Making minor league memories


THURMAN Munson Memorial Stadium in Canton was my indoctrination to minor league baseball with the Cleveland Indians Class AA affiliate Canton-Akron Indians (1989-96).

I can still remember seeing players like Deion Sanders wearing the Albany-Colonie Yankees uniform in the late 1980s, early 1990s.

Even former Champion High School graduate Darrin Chapin was part of that team as well. I just didn’t find out that factoid until I started working here. Chapin played for the Canton-Akron Indians in 1995.

Jim Thome, no doubt my all-time favorite Cleveland Indian player, was a third-baseman for Canton-Akron and seemed like he would be a Wade Boggs-type hitter when he started out, but slowly he gained his power and showcased it once he got to the big leagues.

There was plenty of major league talent on that Class AA club, including Charlie Nagy, Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, Brian Giles, Eric Plunk, Paul Shuey and Bartolo Colon.

Those names were memorable, and I can recall the AA team giving the then-1989 Cleveland Indians quite a scare in an exhibition game the first year of the franchise in Canton, winning by one run. It was the closest I ever came to a foul ball as well, dropping a row in front of my catcher’s mitt signed by Mark Lewis.

That first year I recall Tom Magrann and his rocket-like arm gunning down would-be base stealers. His batting average wasn’t the greatest, but his play in the field was simply outstanding.

Then, there was left-handed pitcher Kevin Bearse and outfielder Beau Allred. Both had a cup of coffee in the majors those were two other players that stood out back when I watched my hometown Canton-Akron Indians during my high school days.

Hopefully some of you, no matter your age, will have the same experiences at your hometown minor league park – Eastwood Field.

The Mahoning Valley Scrappers have had plenty of major league talent pass through Niles, like CC Sabathia, Ryan Church, Lonnie Chisenhall, Jason Kipnis and Victor Martinez to name a few.

It’s about the players and their development more than wins and losses. The Scrappers’ offense has struggled of late, but Scrappers manager Ted Kubiak said after Friday’s loss to Batavia the individual performances are what matter. These young players are fighting to move up the minor league ladder in hopes of making the majors.

“We’re looking more at what our guys are doing up there (at the plate),” Kubiak said. “Are they doing what we’re trying to get them to do or are they improving on themselves? In some cases, yea. In some cases, they’re in the middle of trying to fix things and trying to learn some things. It’s a little different for the college guys coming out. They’re facing these guys night after night, too. That’s a bit of a different story.

“We’ve got guys here from Arizona. They’re young.”

Hopefully, like I remember my Canton-Akron Indians, you can recall years from now a player you saw at Eastwood Field.