Those mighty Mahoning Valley Scrappers have returned to Eastwood Field this week to plunge into their sweet 16th season of professional-caliber baseball action. Over the past 16 years, the Valley’s Class A Cleveland Indians farm team has come of age, maturing into a tightly knit squad that has enjoyed an incredibly successful and sustained run on the baseball diamond.
As the team continues its home-opening stand this week against the Auburn Doubledays, we’re counting on three months of minor league baseball slam-packed with fun and entertainment for fans, continued growth for the squad and myriad economic and quality-of-life perks for our sports-frenzied region.
The Scrappers have come a long way, baby, since 1999, when the Cafaro Co. generously provided the capital for a state-of-the art baseball stadium on the grounds of its sprawling Eastwood Mall complex in Niles. Before that investment, some skeptics grouched that the Mahoning Valley would not see professional baseball until the day “pigs fly.” If that’s so, then pigs have been flying high and happily above Eastwood Field for lo these past 15 years.
Clearly, the Cleveland Indians farm team ranks as the most successful and most enduring professional sports franchise in modern Valley history. The team drives home a tangible spirit of regionalism and pride in our five-county area, a refreshing change from the parochial and negative attitudes that too often hinder progress on economic, community development and other playing fields.
And why shouldn’t it? The Dawgs got talent. The Scrappers have won four division titles and one league championship in its relatively short history of short-season play. The team has fielded many savvy players who have ended up on the roster of the Indians and other MLB teams.
Scrappers give back
And while fans support the team, the Scrappers support their home base. The team makes a smashing economic impact on the Valley through its employment of staff and scores of game-night workers. The team also supports hundreds of community groups through mascot Scrappy appearances, donations and fundraising programs. What’s more, the ripple effects of more than 3,000 fans on average who attend each game can be felt in nearby restaurants, bars, nightclubs and retail establishments.
The Scrappers also provide fans with excitement and merriment at affordable prices. The 2014 season is loaded with creative special events at virtually every game. There’s the Bring Back LeBron Night on June 26, the Forrest Gump 20th Anniversary Night on July 5, and Hunger Games Night on Aug. 5, just to name a few. Many fans have grown to relish Thursday night Buck Nights, where admission tickets cost $1 and that quintessentially American baseball delicacy — the hot dog — sells for 1 buck as well.
As these and other promotions prove, the leaders and staff of the Scrappers’ off the field pay close attention to every detail of every game. On the field, the young and scrappy recruits are serious about playing their hearts out to the delight of tens of thousands of loyal fans. As the Scrappers come out to play for 2014, we wish them sweet success toward a championship season.