Mahoning Valley Scrappers vs. Auburn Doubledays (New York-Penn League)
Eastwood Field-Niles, OH: Well, I guess this would be considered the fifth game of our trip, still counting the All-Star Classic, the partial game in Columbus, the full game in Toledo, and the half game we already saw. At this point, counting innings instead of games may make more sense. Anyway, standing in line to get the $1 hot dogs and beers took a little longer than expected. It seemed the crowd came out just for the specials, and not really for the game. The crowd itself didn’t seem to be real baseball savvy, and no one seemed to be paying attention much to the game. It was good to see kids and families there, but atmosphere just wasn’t as good as other ballparks we’ve been to. Maybe it was the crowd the promotion brought out, but I though the proximity to Akron and Cleveland would bring out some of the baseball nuts, but then again we’re deep in the heart of football country…. I thought for sure I’d get my first NY-Penn League game ball, too, being next to the Auburn dugout, but I was shutout.
The second game was another pitcher duel, with the visiting Doubledays getting the better of this one. They scored two runs on seven hits, and that’s all that they would need. The Scrappers could only muster two hits in the game, one by outfielder Josh McAdams, and one by short stop Drake Roberts. On the mound for Mahoning Valley, Juan Santana took the loss despite only giving up one earned run in five innings, and striking out six batters. I’m not sure when we’ll have another opportunity to see a NY-Penn League game, we in all we did enjoy our time here in Niles. Final: Scrappers 0, Doubledays 2.
Here’s a video of the game from my YouTube channel. Feel free to subscribe, since my son Trevor is my lone subscriber at this point:
All photos and video property of Minoring In Baseball
Mahoning Valley Scrappers vs. Auburn Doubledays (New York-Penn League)
Eastwood Field-Niles, Ohio: I was very excited about not only my first Scrappers game, but my first experience with the legendary New York-Penn League. As we usually do our baseball trip in May before the short season starts, we’ve just never had a chance to catch a New York-Penn League game. The ballpark is pretty unique, just in the fact that it’s located just behind a mall in Niles. What’s funny, is that they don’t just charge $2 for parking, but for fans that walk into the stadium. Hey, you don’t want fans parking at the mall to avoid that $2 do you? Such as things go, our first game didn’t go off smoothly, however. The same rain that washed us out of Columbus forced a cancellation here in Niles, also. They started a double-header and hour and a half earlier than the stated start time, and due to the drive from Toledo, we could only make the second half of game one. We had pretty good seats, though, and even another set of fans insisted that we were in the wrong seats. Of course we were right, and set camp right next to the Auburn Doubledays dugout. We were so close to the dugout, that you could probably just have put us on the roster. These amazing seats only cost me a whopping $5 a piece, another example of the minors being the best deal in pro sports. I tried to strike up a conversation with one of the Auburn players, but he no hablo ingles’. Because we’d already missed half of game one, I tried to snap as many pics as possible, too, to try to make up for lost time. Thier mascot is a bulldog named Scrappy, who we only saw a few times during some on-field activities, so I guess I was lucky to capture at least on photo of him. Personally, when I think of ‘Scrappy’, it’s that annoying puppy off Scooby-Doo…the only version of the show that Brian and I don’t watch.
What we saw of game one, was a good one, if you like pitching and defense, anyway. The teams only play a seven inning game when doing a double-header like this. The Scrappers were up 2-0 when we arrived, and saw them score another run in the fifth inning. The Mahoning Valley offense was led by first baseman Leo Castillo, who went 1-1 with two walks and a home run. Left fielder Jorge Martinez went 1-3 with two RBI’s, and center fielder Josh McAdams went 2-2. On the hill, Sean Brady threw four scoreless innings, but Justin Garcia earned the win, and Luis Gomez the save. Even though it was just half of a game, my first New York-Penn League experience was fun, and I expected a lot out of the next game. We took the time between games to get some $1 hot dogs and beers, and to visit the ‘Pet Shop’ gift store. I made a video during the second game, and I’ll have that posted on my next entry. Final: Scrappers 3, Doubledays 0.
With Andrew Graham’s promotion from the Connecticut Tigers to the Whitecaps, the Detroit organization had another spot to fill. The Tigers filled that spot with another former catcher who played in West Michigan, with Mike Rabelo. He spent 2011 as hitting coach for the Gulf Coast League Tigers, and 2012-13 in the same position for Connecticut. Rabelo was drafted by Detroit in 2001, spending the 2006-07 seasons with the big club. He started out his minor league career with the Oneonta Tigers of the New York-Penn League in 2001, before they relocated to Connecticut. In the first of two season with the Whitecaps in 2002, he hit .195 with 41 RBI’s. In 2003, Rabelo improved to hit .274 with 40 RBI’s, and 16 doubles. It’s always fun to watch former players move up the ranks in the coaching department, too.
