Hot stove in the winter

NILES – Gail Drushel stood inside Ciminero’s Banquet Centre sporting her navy blue Cleveland Indians cap with Chief Wahoo encased by tiny red light bulbs blinking emphatically.

Drushel, who hails from Champion, can not only been seen, but heard around Eastwood Field during Mahoning Valley Scrappers with her cowbell. Was the bell tuned up for Thursday?

“It’s right there in the bag,” Drushel said during Thursday’s Mahoning Valley Scrappers Hot Stove Banquet, which was presented by the Scrapper Backers and Sports Radio 1240 AM. “I thought I’d be nice.”

Her memories are many as the Scrappers Backers treasurer and secretary, more so as a host family for the Indians’ short-season Class A team.

Jose Ramirez, who is one of the top prospects in the minor-league system, stayed with Drushel when Ramirez was in Niles.

Ramirez was one of a handful of former Scrappers and Indians top prospects in attendance at Ciminero’s. Kyle Crockett, Erik Gonzalez, Ramirez, Colt Hynes, Bryson Myles, Tyler Naquin and Joey Wendle were also in attendance. Hynes, who was recently traded from the San Diego Padres in October 2013, did not play with the Scrappers.

In addition to Ramirez, Drushel hosted former Scrappers like Zach Putnam of the Chicago White Sox and Eric Berger, who is in the Houston Astros farm system.

“They’re my boys,” Drushel said. “It’s like raising your own kids. It really is. I make them toe the line, make them pick up their junk. Tell them to drive safely in the car. I’m probably crazy for letting them use the car, but I do.”

Naquin, who is a speedster outfielder from Texas A&M, spoke with many of the people in attendance at the banquet.

In a few weeks in Goodyear, Ariz., he’ll get to show his talents to the parent club at spring training. Naquin, a centerfielder by trade, hit .269 with 30 doubles, six triples, 10 home run and 46 RBI with Class A Carolina last season. He was a handful of Indians prospects invited to the Arizona Fall League, where Naquin excelled.

“When I got that call, I was fishing with my buddy Andrew Brown,” Naquin said of being invited to spring training. “I told him, ‘I have to cut the motor off for this call, brother.’

“They called me and told me. It’s an exciting feeling.”

Scrappers General Manager Jordan Taylor said getting these top prospects in the area is exciting as well.

“It really shows the community that while, in some cases, maybe a couple years away from the big leagues, every one of our teams have on average three to four big-league players,” Taylor said. “It’s really cool for them to come back to the area where, in many cases, they started their career and give our fans a chance to talk to them, get autographs, pictures and things like that.

“It’s a pretty cool experience.”

The experience at Eastwood Field will continue through the 2016 season as the Player Development Contract with the Indians has been extended, according to a news release from the Scrappers. Mahoning Valley has been part of the Cleveland farm system since 1999, the inception of the Scrappers organization.

Even though the Scrappers don’t officially start until June and MLB Spring Training is a couple of weeks away, Thursday brought thoughts of summer even though it is the dead of winter.

“I’m so warm and fuzzy right now, you can’t even imagine it,” Drushel said. “I can’t believe the crowd we’re getting. It looks so nice.”