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Ready for the first pitch

Scrappers adjust, but not feeling effects of coronavirus

Correspondent file photo / Dianna Oatridge Mahoning Valley’s Korey Holland makes contact against State College on July 4, 2019, at Eastwood Field.

The Mahoning Valley Scrappers 2020 baseball season is set to begin June 24, and as of now, general manager Jordan Taylor believes they will start on time.

The Scrappers, a minor-league affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, are one of many local attractions that currently are facing an uncertain future. The future for the Scrappers isn’t just being affected by the coronavirus though.

The Mahoning Valley baseball team was listed among the 25 percent of minor league teams that could lose their developmental contract, starting in 2021, in a report last year from Major League Baseball. Taylor said negotiations with MLB have been on hold since the COVID-19 outbreak.

“We’ve been really happy with the response from the community and all of our elected officials that have made headway on that, but in terms of if there’s any resolution, we’re not at that point,” Taylor said. “And I’d imagine the negotiations are going to get pushed back a little bit as everyone is dealing with the health and wellness issues right now.”

The Scrappers are dealing with that as well.

Correspondent file photo / Dianna Oatridge Mahoning Valley's Raynel Delgado rounds third base and heads home to score a run against State College.

Taylor and his staff currently are working from home, like so many others who are abiding by the “social distancing” guidelines set in place. Taylor, who is entering his 10th year as GM of the Scrappers, said he has staff of 10 in the offseason. While this time of year may be slow for future Minor League Baseball players, it’s busy for the team’s workers.

“Typically, March, April and May are some of our busiest months,” Taylor said, “just because from a sales standpoint we’re really ramping up and doing things on that end, finalizing promotional schedules and we’re filled almost every day with high school, college games or some sort of extra event.”

Taylor said while much of the advertising sales for the Scrappers begin after the season ends in October, some of the deals take a long time to put together.

For now, working from home hasn’t negatively impacted those deals — or Taylor and the staff — much. They have been working from home since March 16, and they hold regular teleconferences and video conferences. Taylor said the system they use to work with potential buyers (tickets, sponsorships, etc.) is all online, and he and the staff have simply created a different work environment.

“Anyone who has tickets, sponsorships or needs things like that, they’re all on an online platform for us,” said Taylor of the Customer Relationship Management system used by the Scrappers. “It’s our contact system.”

If baseball, and the workplace, continue to be on hold when the season is set to begin in late June, the negative impact will increase.

The staff of the Scrappers jumps from 10 to around 200 during the season, according to Taylor. A slight delay of one week to 10 days won’t have a major effect on day-to-day operations, but if the Scrappers were to start in mid-July, problems will surface.

“The biggest is from an employee standpoint, once you get too far into September, we have a lot of college and high school employees, and it’s harder for them to work during that time,” Taylor said. “There’s also a lot of teachers, so finding workers is going to be a little bit harder for us. Same thing with the interns we bring on, they would all be gone at that point.”

Much still has to be determined, and there could be other hurdles as only time will tell how baseball will change its infrastructure when the season begins.

Until then, Taylor and the Scrappers are approaching business as usual. Well, as best they can.

“It’s a whole different world for us,” Taylor said about working from home. “We’re used to being out and about, and the office is pretty busy. We all just try to stay in touch with each other throughout the day, and it’s just a new way of doing work.”

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