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Squad may hang onto ties to Cleveland Indians

NILES — The Scrappers now are affiliated with Major League Baseball for a long-term partnership, but the team’s Indians tag might not be gone completely.

The Scrappers announced Monday the team is now a part of the MLB Draft League beginning in the 2021 season. This is for top college-level prospects who are eligible for the MLB Draft, which is July 11-13 in Atlanta.

“Our agreement is with Major League baseball as a whole,” Scrappers General Manager Jordan Taylor said. “We are hopeful to have some announcements with an Indians partnership as part of this. It’s just not in this initial roll-out here.”

That announcement may be coming in the following months.

The Cleveland Indians organization had affiliation with the Columbus Clippers (Class AAA), Akron RubberDucks (Class AA), Lynchburg (Va.) Hillcats (Class A), Lake County Captains (Class A) and Scrappers (short-season Class A).

“We’re optimistic,” Taylor said. “I’ll say that. … In terms of having a partnership with them, I feel we will as we develop this a little bit further in the coming months.”

The Indians provided the Scrappers’ financial base, but how will it be different for the Trumbull County organization with MLB backing the Mahoning Valley team?

“Some things are different,” Taylor said. “Some stay the same. They would be relatively comparable, I would say, from where we were from an operation standpoint.”

Taylor said the schedule for this MLB Draft League is 68 games from June 1 to Aug. 15, which provides a chance for more financial prosperity and to attract more fans than in years past. The Scrappers season in the New York-Penn League went until early September.

“I would rather have games in June rather than late August and September, not having to compete against the high school football games and the anticipation of that year, college football with Ohio State and YSU and the (Canfield) Fair,” Taylor said. “I think it’s helpful for us in that standpoint as well to finish up a little bit earlier.”

The MLB Draft League features the State College (Pa.) Spikes, Williamsport (Pa.) Crosscutters, West Virginia (Granville, W.Va.) Black Bears and Trenton Thunder (a former Class AA affiliate of the New York Yankees). Taylor said he anticipates a sixth team will be announced in the next few weeks. All but Trenton were in the NY-PL.

‘ACTUALLY BETTER’

The Scrappers’ travel costs are reduced in this new league.

“It’s actually better,” Taylor said. “Trenton looks like it’s a decent ways away. It would be in the middle of the trips we were taking in the Penn League. We would have trips to New York City, Albany to Connecticut, Lowell (Mass.) and Vermont. Those were really challenging. … Most of these cities are within a few hours of Eastwood Field. That actually helps as well.”

Taylor foresees the sixth team in the same area as the other five teams.

“I would assume as much,” he said. “I think they wanted to keep it close together to make the travel not tough on players and teams.”

The Scrappers organization has been part of the Mahoning Valley since its inception in 1999.

Taylor said he wants to thank U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, Gov. Mike DeWine, Ohio Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman, and other local politicians for speaking up when the future of the Scrappers was in limbo due to MLB and minor league baseball talks breaking down.

A published report had Mahoning Valley as one of 42 teams to be disbanded. The #SaveTheScrappers drive started to take shape about a year ago.

Taylor said he’s looking forward to giving back to the Mahoning Valley.

“It was honestly the most challenging year for us,” Taylor said. “It’s going to be nice in the coming months as we get closer to normal and get back to having great nights at the ballpark this coming summer.”

jvargo@tribtoday.com

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