Mahoning Valley Scrappers
It’s a long journey for any ball player to reach the Major Leagues, but for Kieran Lovegrove the journey is even a little longer.
Lovegrove was born in Johannesburg, South Africa—a region of the world that does not have the strongest baseball following or level of play. When Lovegrove was just five years old, his family moved he and his sister to California and his love of baseball was discovered and flourished.
“Things in South Africa were pretty rough at the time,” Lovegrove said. “My parents thought it would be a good time to get us out, my sister and I.”
The Columbus Clippers will be represented by two players this year at the 2014 Triple-A All-Star Game. Both first baseman Jesus Aguilar and catcher Roberto Perez were selected to be on the International League roster, and will be taking on …
Three days, that’s all it took for the RubberDucks to lose arguably their three best players.
Wednesday June 25, Indians top prospect and current RubberDuck shortstop Francisco Lindor took a bad hop on the infield directly to his face and suffered a small non-displaced nasal fracture. The good news on Lindor is he should only be out for 7-10 days. Thursday June 26, second baseman Joe Wendle, suffered a right hamate fracture which will most likely require surgery and is a couple month process to return. The hamate bone is a small bone located in the wrist and it is usually fractured while a player is hitting. Friday June 27, Tyler Naquin, the top outfield prospect in the Indians farm system, was hit-by-pitch fracturing his right hand.
The First Year Player Draft every June is a fun time for each and every ball club. Each team gets the opportunity to bring in fresh new faces that are eager to get their professional baseball careers started. The Indians were fortunate enough to have plenty of picks on the first day of the draft, but beyond their first two rounds they were able to grab some quality players at a much lower risk. One of the guys the Indians should be excited about is right-handed pitcher Julian Merryweather.
Merryweather, 22, was drafted by the Indians in the fifth round of the 2014 First Year Player Draft. He pitched for Oklahoma Baptist University this past year. In his senior year, he went 12-3 with a 1.07 ERA while striking out 132. He was then named to the 2014 NAIA Baseball All-American team. Before he began his time with OBU, he spent some time in junior college right out of high school. In his time at junior college, it would have seemed that Merryweather’s dreams of becoming a professional baseball player may be something of the past.
“I started at junior college for two years. Didn’t see a lot of success, faced a lot of adversity,” Merryweather said. “In my sophomore year in heading out of junior college I went 0-8 with like a six something ERA. Oklahoma was my only option out of junior college so it just worked out great…It made me stronger for sure.”
Akron RubberDucks second baseman was some kind of hot this past week. Joe Wendle went 11-21 for an obscene .524 average with three runs scored, three doubles, one triple, eight runs batted in and added a stolen base. Wendle got off to a slow start to the season having multiple hot and cold streaks. Over his last 26 games, however, Wendle has been consistently hot hitting .333 with eight extra base hits and 24 runs batted in during the time frame. Wendle leads the team with 41 runs batted in, one more than fellow prospect shortstop Francisco Lindor. Wendle has his batting average up to .264 with his recent surge but is still well below his career .307 minor league average coming into the season.
Wendle a sixth round pick in 2012 out of West Chester University has some uncanny similarities to a current Indians star Jason Kipnis. Both Kipnis and Wendle are listed at 5’11 190lbs, both bat left-handed and throw with their right hand. Take a look at the stats for both players in their first two years in the minor leagues.
Every student who leaves college has a nervous feeling as they set out into the real world to look for a job and pursue a career.
For Mahoning Valley Scrappers shortstop Austin Fisher, finding a job and career took only about three weeks while the adjustments continue. Fisher is currently the highest drafted player from the 2014 First Year Player draft to be assigned to a team.
The 6-foot, 1-inch, left-handed hitting infielder from Kansas State University was selected in the 13th round of this year’s draft. As a member of the Wildcats he was First Team All-Big 12 and a Brooks Wallace Award Semifinalist in 2013. He is on the watch list for the Brooks Wallace Award again this year. Fisher hit .361 in 2013 at Kansas State during his sophomore year and .300 this year in 2014. Upon signing his contract, Fisher was immediately assigned by the Indians to Mahoning Valley where he will serve as the team’s shortstop this season. He welcomes the challenge of transitioning quickly from the college game to a minor league season.
“I’m excited and glad they sent me out right away,” Fisher said. “The sooner I get out here, the more at-bats I can get and quicker I can get adjusted.”
It seems like an unlikely match, but instead, it might be the perfect one.
Former big leaguer Ted Kubiak will lead the Mahoning Valley Scrappers into New York-Penn League action this evening for the third straight season. The Scrappers open at Jamestown against the Jamestown Jammers at 7:05 p.m. Kubiak manages a team that has several players on it that weren’t born 21 years ago, when he began providing minor league instruction with the Cleveland Indians.
But, for a 72-year old who has two World Series rings and a 10-year big league career under his belt, Kubiak enjoys the challenge and development of managing the Short Season-A team.
“It’s different, we’re developing,” Kubiak said on Thursday. “We’re more or less letting these kids play. What I’m imparting to them is maybe a little bit of how to deal with the game. We can teach them all the fundamentals, but I think what they see in how we handle things can calm them down a little bit.”
The Mahoning Valley Scrappers celebrated their 15th season of playing baseball in Niles, Ohio this season and although it did not end in a playoff berth, it did provide for a fun and interesting season of minor league ball. The Scrappers for their part finished with a record of 30-44, good for fifth in the Pinckney Division, a half game better than the 2012 squad even in the midst of a streaky season where they set the franchise record for a losing streak at 12 games. Overcoming a tough string of losses like that is a testament to all the kids who suited up in a Scrappers uniform and their dedicated staff.
Even though this sets a second straight losing season for the club, the fans have still showed up to the gate for some summertime fun as the overall attendance marked climbed over 104,000.
Minor league baseball is a huge element of professional baseball. These teams serve the purpose of providing avenues for young ballplayers from all over the world to continue to develop their playing skills in a professional environment with the hopes of one-day stepping foot onto the big league stage. For the thirty teams of major league baseball this provides them the ability to invest in dozens of young players with the hopes of investing in the future of the franchise for years to come.
Aside from the baseball side of things, the 160 teams of minor league baseball allow for fans all over the country that may not be in close proximity to a big league club to catch professional game. Of course in a competitive sport, winning is important but at the minor league level most fans are not necessarily invested in the team’s record as they would with the big league club. The job of the minor league franchises is to create a fun family environment for all to enjoy.
The traditional story of how a young kid starts playing baseball is when the kid reaches the right age their parents register him for Little League and the rest is history. For Scrappers righty Dace Kime, it was more a fortunate accident that started it all.
“I was three years old when I went and watched my brother’s t-ball team play, he was five years old at the time,” Kime said. “They were a player short so they invited me out there to go ahead and play with them and it pretty much went from there.”
The 2013 Mahoning Valley Scrappers have not exactly performed in the way they imagined at the start of the season. At 20-28, the Scrappers sit 10.5 games out of first but the record is not completely telling of the club’s talent. Several of the Scrappers’ squad are enjoying good seasons, which was recognized when five players were selected to play in the New York-Penn League All-Star Game.
“That was great. That’s a good testament to them and what they are doing,” said Scrappers manager Ted Kubiak.
For a majority of newly drafted ballplayers when they join the organization and are sent to their first minor league assignment the only family they have is their teammates. Kenny Matthews was lucky in that even though Ohio is quite …