Scrappers give area most bang for its buck

Minor League franchises in this area have been an iffy proposition. Striking the fancy of the area consumer around here has been, well, tough to say the least.

There’s been hockey, basketball and indoor football franchises that have struggled to draw the attention of area fans. The Youngstown Phantoms have had some staying power, but not as much as a team that resides at Eastwood Field.

Since 1999, the Mahoning Valley Scrappers have been a constant in the area landscape.

Sure, this team has lost 12 straight games, but most of the fans don’t come to see the game. They come for the atmosphere.

There’s plenty to do at Eastwood Field, with promotions such as Saturday’s Victor Martinez bobblehead night, a play area for the kids, giveaways between innings and Scrappy, the team mascot, doing his share of posing for pictures with children and entertaining the crowd.

Frankly, the price of admission won’t break your budget. Tickets maxing out at $11 each is about what you’d pay for a movie on a Saturday night – and you won’t have to be quiet during this feature. In fact, making noise is encouraged.

Having a 6-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son, it’s pretty hard to find something that’s entertaining for both. The Scrappers are always an easy sell. My daughter loves to hug Scrappy and pose for a picture a two, while my son enjoys watching the intricacies of the game and hopes to catch a few autographs after it’s done.

So why have the Scrappers succeeded in this area when other minor league franchises have failed?

Scrappers General Manager Jordan Taylor, who is in his 12th year with the organization, said that answer is twofold. First, it has to do with the cost of admission.

“If you look at the prices we were charging in 1999 and look at what we’re charging today, I would say there’s been very little difference,” Taylor said. “In many cases, the prices are cheaper, so we remain affordable. A big part of that is the support we get from the local community on the sponsorship side. We’re very fortunate that we’re one of the top revenue-generating teams in the New York-Penn League in terms of sponsorships. That really allows us to keep our prices affordable and run Buck Night, fireworks and the giveaway nights and things like that.”

Secondly, the names like Chris Perez coming to the team on a rehab stint or former Scrappers like CC Sabathia (now pitching for the New York Yankees) and Victor Martinez (playing for the Detroit Tigers) have drawn the masses to Eastwood. But, Taylor emphasizes that the Scrappers are a short-season Class A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, which helps the Scrappers stability.

Taylor said the fans have responded in abundance this season, the most since 2007 – averaging 3,450 per game.

“Despite some issues with the play of the team and we’ve had some weather issues, especially early on in the year, we’re happy to be at that point,” Taylor said.

Not only the Scrappers, but some minor league teams have seen an uptick in attendance the past couple of years.

“We’ve seen that since the 2009 season, when the economy was getting a little rough, not just here, but minor league baseball fans gravitated toward that,” Taylor said. “In most cases, it was a closer, much more affordable option and you still get the great entertainment – in some cases, more than you would on the major league side of things for a fraction of the cost.”

Whether it’s catching a glimpse of the future major league stars or the atmosphere at Eastwood Field, going to the Scrappers is the best choice for your entertainment dollar in the Mahoning Valley despite the team winning or losing.

“We have a base of fans who know who all the players are and who the hot prospects are on our team or the visiting team,” Taylor said. “Most of our fans in our polling are more interested in coming out for a night out that’s affordable. Maybe we’re running some specials or there’s a giveaway. It’s more about the event than how the team plays, whether they win or lose.”