A night to remember

NILES – Before the start of their 3-2 win over the Hudson Valley Renegades, the Mahoning Valley Scrappers inducted five individuals into the organization’s Hall of Champions. This is the first Hall of Champions class as the Scrappers are currently in their 15th season as a minor league affiliate of the Cleveland Indians.

The 2013 player inductees were CC Sabathia and Victor Martinez. The three other inductees were the Scrappers first general manager Andy Milovich, Niles mayor Ralph Infante and entrepreneur William Cafaro. These three men were essential facilitators to the construction of Eastwood Field, then Cafaro Field, and ultimately the beginning of the Scrappers organization in 1999.

Sabathia, now a New York Yankee, played for Mahoning Valley in 1999. He pitched in only six games for the Scrappers, posting a 1.83 ERA, and spent one additional season in the minor leagues before being called up to the Cleveland Indians in 2001. Since arriving in the MLB, Sabathia won a Cy Young award in 2007 and has appeared in six All-Star games. In 2008, he was signed to a $161 million contract, the largest contract for pitcher in history at the time.

Martinez, a current Detroit Tiger, began his professional career with the Scrappers in 1999. He hit .277 with 36 RBIs in 64 games. Since moving to the Major Leagues, Martinez has been selected to four All-Star games. Martinez was a key piece of the Indians’ 2007 playoff run that ended in the ALCS. He currently has a career batting average of .301.

Cafaro died in 1998, unable to see the first pitch in the field he contributed so much to build, so his son, Tony, accepted the award on his behalf.

“It’s a real pleasure and real honor to be here today representing the Cafaro family,” Tony said. “I know for sure that my father would accept this recognition with great humility and great appreciation.”

Another thing the senior Cafaro would have appreciated is the way the Scrappers (21-28) pulled off the 3-2 victory on Hall of Champions night. The Scrappers were trailing 2-1 going into the ninth inning. All-Star starters Jimmy Roberts and Nellie Rodriguez led off the inning with back-to-back singles. Josh McAdams bunted into a fielder’s choice when pitcher Rick Teasley threw out Roberts at third. That failed sacrifice attempt ultimately did not hurt the Scrappers as Paul Hendrix, with one out and runners at first and second, hit a two-run double down the right field line, scoring the tying and game-winning runs.

“I was just staying with my approach that I had the whole game,” Hendrix said,”and when the pitch came in my zone, I was going to attack it. It just happened to be the first one. I put a good swing on it.”

Hendrix’s approach was certainly working as he went 3-for-4 with two doubles and the two winning RBIs. The crowd of more than 3,600 was on its feet in the ninth and Hendrix was appreciative of the fan support.

“It’s awesome when the fans get like that,” he said. “Sometimes they don’t like the way we play,but when it’s times like that and the fans get into it, it’s a lot of fun.”

The pitching staff for Scrappers, Caleb Hamrick in particular, pitched out of multiple jams. He gave up the only earned run by means of a solo home run from Renegades left fielder James Harris.

“Hami pitched great,” Mahoning Valley manager Ted Kubiak said. “He’s pitched really well. He had a little shaky period in there but his last two starts have been really good. He’s throwing well – he’s throwing strikes. That’s all you can ask for.”

With last night’s win, the Scrappers snapped a three-game losing streak in which they were outscored 13-4.

“I go out there every night with that in mind,” Kubiak said. “We’re not going to score a lot of runs but I go out there with that optimism that we’re gonna win. It hasn’t happened a lot, but that was a great win.”

The Scrappers continue the three-game series against Hudson Valley at 7:05 tonight.