Ex-Indian is new MV manager
By Steve Ruman
To suggest that Luke Carlin has been around the baseball diamond a few times would be an understatement.
In fact, Carlin’s baseball career has taken him to so many locations, he’s not quite sure whether he’s ever been to Eastwood Field.
“I played for Oneonta in the New York-Penn League in 2002, so I would have played the Scrappers. But I don’t know if it was at home or on the road,” Carlin said. “I’m curious myself, I’ll have to go back and look.”
Such is the life of a baseball journeyman, one who was born in Maryland, grew up in Canada, visited parts of America while a member of the Canadian National Team, then extensively traveled the United States while a member of eight different Major League organizations.
This summer, Carlin will not only visit Eastwood Field, but he will make it his home. Carlin is the manager of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers.
Carlin replaces Edwin Rodriguez, who now coaches in the San Diego Padres organization and managed Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic.
Though he was born in Silver Springs, Md., in 1980, Carlin learned the game of baseball in Canada, where he lived for most of his early life. Carlin’s mother worked for the Canadian government and he maintains dual citizenship.
“My Dad was from America, and I developed a passion for baseball very early in life,” Carlin said. “I grew up watching a lot of Cubs, Blue Jays and Expos games on television. I just loved the game for as long as I can remember.”
Though his high school did not offer baseball, Carlin played for what he described as “the equivalent of a club or travel team.” His skills eventually led him to a spot on the Academy Baseball Canada roster.
While playing in a tournament in Boston with Team Canada, Carlin caught the eye of the Northeastern University coaching staff. He was offered and accepted a scholarship.
In 2002, he was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 10th round of the Major League Baseball Draft.
“I was pretty lucky in that in the ‘90s if you were a decent player in Canada, you really stood out,” Carlin said. “I was fortunate to get noticed by Northeastern and that helped set things in motion.
“Today, baseball is way more advanced in Canada. It’s a lot more organized, and there is a lot of talent.”
Though he grew up playing shortstop, Carlin was a catcher throughout his professional career — a career which included short MLB stints with San Diego, Arizona and Cleveland.
In between his major league experiences, Carlin played minor league ball in 12 different cities. He also played for three teams in the Dominican Republic. His last MLB appearance was with the Indians on May 10, 2012.
Carlin remained in baseball as a player until 2015. He last played at the AAA level in the Chicago Cubs organization. He then he made an almost instantaneous transition to coaching.
Carlin joined the Indians organization in 2016, and was part of the Akron coaching staff last summer.
“I knew very early on in my playing career that I wanted to stay in the game as a coach,” Carlin said. “I was extremely lucky to be around some great mentors, guys like [Chicago White Sox manager] Rick Renteria and [Chicago Cubs third base coach] Gary Jones. I saw their passion, the impact they had on the players around them, and how they truly cared for their players. That left a huge impression.”
“I knew I wanted to do this for a long time, and I’ve spent a lot of time preparing for this role.”
Carlin acknowledged that baseball at the Class A short-season level is geared toward player development. He said that his main role with the Scrappers will be to “develop skills and develop ballplayers who have the tools to move up the ladder.”
Still, he believes it is important to create a winning atmosphere, noting that “winning breeds winning.
“At this level, development is first and foremost,” Carlin said. “You have to be hands-on, you have to guide them every step of the way. But at the same time, it’s also important that these players learn to win, that they understand what it takes to succeed both individually and as a team. You want to create a winning culture that they can take with them as they progress.”
While the Scrappers season is two months away, Carlin is in Arizona working with players in in the developmental league.
Carlin said he will also “learn the ins and outs” of being a manager.
“Just like I will be developing players this summer, there are guys here who are helping to develop me into a manager,” Carlin said.
Carlin said that he has heard “nothing but wonderful things” about the Scrappers organization, Eastwood Field and Mahoning Valley baseball fans. The good vibes make him anxious to get the 2017 season under way.
“I’ve had so many people tell me what a great venue the field is in Mahoning Valley,” Carlin said. “Coaches tell me it’s a great facility for the players. The players tell me it’s a great atmosphere with great fan support. That’s a huge bonus for these guys who are getting their first taste of pro ball.”
“I’ve seen it all when it comes to minor league stadiums. It’s great to know this part of my career is starting off with a great organization and in a great baseball town.”
The Scrappers open the ‘17 season June 19 at West Virginia.