NILES, Ohio – The Mahoning Valley Scrappers began in 1999 as the short-season Class A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians and remained so through the 2019 campaign.
In October 2019, Baseball America published a list of 42 minor league teams Major League Baseball wanted to eliminate – including the Scrappers. The COVID-19 pandemic eliminated all minor league baseball play in 2020.
But by late November, the MLB Draft league had formed with the Mahoning Valley franchise being one of the six founding members. The 68-game season spans from late May to mid-August with each team having 34 home games.
The pandemic impacted the Scrappers. The first five games of the season were before Ohio’s pandemic regulations were lifted June 2, which means Eastwood Field was at 30% capacity (1,800). Now, it is at full capacity, which is 6,000.
The Scrappers reached 1,800 when the weather was cooperative during those five days and close to normal attendance when pandemic restrictions were not in place, says Jordan Taylor, Scrappers general manager and vice president of HWS Group, a Massachusetts-based sports management firm that owns and operates professional sports franchises.
In the 2019 season, the team averaged 3,000 per game – a level the team has routinely achieved for the last decade.
“Getting back to that level will be considered a success,” Taylor says.
As far as the team’s expenses and revenues, the Scrappers are responsible for travel, uniforms, meals, advertising, ticket sales, concessions and parking – similar to when the team was an Indians’ affiliate.
Plenty of companies are booking outings at the ballpark, something that will impact the attendance numbers more in July and August, Taylor says. Most of the previous Scrappers advertisers stayed on and some new ones were added for this season. Suites around the upper part of the stadium range from $750 to $1,000 a night and include tickets, food and parking passes.
Financially, this is a “bounce back” year for the team, Taylor says, because it is bringing back fans, entertainment acts and other groups in hopes of getting revenue back to previous levels.
The pandemic cost the Scrappers 95% of its yearly revenue in 2020.
“I guess you could say 2022 is going to be the year where you’re going to see things pretty comparable to where we were pre-2020,” Taylor says.
Most of the team’s revenue comes from home games and other local and national entertainment events, he adds. This year, the Scrappers have booked Jeff Dunham, Rob Schneider and a professional wrestling event, along with high school and Youngstown State University games and other community events during and after the baseball season.
“We do well over 100 [events],” Taylor says. “That shows you the piece of the puzzle. And it’s big.
“We try to use the facility as much as we can. It helps us have a well-rounded business.”
Pictured: Full capacity at Eastwood Field is 6,000 fans.