Scrappers and Black Bears finally take the field
NILES — For the record, the Mahoning Valley Scrappers defeated the West Virginia Black Bears 7-5 Tuesday at Eastwood Field just a few days after the pair of teams had three games canceled due to contact tracing in West Virginia.
The win lifts the Scrappers’ record to 27-28-2. The Black Bears drop to 30-19-6. The Black Bears entered the night tied for first place with Trenton in the MLB Draft League standings.
However, even with West Virginia battling for first-place in the final week of the season, Tuesday’s outcome was of little significance to participants on both sides.
Instead, records have given way to the challenge of merely finishing out the season.
The Scrappers and Black Bears met on Tuesday after the two teams had their scheduled three-game weekend series at West Virginia wiped out because of COVID. On Friday a West Virginia player tested positive for COVID-19. Saturday, two other West Virginia players tested positive for the virus.
A pair of Mahoning Valley players also tested positive on Saturday.
The MLB Draft League has regularly tested its players throughout the course of the season.
“As soon as we had that first positive test we immediately began going through all of the same protocols followed by Major League Baseball,” MLB Draft League president Kerrick Jackson said. “In fact, if anything we probably sided with being over-cautious.
“We interviewed everyone on both teams. Who did they come in contact with? Who did they room with, who did they eat with, who did they hang out with? We wanted to cover all the bases. We were taking every cautionary measure possible.”
Following three straight days of cancellations for both teams, Monday was a scheduled off day for the entire league. It was on Monday that the league decided to alter this week’s schedule.
The Scrappers were originally slated to host Trenton for two games beginning Tuesday. The Scrappers would then host West Virginia for a pair of games to close the season.
Instead, the league revised the schedule to limit travel for all six of its members. West Virginia and the Scrappers are now playing a four-game set at Eastwood Field which will conclude on Friday – the final day of the season. The amended schedule also has State College and Williamsport playing a home-and-home series. The two communities are separated by just 62 miles. Trenton is playing four straight games at Frederick.
“We believe this change, along with increased testing, will put the league in the best position to control the environment and minimize risk as it pertains to the current state of COVID-19,” Jackson said.
Jackson noted that none of the West Virginia players who tested positive over the weekend had any contact with the players from Mahoning Valley who tested positive.
“This wasn’t a case of one team spreading the virus to the other team, instead it was just the result of following strict testing procedures,” Jackson said.
West Virginia’s situation was further complicated by a roster which on Tuesday was so depleted that Mahoning Valley had to “loan” six of its players to the Black Bears. Colin Gordon, who has been a regular in the Scrappers lineup over the past month, hit a first inning solo home run Tuesday for West Virginia. He finished with three hits and two RBIs. Warren’s Mark Herron Jr., another Scrapper-turned-Black Bear, had an RBI single.
Despite the unusual and complicated ending to the season, Jackson believes the league has made great strides in its inaugural campaign.
“Obviously one case of COVID is one too many, but we’ve done a really good job of testing and keeping things under control,” Jackson said. “Beyond that we’ve had a strong and competitive season. We’ve had a lot of talent. Roughly eighty of our players signed professional contracts.”
“We did all of this with a short time to prepare. With a full year to prepare, the future is bright for this league.”