As mentioned in the title, this is what I hope to be part one in a four part series. Since there are four Indians minor league clubs in Ohio, I have decided to try and visit each ballpark, take in what the park has to offer, and interview an Indians prospect so our readers can learn a little bit more about what the Indians farm system has to offer. The first stop on my journey was Eastwood Field, home of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers of the New York Penn League.
For those who may not know, Eastwood Field is located right alongside the Eastwood Mall complex in Niles, Ohio. The location is perfect because it provides the best of both worlds for the casual fan: The baseball field for the game, and the stores for people who love to shop (cue the women nodding). Tickets are also very easy on the wallet, as general admission is typically just five dollars (although last night they were just ONE DOLLAR). Anyways, I had never been to a Scrappers game before yesterday (weird, I know) so I was pretty excited to see the park, and catch our first round pick Tyler Naquin in action against the Aberdeen IronBirds (owned by Cal Ripken Jr.- and yes, the parentheses in this paragraph are starting to get out of hand, just take a deep breath and relax).
My Seat for the Evening-
My first impressions of the stadium itself were overall very good. The stadium provided a ton of seating, and I was interested to see just how filled up the stadium would get on a promo night (All you need to know is that yesterday’s game was not only “Super Hero night,” but also dollar hot dog and drink night). According to Tim Pozsgai, the Scrappers head of media relations and play-by-play announcer, the Scrappers have drawn over 30,000 fans in just 9 minor league games so far this season. Considering that every night is not a “dollar night,” that stat is all the more impressive. Tim went on to explain that Mahoning Valley typically finishes second in the Indians system in seasonal attendance, just barely losing out to the AAA Columbus Clippers. In other words, people love coming out to see these guys, and after attending last night’s game I understand why.
As far as the game itself goes, the Scrappers took care of the IronBirds quick and painlessly, as a five run second and six run fourth quickly put the Scrappers up by a score of 11-1. I feel as if I have been being treated to the best offense the world has to offer when watching games lately, as the last game I watched was the Indians trouncing of the Angels on July 4th. Anyway, as you can see from the picture above, there was a bit of a scuffle in the later innings of the game. At the end of the sixth inning, Aberdeen had tallied three runs, cutting the lead to 11-4. I guess you could say that the umpiring crew made some “questionable” calls in the top of the 7th, which led to IronBirds player Cameron Edman being called out looking on strikes. Edman decided to give the umpire a “piece of his mind” as angry players love to do, and by the time you could blink Cameron was ejected by the home plate umpire. BUT THAT’S NOT ALL! IronBirds head coach Gary Allenson also came out to argue the strike zone with the home plate umpire, which caused him to be ejected.
Before the bottom of the seventh inning can begin, IronBirds hitting coach Brad Komminsk seemed to still be fuming over the strikezone, which caused him to be sent to the showers. Those of you keeping score at home, thats 2 coaches and one player being tossed in just a half-inning! Thats why we love baseball here at IPL.
The picture above was taken during the bottom of the eighth inning. Scrappers starting catcher Charlie Valerio crushed a baseball to deep center, causing the center fielder to race back to the warning track. Just as the center fielder was about to hit the wall he made the catch, retiring Valerio. Apparently the IronBirds second baseman said some choice words to Valerio as he rounded first, and the benches AND bullpens cleared. No players or coaches were ejected during the gathering on the field, but you could get a sense that the umpires really did not have any control at this point. Eventually the game finally came to an end, with the Scrappers winning 11-4.
So, a final count of the important stats- 15 runs combined between the two teams, 3 Aberdeen players/coaches tossed, and 1 bench clearing incident. What did this game not have?
Thoughts on Tyler Naquin-
Well, the game ended with every Scrappers player recording a hit except for Tyler Naquin, who was 0-4 with a walk and run scored. I think I need to reserve a few words to talk a little about what Naquin brings to the Indians organization. For anyone who might remember, I wrote a piece a few weeks ago talking about why I thought the Indians should have gone with a pitcher for the 15th pick instead of Tyler. Now? I would not have wanted any other player besides Naquin. Although Tyler did not tally a hit in last night’s game, I still left the game impressed with his talent and personality. I was originally scheduled to meet with Tyler for an interview prior to the game, but unfortunately could not because Naquin was getting some extra work in since he had the previous night’s game off. During the game, Tyler had some excellent jumps on fly balls and line drives, even making a “Web Gem” worthy play on line drive that he dove and caught. Also, the kid was the fastest player on the diamond last night. Running out fly outs, scoring from first on a bases clearing triple, and running on and off of the field between innings was all I needed to see to classify him as a speed demon. I am no major league scout, but having watched a pretty decent amount of baseball in my lifetime, I feel like it is safe to say that Tyler Naquin will have absolutely zero issues being an everyday center fielder in the big leagues.
Also, Tyler looked quite comfortable in the box during the game despite going hitless. You can definitely see that patience he has when he bats, looking for his pitch to drive. His 0-4 night dropped him to a .333 average over 18 games, which is good for second on the team (Just behind another highly touted Indians prospect, 3B Joe Wendle).
Post-Game Interview with Tyler-
As I said before, I am making it a personal goal to interview an Indians prospect for each field I go to; With all the talk surrounding Mr. Naquin, naturally he was my pick for which Scrappers player to chat with. Problem was, I had to wait for him to sign autographs, and a lot of them.
Eventually, I was able to grab him away from the side and throw a few questions his way.
I still just cannot get over just how humble this kid is. If you don’t think this he’s humble, just listen to the interview below.
Well, thats all I have for the Scrappers. I will definitely be back to Eastwood for a couple more Scrappers games before the season ends. It really is a great family atmosphere. If you have never been there, I definitely advise you to check it out. Also, as you may have seen from a picture or two above, Eastwood Field is hosting the 2012 New York/Penn League All-Star Game on August 14th. Tickets for the game are going to be available for a decent price, so if I were you I would definitely consider checking that out as well.
I am attempting to make this a four part series, so look for part two in the next few weeks as I visit another Indians minor league park, review it, and chat with an Indians prospect!