The boys of summer are back in town


For the past 14 years, the Mahoning Valley Scrappers have welcomed the boys of summer to Eastwood Field to begin their budding major-league careers.

The emphasis of that sentence needs to be put on the word “boys.” Because if you look at the roster, most of these kids still can’t enjoy a legal adult beverage after a game.

While these players are now professional athletes, in terms of life experiences, they probably have few. The oldest player on this season’s team is Joshua Nervis at the “old” age of 24. The youngest Scrapper to take the field is Nellie Rodriguez, who celebrated his 19th birthday on June 12.

During Saturday’s media day at Eastwood Field, the 2013 edition of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers answered questions from numerous media outlets about their young journeys through professional baseball and what they expect, or dream of, for this coming season and their aspiring careers.

“I’m just looking forward to seeing some fans,” pitcher Caleb Hamrick said. “I haven’t played in front of fans since high school. I want a big crowd because nothing beats a great baseball atmosphere on a summer night.”

The Scrappers enter their 15th season of developing baseball players while entertaining the Mahoning Valley with America’s pastime. There have been many of these young men, barely out of high school or college, who have gone through a media day at Eastwood Field, only to find themselves one day being interviewed in the locker room of Progessive Field wearing an Indians’ uniform.

The most recent, well-known, Scrapper turned Indian is Jason Kipnis. On Friday night, Kipnis drove in the game-winning run and has become one of the faces of this year’s team.

But does anyone remember Kipnis when he donned the red, white and blue at Eastwood Field in 2009? And before Kipnis, there were many other players people likely know who are currently earning major-league salaries. Does the name Asdrubal Cabrera ring a bell? Victor Martinez, anyone? And then there is probably the most famous Scrapper in the first 14 years, CC Sabathia, who played for the team in its inaugural season.

Those are just a few of the players who got their start on Eastwood Field and called the Mahoning Valley home for the summer.

The odds are favorable that one of the players on this year’s roster will one day step foot on Progressive Field. The best part of this league and level of play is that we don’t know who it will be.

Could it be Luis Lugo, the 19-year old from Venezuela who will get the opening-night start? Will it be 23-year-old Nick Hamilton, the son of Indians’ radio announcer Tom Hamilton? Or will it be Hamrick, the 19-year old who is just excited about playing in front of a good crowd in Niles.

No matter who it is, fans of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers should go and see this group of players. You never know, one day you could say “I remember them when they were a young Scrapper.”