Our Towns

Scrappers Ask Valley to Step Up to the Plate

NILES, Ohio – For two decades, the Mahoning Valley Scrappers have provided local fans their first glimpses of future All-Stars, including Francisco Lindor and C.C. Sabathia.

Now, with the team’s future in doubt, the Scrappers are asking for fans help in convincing Major League Baseball to spare the team. Last year, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred put forward a proposal to shrink the Minor League Baseball system by 42 teams, the Scrappers among them.

On Wednesday, U.S. Reps. Tim Ryan, D-13 Ohio, and Bill Johnson, R-6 Ohio, spoke at the team’s #SaveOurScrappers rally. Video presentations and letters from other elected officials were also presented to attendees.

Local elected officials and nonprofit organizations also attended the rally. Each speaker emphasized how the team’s contraction could negatively impact Trumbull County’s quality of life and economy.

Anthony Cafaro Jr., co-president of The Cafaro Co., didn’t put a solid number on the potential financial impact his company could experience without the Scrappers. Ryan said the loss could result in “millions of dollars” lost in the local economy due to decreased customers for the surrounding businesses.

“You factor in players coming and staying in the hotels, people traveling outside of Niles or Trumbull County to come here,” Ryan said. “They shop at the mall, eat at the restaurants, they buy gas here.”

U.S. Reps. Tim Ryan and Bill Johnson were among the public officials urging the community to support the Mahoning Valley Scrappers.

Guy Coviello, foundation president for the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, said an economic impact analysis could be released by the end of next week. The analysis will be turned over to the Scrappers for use as “ammunition” in trying to convince Manfred to rethink his proposal. 

“I’m sure the businesses most impacted … will be those closest to the stadium because those are the ones that benefit from people attending events there. Not just Scrappers events, but events throughout the year,” Coviello said.

Ashlee Mauti, director of marketing at Covelli Enterprises, said customers frequently go to the company’s Niles restaurants – Dairy Queen, O’Charley’s and Panera Bread – before and after games. On game days, the O’Charley’s staff have to come in early to prepare.

During his annual Grapefruit League press conference Sunday, Manfred said the targeted teams were selected due to substandard facilities. 

Scrappers General Manager Jordan Taylor said roughly $2 million has been invested in renovations to Eastwood Field over the last two years, including a new LED scoreboard, sound system, turf and a better drainage system. The team also added a weight room and common area for players to eat after games.

“We basically started from scratch,” Taylor said.

Taylor said the announcement of the proposed contraction has halted renovations to the suites on the second level of the stadium.

Cafaro said the lack of facility investment might apply to some of the other teams on the chopping block, but shouldn’t apply to the Scrappers. He said Eastwood Field is one of the highest quality Class-A stadiums, and one of the best in Minor League Baseball.

“When they’re referring to facilities that aren’t up to par, they definitely aren’t referring to Eastwood Field,” Cafaro said. “This is one of the tops in the nation.”

On Feb. 12, both chambers of the Ohio General Assembly passed a resolution in support of the Scrappers. Johnson and Ryan also said they plan to wear Scrappers jerseys during the annual Congressional Baseball Game for Charity and encouraged other elected officials to do the same for the other teams.

“It’s a great rallying point for the community and an opportunity for people to come together,” Cafaro said. “We’re just very hopeful and we’re all going to work very hard, from many diverse groups, to make sure the Scrappers stay here at Eastwood Field and the Mahoning Valley.”

Related Coverage

Nov. 16, 2019 The Minor League Teams That Could Lose Major League Ties (New York Times)

Nov. 20, 2019: Ryan Urges MLB Not to Cut Mahoning Valley Scrappers

March 30, 2018: Scrappers Sign to Play Ball for Another 15 Seasons

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.