll know just where to go with them," Odor said.
Odor expects big things from the eight players who were with the Scrappers last season.
"Those players learned a lot last year going through a championship season," he added. "A lot of players need time to learn how to win, but these kids have gone through that and it can only help them in the long run."
Odor doesn't feel any pressure about winning the league title again this season.
"Everybody wants to win, but that's not our main goal here," he said. "Development is the key goal here and if you can develop and win it's all that much better."
Odor will get a preview of his new team tonight when the Scrappers play an exhibition game against the Allegheny Athletics at 7 p.m. at Eastwood Field. The game is free to the public and the new scoreboard will be unveiled.
Odor will be joined by two new coaches on this year's staff.
The hitting coach is Jack Muill, who has been coaching and managing in the minor leagues since 1974. He has been in the Indians organization for the past 10 years and spent last season with Lake County.
The pitching coach is Tony Arnold, a former major league pitcher with the Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers. This is his 13th season in the Indians minor league system. The past two years he was with Lake County and in 2003 was named South Atlantic League coach of the year after his pitching staff compiled a league low ERA of 2.67 with 22 shutouts and 52 saves.
Odor, who resides in Winter Haven, Fla., with his wife Milagros, has two sons, Rouglas A. and Rouglas Z.