Jamestown’s Collins homers in first at-bat

NILES – As he walked to the plate leading off in the second inning, Jamestown Jammers’ designated hitter Dan Collins paid close attention to the announcement over the PA system at Eastwood Field.

He was tabbed as the Wing Warehouse Strikeout Man of the Game.

Admittedly taking offense to the jab, Collins did the exact opposite.

The Niceville, Fla. native ripped a home run to left-centerfield on the first pitch he saw, in his first minor league at-bat, using a wooden bat for the first time in at least a year.

“That was awesome,” Collins said. “There’s a lot of adrenaline running that first at bat in the minor leagues. With a win, too, it was nice to get off to a good start.”

Collins said the first few seconds in the batters box against Mahoning Valley Scrappers pitcher Luis Lugo were nerve-wracking. Add the pressure of being the season’s inaugural strikeout man, and it was down-right scary.

“I got them, though,” Collins said, laughing. “Then they got me.”

In his next at bat, Collins struck out swinging.

“So it worked out for them,” he added.

The 5,531 in attendance for the Scrappers’ 15th season opener were awarded six free boneless wings courtesy of Wing Warehouse in the Eastwood Mall Complex.

FREQUENT FLYER: Collins’ hometown is in Florida’s western panhandle, near the Alabama border. When he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 13th round of this year’s draft, he immediately reported to Bradenton, where the Bucs have their spring training and Class-A Advanced team. It’s seven hours away, so he flew there, spent a few days meeting rookie coaches and working out. Then, Collins flew up to Jamestown, N.Y. before driving into Northeast Ohio this morning on the team bus.

“It was kind of a long transition,” Collins said. “But there’s no place I’d rather be.”

CATCHING ON: Mahoning Valley catcher Martin Cervenka provided the team’s only spark at the plate. The Prague, Czech Republic native had a leadoff double in the second inning, but his most exciting plays were on the defensive side. In the sixth inning, he threw out Jamestown runners Jordanelli Carvejal and Elvis Escobar as they tried to steal second base, consecutively, after reaching on singles.

“The way he came out with that one guy and threw out of the crouch, I don’t know if it could’ve been any better,” Scrappers manager Ted Kubiak said. “It was a good release and the throw was right there.

“He got the second guy after he even bobbled it a little.”

Cervenka threw out 13 runners while playing in the Arizona League in 2012. For his three year career in the Cleveland Indians’ organization, he has thrown out 23 would-be base stealers, that includes one he gunned down in Class-A Lake County, this year.

“I just play long toss to warm up,” Cervenka said. “The first time you throw anybody out feels good.”

BABY YOU’RE A FIREWORK: Monday was the first of eight fireworks nights at Eastwood Field. The next post-game fireworks display is on Thursday, July 4. The remaining nights feature theme music including artists such as Tom Petty and the Beatles. There will also be a rock n’ roll theme, 70’s music, 90’s hits and tunes from baseball movies. Tuesday is Wellness Night and a college fair, sponsored by Kent State University – Trumbull Campus is on Wednesday to close out the homestand.

OPENING HISTORY: The Scrappers have won six of their last eight home openers. Last year, they opened the season at Jamestown and won, 8-5. Mahoning Valley beat the Jammers at the Eastwood Field opener, 2-1, two days later.