If you look back at some of the greatest players in New York-Penn League history, it puts into perspective just what 6,000 fans witnessed Tuesday night at Eastwood Field. And if you look back at Eastwood Field's 13-year history, it's easy to see that Tuesday's NY-PL All-Star Game was a well-deserved pinnacle moment for one of the Mahoning Valley's best quality-of-life destinations.
The Mahoning Valley Scrappers are a Class A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. Often, it's difficult - nearly impossible in fact - to know at this level which Scrappers, if any, will one day make the Major Leagues and perhaps even become big league stars.
But Tuesday was a gathering of the best players in the entire league this season. It's almost certain that the fans who participated in the all-star festivities - a dinner Monday night at Packard Music Hall, a lunch Tuesday at the Magnuson Grand Hotel, an autograph session Tuesday afternoon at Eastwood Field, the home run derby before the game and the showcase itself - watched and obtained signatures from players who will one day don Major League uniforms. Just consider this smattering of NY-PL products:
Wade Boggs. Only once in his big league career did he bat below .300.
Nellie Fox. He made the Major League All-Star game 12 times.
Phil Niekro. He went on to pitch 318 victories in the majors.
Tony Perez. He started on three Cincinnati Reds World Series championship teams.
There are many others.
Tuesday's event attracted visitors from afar who stayed in Trumbull County hotels, dined at Trumbull County restaurants and shopped in Trumbull County stores. The buzz was similar to other Eastwood Field events such as the Scrappers opener in 1999, Sabathia's debut, a sold-out Kenny Rogers concert, Dwight Yokum, Kool & the Gang and numerous festivals.
In the late 1990s, there was considerable controversy over who would pay for the stadium and whether it would be successful. In the end, the Cafaro Co. donated the $2 million plot of land and agreed to fund the $8 million construction project. The City of Niles provided $1 million worth of services.
Tuesday's game was not just a baseball talent showcase, but a testament to the vision of Anthony Cafaro and everybody who supported stadium construction.