“I’m extremely excited for the opportunity to take the next step with a great organization like the Tigers,” Rabelo stated to MiLB.com. “We have a tremendous staff in place in Connecticut with Mark Johnson, Scott Dwyer, and Randy Brunner. I speak for all of them when I say we can’t wait to get started and play under the lights at Dodd Stadium in front of our fans. I wish the season started tomorrow.”
Johnson with serve as the teams pitching coach, as he did last season. He spent the 2008-12 seasons as pitching coach for the Whitecaps. Johnson pitched in the majors for nine seasons, including a stint with the Tigers. Scott Dwyer, who was the hitting coach in West Michigan just last season, will take Rabelo’s old job in Connecticut. They seem to have a very good staff lined up for the C-Tigs this season, that the Detroit organization seems to have some confidence in.
Stated the Tigers Director of Player Development Dave Owen: “Mike Rabelo is a talented young man with a very good baseball mind. He has done a great job as hitting coach and we are confident in his ability as he moves into his role as manager.”
We wish the Connecticut Tigers and Rabelo all the best this coming season. After all, they will be mentoring some future Whitecaps in the coming years for sure.
Next seasons’ Baseball Trip will be a little later this time, in June instead of May. One of the reasons for the change, is that we wanted to hit the Midwest League All-Star game on June 17th in West Michigan. This should be a great experience as I’ve never been to an all-star game before. This will be the hardest game to get tickets for, so I really need to be on the ball when they go on sale. The next day takes us south to Columbus, OH to check out our first Clippers game. I’ve heard nothing but good things about the stadium and franchise, so it should be a game to remember. The day after is a double-header for us. We start out with the Toledo Mud Hens for a day game. We saw the Hens back in 2007, and look forward to another great time at Fifth-Third Field. After we see the Hens, we head east to see the Mahoning Valley Scrappers and our first New York-Penn League game. Travelling in the early spring usually prevents us from making these games, since they start their season in mid-June. We stay busy the next morning, hitting the big city of Cleveland to check out the Baseball Heritage Museum. I don’t know much about this, so if anyone has been there any info would be appreciated. Next we enjoy more Midwest League action visiting the Lake County Captains in Eastlake, just east of Cleveland. Lake County and Bowling Green are the only two MWL teams I haven’t visited yet, as they transferred from the South Atlantic League a few years ago.
The next stop on our journey should be interesting, visiting Canton, OH, and just south of that the Temperance Tavern and Cy Young Museum. Again, I don’t have much info on this, so if anyone has visited there I’d appreciate your input. That’s just one stop on our way to Washington, PA to see the Wild Things in Frontier League action. Washington is an independent team, but it look like they have a nice stadium. The town was just awarded a pro softball franchise called the Revolution, too, so that’s something else to look into. The next morning, we travel north to see the Detroit Tigers’ Double-A affiliate, the Erie Seawolves. This is another team I’ve wanted to see for some time, and look forward to checking out some of the Tigers’ prospects. Another double-header for us, we go a little farther east to check out our second New York-Penn League team in the Jamestown Jammers. And..our trip concludes with the newly dubbed Akron RubberDucks. This should be a fun adventure if the weather holds, and it should be better in June. If anyone has been to this region and can recommend any other points of interest or eating establishments, I’d love to hear about them.
For the second season in a row, the West Michigan Whitecaps are left without a manager. Unlike last season, however, this change comes with a promotion. Larry Parrish (pictured), who led the ‘Caps to a 69-70 finish in the Midwest League, has been promoted to helm the Toledo Mud Hens in 2014. This isn’t his first experience with Detroit’s Triple-A affiliate, as he managed Toledo in 1994 and from 2003-2010. Under Parrish, the Mud Hens won back to back Governor’s Cup (International League) championships in 2005 and 2006. Parrish has won more games for Toledo than any other manager at 569. It looks like three times a charm for him, as he has some great support from the parent club Tigers, as well as the Hens.
“As a manager, he’s a great teacher, and I know we’ll see improvement in player development,” said Toledo’s general manager and team president Joe Napoli in a press release. “For our fans, he’s always been a favorite, they will be glad to welcome him back.”
“He’s going to be missed,” stated Whitecaps vice president Jim Jarecki to MLive.com. “Having LP on board, he was a great guy on and off the field. He was great to work with and the guys really liked and respected him. Even though the record didn’t reflect it, the players gravitated to him and he was a great leader.”
