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Group of four back for more



Published: Sat, June 17, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



Cirilo Cumberbatch, Evandy DeLeon, Brent Thomas and Andy Lytle played for the team last year.

By BILL SULLIVAN

VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF

NILES -- They're not rookies anymore.

When the Mahoning Valley Scrappers open New York-Penn League play Tuesday in Jamestown, NY, many of the players will be competing in their first professional baseball game.

But not outfielders Cirilo Cumberbatch, Evandy DeLeon and Brent Thomas, and infielder Andy Lytle, who all spent some of last season with the Scrappers.

Because it's such a huge transition -- competing in a professional league, games every day of the week, living away from home and extended travel -- the foursome likely will be called upon by many teammates for baseball wisdom.

In all walks of life the new guys turn to the established workers for some insight. That's a process the four likely were involved in last year, just now they're the veterans.

Thomas hit .222 (16-for-72) in 20 games last summer. He spent the off-season at home and in Lubbock, Texas, where he "just hung out a little bit."

The jolt of going right from college to the NYPL last season took its toll.

"I got a mental and physical break. That's what I needed. I was in school for many years and I needed a break of doing absolutely nothing to clear my mind and get things back under my feet," Thomas said.

A few days ago, in Winter Haven, Fla., while he was at extended spring training, Thomas was told he was being assigned to the Scrappers again.

"I like playing here," Thomas said while looking around Eastwood Field.

So what advice does Thomas offer to his new teammates?

"Come out every day and play hard. Play for yourself. Prove to yourself every day so in the future, when you look back, you won't say 'Man, I wish I would have played hard.' "

Saw the best

Lytle played three weeks with the Lake County Captains before being sent to the Scrappers last week.

There, while competing against the Lexington Legends, he got the news that he could play every day in Mahoning Valley.

Pitching for Lexington was future Hall of Famer, Roger Clemens, who is on the comeback trail.

"I coached first base that game," Lytle said. "It was amazing.

"To see him in person was just unbelievable. He's such a humble guy and the way he approaches the game is unbelievable."

After last year Lytle returned home to Highlands Ranch, Colo., where he worked out daily and gained 12 pounds in the weightroom.

"I stayed on a strict regimen [and] got some home cooking from my mom -- that always helps put on weight."

Lytle agreed with Thomas on the value of good work habits.

"This game's so humbling. You're going to have peaks and valleys and you learn that so quick in pro ball.

"If you start a slump, you can't get down. You can climb back real quick," Lytle said. "That's just how pro ball works."

In 56 games last summer, Lytle hit .257 (54-for-210) with 18 RBIs.

Hand is healed

Although plagued by a broken hand last season, Cumberbatch batted .260 (38-for-146) in 45 games with three home runs.

After surgery on his glove [left] hand in the winter, "Cumby" is ready for his sophomore year.

He will tell the new players "Keep it level; play 100 percent."

At spring training he was told that if he does not make the Lake County team, he will return to the Scrappers.

Back for more

DeLeon stole 13 bases, hit .260 (38-for-146) and scored 28 runs in 45 games in 2005.

He worked hard at home in Azua, Dominican Republic, in the winter and hopes that discipline carries over this season.

DeLeon will tell the new players to "work hard," when he is pressed for advice.

sullivan@vindy.com




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