Welcome to the first installment of my travels into the wacky world of Minor League sports. We begin, oddly enough, at the end of the Minor League Baseball season at Fan Appreciation Night with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers Single A baseball team.
I love baseball. Whether it is major league, minor league or even little league, you can count me in as a fan. Which is what brought me to the little town of Niles, Ohio. Other than being known for one of the biggest shopping malls between the rival cities of Cleveland and Pittsburgh, Niles is home to the short-season, Single-A Affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. The Mahoning Valley Scrappers is a team that, even though may have had a tough season this year, has seen a fair amount of success in their short existence (est. 1998).
That night, the Scrappers were facing the first place Auburn Doubledays. The game itself was fairly similar to what you would expect a rookie-league game to be. It was quite sloppy and the Scrappers ended up getting blown out in the end but that wasn’t what struck me. Round about the 6th inning or so, we decided to take a walk around Eastwood Field (named after the huge mall adjacent) to get the feel of the place. I noticed the relaxed nature of the event which instantly took me back to being a kid at the old Thurman Munson Stadium where the Canton-Akron Indians played. It was a feeling that I had not felt in a long time.
As we continued around the walkway, we stumbled upon the Mahoning County Humane Society’s booth. There we found Cody and Caesar, two friendly dogs up for adoption. Cody was a shepherd mix who was not shy about coming up to the camera to take a closer look and pose. Caesar, on the other had was more interested in dragging his poor handler over to the concession stand. I was telling my girlfriend as we were walking that it is moments like that, that make these minor league games special.
I’ll put it this way, minor league ball games are half sporting event, and half community gathering. You pay a couple bucks (did I mention it was one dollar admission that night?), see your friends, grab some dinner, and if you are lucky, a game breaks out. I heard more people talking about local politics and what was going on at the next PTA meeting than actually paying attention to the game. The point is, these events are far more than just two teams playing a game, they are a strong tether that binds communities together and it is something that I hope we never lose.
Stay tuned folks for next week’s installment of my travels when I will be talking about the town of Niles, Ohio- the Rustbelt town which is the birthplace of President William McKinley. See ya then, and as always, Happy Snappin’!
Tim Pawlak (aka 110isnotdead on LOMO) is a librarian, writer, photographer, and amateur historian (gotta use that History Degree somewhere). Massillon, Ohio (about an hour south of Cleveland) is where he calls home. He loves to get the feel of every new town he visits and captures it on film.