NILES - It's been 10 years since Dave Turgeon spent a day at Eastwood Field.
In 2001, Turgeon spent an entire summer at the ball park when he served as manager of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers.
On Thursday, Turgeon returned to Niles, this time as the skipper of the visiting State College Spikes.
Tribune Chronicle photo / R. Michael Semple
State College Spikes manager Dave Turgeon directs his team from the top step of the dugout during Thursday’s action at Eastwood Field. Turgeon is a former Scrappers manager.
Turgeon and his team were in town to begin a three-game series against the Scrappers.
The opener was won by the Scrappers, 6-5.
"This place brings back a lot of great memories, it's hard to believe it's been 10 years," Turgeon said. "We didn't have a great record that year, but everything else about the experience was wonderful. That year was a great learning experience."
Turgeon's stint with the Spikes marks his third tour of duty in the New York-Penn League. He began his playing career with the Oneonta Yankees. He spent parts of his career playing in Holland, France, Taiwan and Mexico before coming back to the U.S. in 1998 where he rose to AAA in the Baltimore Orioles organization.
From 2000 to '02 Turgeon worked in the Cleveland Indians system. In 2002, he managed at the Indians' extended spring training program in Winter Haven, Fla., and was set to return to Mahoning Valley for a second season before accepting a coaching position at Boston College.
College coaching stints followed at Connecticut, Duke and Virginia Tech before Turgeon returned to pro ball.
Top dogs: Scrappers shortstop Jairo Kelly hit a three-run homer, while catcher Jeremy Lucas was 4-for-4 with a game-tying RBI.
In the doghouse: Scrappers starter Geoff Davenport struggled again, giving up four runs on seven hits through five innings. The lefty owns a 7.11 ERA.
Bark of the night: "How you deal with failure determines your success." Scrappers catcher Jeremy Lucas said.
Kibbles N Bits: The Spikes have yet to hit a home run this season. ... Scrappers outfielder Juan Romero leads the NY-PL with four home runs. ... Through six home games, the Scrappers are averaging 3,366 fans. ... The Scrappers entered the night with a league-low .202 team batting average.
Stadium Scraps: The Scrappers and Spikes continue their three-game series tonight at 7:05. Fans will be treated to fireworks following the game. On Saturday, the homestand concludes with Bark At The Park. Fans are encouraged to bring their four-legged friends to the game.
During his initial years as a professional coach, Turgeon worked closely with current Scrappers manager Ted Kubiak. The two have remained in touch ever since.
"Ted taught me invaluable lessons during those first few years," Turgeon said. "He taught me everything from how to handle game situations to how to deal with players. He taught me a lot of life lessons. I will always be grateful."
When asked to compare the NY-PL of today to what it was like when he played in 1987 at Oneonta, Turgeon laughed, saying "it is like night and day."
"For one, the league has greatly expanded. We used to take short commutes," Turgeon said. "Our one lengthy trip was to St. Catherines (Canada). Today, we're all over the place.
"The biggest difference is with the facilities. Back when I first started out it was very minor league. Today, a lot of these parks would pass for double-A and triple-A stadiums. For the most part, the facilities are first-class."
While the Scrappers struggled through a 26-49 season under Turgeon, the summer he spent in the Mahoning Valley proved to me a life-changing experience.
Following a Sunday afternoon home game, Turgeon attended the Italian Festival in downtown Warren. There, he met Theresa Dobson, a Warren native who would later become his wife. The two currently reside in Sarasota, Fla.
"Obviously, this place brings back fond memories. It's pretty neat to return. We will have a huge group of friends and family members who will make the mile or two trip to the park to see the series," Turgeon said
The Scrappers spoiled Turgeon's return with a come-from-behind win in front of 3,366 fans.
The Scrappers received one huge early blow from Jairo Kelly, then collected a string of hits in the eighth to seal the win. Last week, they were swept in a three-game series at State College.
Jairo Kelly gave the Scrappers an early 4-0 advantage when the lead-off hitter blasted a three-run homer to right with two outs in the third. Kelly's home run was his first of the season, and the first hit by a Scrapper other than Juan Romero.
State College knotted the game at 4-4 in the third. The Spikes roughed up Scrappers starter Geoff Davenport for six hits in the inning, including a pair of doubles.
The Spikes took the lead in the sixth on a David Valesente RBI single. The game remained in favor of the visitors until Mahoning Valley erupted for five hits and a sacrifice in the eighth.
Joe Sever and Aaron Siliga started the rally with back-to-back singles. Jeremy Lucas tied the game with a one-out single, then pinch-hitter Joe Wendel provided the game-winning run with a sacrifice fly that plated Siliga.
Lucas, who entered the night just 1-for-10 on the year, went 4-for-4 with a double and RBI.
"This feels great. We've been struggling as a team, and I've been struggling since I got here, but we all keep working hard," said the 12th-round pick out of Indiana State. "Baseball is a tough game. You're going to go through tough streaks. You just have to believe in what you're doing and keep plugging away."
The Scrappers and Spikes continue their series tonight at 7:05 p.m.