Scrappers begin 20th season tonight against Black Bears


Plenty of attractions,

some new, some old,

as Scrappers host WV

By Steve Ruman

sports@vindy.com

NILES

Fireworks, dollar hot dogs and bobbleheads.

A new video board, an upgraded sound system and a stadium makeover.

Oh yeah, and plenty of baseball.

The Mahoning Valley Scrappers — and all of the promotions and entertainment which are a staple of minor league baseball — are back!

Tonight at 7:05, the Scrappers debut their 20th season in the Mahoning Valley when they host West Virginia. The game at Eastwood Field will be the start of a three-game series, and the first of 38 scheduled home games for the Scrappers.

“You know, opening day never gets old, it never loses its charm no matter what level,” said Scrappers first-year manager Jim Pankovits. “There is always a special feel to that first game of the season.”

Pankovits becomes the 11th manager to guide the Scrappers. He replaces Luke Carlin, who last year led the team to a 44-29 record and a Pinckney Division title in the New York-Penn League.

Scrappers outfielder Clark Scolamiero is one of 11 players on the opening day roster who were with the Scrappers in 2017. He says that Pankovits and the rest of the first-year Scrappers are in for a treat.

“That final few weeks of the season during the stretch run, that was some intense, exciting baseball,” Scolamiero said. “This league is about player development, but once you get into a playoff chase, the games become more meaningful, and the team approach is a little different.

“I have told a lot of the newcomers that playing [at Eastwood Field] has a different feel to it. It was special all summer long, then during that last few weeks things really got amped-up.”

Aside from baseball, fans will also be treated to a new-look Eastwood Field. The stadium, which was built in 1999, received a facelift during the offseason. The most notable change will be the addition of a 27-foot by 24-foot video board with LED lighting. It is four times larger than the old scoreboard.

Other upgrades include a new 360-degree sound system, new dugouts, a new roof, restrooms for the suites and several new portable concession units. Computerized point-of-sale purchases at all concession stands will result in smoother, speedier transactions.

The Scrappers are already planning more upgrades at the end of the season, including a new playing surface and a remodeling of the clubhouse.

“Fans are going to be thrilled. They are going to notice a huge difference the moment they walk into the ballpark,” said Scrappers assistant general manager Heather Sahli. “We have made a huge commitment to greatly improve the fan experience.”

From a promotional standpoint, many of the fan favorites which have becomea staples at Eastwood Field return this summer. Tonight will mark the first of seven fireworks nights. “Buck Nights” (bleacher seat tickets, drinks and hot dogs each for one dollar) return for every Thursday home game. There are four bobblehead nights (featuring former MLB umpire John Hirschbeck, Jose Ramirez, Francisco Mejia and Triston McKenzie), and numerous other giveaways throughout the season.

Star Wars Night, Superheroes Night and Bark at the Park also highlight the promotional schedule.

“Every night, there will be some type of promotion which will give fans a reason to come to Eastwood Field,” Sahli said. “We strive to make the Scrappers experience one which will cater to the hardcore fans and to those just looking to enjoy a nice summer outing.”

Through 19 seasons, the Scrappers have an overall record of 722-727. That includes five trips to the playoffs and a NYPL title in 2004. They have drawn more than 2.5 million fans to Eastwood Field.

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