This is a good move by the Tigers’ organization, and a deserved promotion for Parrish, as he’s already in the International League Hall of Fame. We already have a couple of dates circled on the calendar for season to watch the Mud Hens, so we’ll be seeing him again soon. Now…what about the Whitecaps? The Single-A affiliate is once again in need of a skipper, and it will be interesting to see who the Tigers will assign. I’ve written in the past how I think that Brandon Inge would be a good fit in West Michigan. The Tigers’ have basically stated that they’d like him back in the organization once his playing days are done, and Inge always said positive things about the ‘Caps. We’ll see if he retires at the end of the season, though, and if he shows interest in coaching. Jarecki aslo stated the Tigers should name the ‘Caps new manager sometime in early October, so the safer bet may be seeing the promotion of Connecticut Tigers manager Andrew Graham. He has been at the helm of the C-Tigers for the last three seasons, and before that coached the Gulf Coast League Tigers from 2009-2010. He also served as the Tigers minor league catching coordinator during the 2010 season. This season, Graham led Connecticut to a 33-42 finish, good for third place in the New York-Penn League‘s Stedler Division. He is also a Tigers product, getting drafted by Detroit in 2003, and was a catcher in the organization from 2003-2008. A native of Sydney, Australia, Graham also played in the World Baseball Classic in 2006 and 2009. I’ll be keeping a close eye on who gets the West Michigan job. The Whitecaps have missed the playoffs the last three season, so whoever is chosen I hope they can break that streak in 2014.
The 2013 baseball season is starting to look a little brighter for us Whitecaps fans, as Larry Parrish was officially assigned to manage the team yesterday. It seems his managing career is coming full circle, though, after managing in the bigs and at the Triple-A level, he’s back in Class A baseball where he started. Parrish’s last job was the hitting coach for the Atlanta Braves, but took off the 2012 season after he was let go in 2011. Lucky he was still available when the Tigers organization called with the West Michigan job offer.
“The Tigers called to give me an opportunity and, for me, I really enjoy the minor leagues and the teaching aspect of it,” Parrish stated in a press release. “I talked to a couple of other clubs, but I’m comfortable with the Tigers. I was with the organization for a long time and was treated well, so it was a feeling coming back to work with your family.”
Parrish started his career with the Tigers organization back in 1992, taking the helm of the Class-A SS Niagara Falls Rapids, leading the team to a NY-Penn League championship. He worked as a roving minor league hitting instructor for three seasons before being assigned to the Double-A Jacksonville Suns in 1996. He also took the Suns to a Southern League championship. A year later, he was in the bigs, as the bench coach in Detroit. He took over the reigns as manager half-way though the 1998 season after Buddy Bell was relieved of duty. He had the privilege of managing the Tigers in their last year in historic Tigers Stadium in 1999, also. He also worked as a scout for the Tigers until he took over as manager of their Triple-A affiliate Toledo Mud Hens in 2003. He was named Minor League Manager of the Year in 2005 by the Sporting News after leading the Hens to the International League championship, a feat he repeated in 2006. Parrish named that Governor’s Cup championship is his favorite coaching achievement, also.
“I would think winning the championship in Toledo after they hadn’t won it in like 40 years. That was neat for the people there and to be a part of it. It’s always nice to win, ” he stated, but also recognizes the differences between the Triple-A and Class-A levels. “There you have guys who’ve either played in the big leagues a little bit or have gone though the system. At the A-ball level, you have to have more patience. They’re going to have some great games and they’re going to have games where you go ‘Oh, Lord’. But that’s part of it. But, to me, being able to coach and hopefully teach will have an impact. Experience-wise, having played and coached in the big leagues, I know what it takes to have to play at that level. That’s the whole idea.”
Parrish has visited the Grand Rapids area in the past after surgery in 2007 and was doing some roving instruction. He was very impressed with the stadium and fan support of the Whitecaps. The Tigers director of minor league operations is very pleased with their selection, also. As far as the rest of the Whitecaps staff goes, hitting coach Scott Dwyer will return next season, while pitching coach Mark Johnson will be assigned to Class-A SS Connecticut. As a player, Parrish was a two-time Major League All-Star in 1979 and ’87. He had a career batting average of .263 with 256 homers and 992 RBI’s. He played in Montreal, Texas, and Boston, before ending his pro career with two seasons in Japan.
I know the Tigers are in the playoffs, which is very exciting, but having a guy with this kind of resume’ taking over has me excited for next season. Hopefully this will not only mean possibly more championships in West Michigan, but better prepared players working their way up to Detroit.
Seeing a ballpark without being able to watch a game is a little depressing, unless you never planned on watching a game there in the first place. On our way north for more baseball, we decided to check out LeLaceer Field, home of the Lowell Spinners of the New York-Penn League. The Spinners are a short season Single A team, so they don’t start playing games until June. We decided it would still be fun to check out the ballpark, and the staff was nice enough to let us in, show us the park, and let us shop a bit at the souvenir store. LeLacuer Field is very nice of Single A, and they share it with the UMass-Lowell college team, as the ballpark is right on campus. I’d love a chance to get back to here to see a game. Lucky for us we were able to get our baseball fix in later that day. Stay tuned…