Ohioans hamilton, ruiz begin season with mahoning valley scrappers
By Steve Ruman
Prior to Saturday after- noon, Nick Hamilton had been to Eastwood Field in Niles on one other occasion.
An Avon Lake High graduate, Hamilton played at the home of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers in the spring of 2011 as a member of the Kent State baseball team. The Golden Flashes were in town playing Youngstown State.
“All I remember about the day was that it was wet, and I was sitting the bench,” Hamilton said. “But I also vividly remember sitting there thinking to myself, ‘Wouldn’t it be neat to come back here and play as a pro?”
Hamilton — the son of Cleveland Indians broadcaster Tom Hamilton — is about to get his wish.
After being selected by the Indians in the 35th round of the 2012 draft, Hamilton spent the past year in the Arizona Rookie League. Earlier this month, he was assigned to the Class A Mahoning Valley Scrappers.
The Scrappers open their season Monday with a home game against Jamestown.
“It’s a dream come true,” Hamilton said. “I grew up a die-hard Tribe fan. To be playing for the organization this close to home is beyond anything I could have hoped for.”
Hamilton played one year at Xavier, then transferred to Kent State prior to his sophomore season. As a junior, he batted .337 (60-178) with 12 doubles, two triples, one home run and 35 RBIs in 54 games.
Hamilton is one of two Ohioans on the Scrappers’ opening day roster. Outfielder Brian Ruiz was born in the Dominican Republic, but his family moved to Cleveland when he was 14. He starred at Lincoln West High School before being drafted by the Indians in the 41st round of the 2011 draft.
“I live three minutes from downtown [Cleveland],” Ruiz said. “I played four high school games at Progressive Field. I always dreamed about playing for the Indians. Being drafted by the franchise has kept that dream alive.”
Ruiz said he attended a Scrappers game last year as a fan, and is excited to make Eastwood Field his summer home.
“The atmosphere here was great when I was here,” Ruiz said. “It’s a beautiful park. I look forward to playing in front of the fans.”
The Scrappers’ roster includes seven players who were selected in the most recent June draft. The highest-drafted player is Trevor Frank, a pitcher out of UC Riverside who was picked in the eighth round. First-round pick Clint Frazier, an outfielder just out of high school, was assigned to the Arizona League Indians on Saturday.
This past spring, Frank went 4-2 with 2.45 ERA, 10 saves, 44 strikeouts and only nine walks in 44 innings pitched for UCR.
“Even though I knew there was a strong chance of getting drafted, I was shocked to hear my name called,” Frank said. “It really hasn’t hit home yet. I have heard nothing but positive things about the Indians organization, so I’m excited.”
A San Diego native, Frank’s trip to the Mahoning Valley marks the first time he has ventured beyond the western part of the United States.
“My first impression is that this area is a lot like Oregon, with lots of green and lots of trees,” Frank said. “It’s a lot different than San Diego. Not as hot, but great baseball weather.”
Scott Erickson is among the new additions to the Scrappers’ coaching staff. Erickson is a former 20-game winner who finished second to Roger Clemens in the 1991 American League Cy Young Award.
Erickson joined the Indians organization last year, and spent the summer at Carolina.
“I’ve already seen things in Class A that I never saw in the minors,” Erickson said. “I saw a strikeout turn into a triple play. I saw a ground rule double turn into a triple.
“It was an interesting first year, but a great one. I love this game, and once I retired, I knew I wanted to stay involved in some way.”
Ted Kubiak returns as the Scrappers’ field general. Kubiak managed the Scrappers in 1999 and 2000, then again in 2003. He held various roles in the Indians’ organization, then returned to the Mahoning Valley in 2012.
“Right now, a lot of these guys will be playing every day for the first time in their lives,” Kubiak said. “The travel, the fans, playing under the lights. It’s all a new experience, and its not easy to adapt.
“The stress and the physical wear and tear can be tough. We have to do what we can to ease the transition.”
The Scrappers and Jammers open the season Monday at 7:05. The contest is part of a three-game series.