At exactly 6 p.m. on Friday, summer began in the Mahoning Valley.
That's when the gates were opened at Eastwood Field, the home of the short-season Scrappers. As the first fans filed into the facility, familiar sights, sounds and smells were in abundance. A member of the club's booster club broke into an unceasing sing-song bellow: "50-50 raffle, $1 apiece, six for $5," his spiel complemented by the triumphal sugar-coated pop of My Chemical Romance wafting over the PA.
And, like clockwork, mascot Scrappy appeared. He amiably posed for pictures amid the throngs of fans, many of them making a beeline for the grilled sausage sandwiches and Leinenkugel beer offered at the concession stand.
Similar scenes played out across the country as both the New York-Penn and Northwest leagues kicked off their 76-game campaigns. It's Opening Day, Part II, a time of rebirth and new beginnings. Or, as Indians legend Lou Boudreau memorably observed, "The world is all future and no past."
This feeling certainly could be felt in the home dugout, where outfielder Bryson Myles was preparing for his professional debut.
"I'm excited. This is pretty much what I've worked my whole life for and I still have a lot of work to do. It all starts with day one," said Myles, the Indians' sixth-round pick in this month's Draft. "It's about playing hard every single day and practicing hard every single day just to get to the top, which is being in the Majors. So I'm ready to go.
"It'll be a little nerve-racking that first [at-bat]. But it's a feeling that everyone goes through, a step in the process that it takes to become a great player."
Myles ended up going 1-for-4 in the Scrappers' 9-3 loss to the Jamestown Jammers. His first professional hit was a single to left field in the sixth inning.
Expressing sentiments similar to Myles' was pitcher Rob Nixon, a 46th-round selection out of Adelphi University slated to start for the Scrappers on Monday.
"I'm pretty excited. This is what I've been working toward ever since I was a little kid," he said. "It's been the dream, so now it's pretty cool to be out here. Especially after practicing all week, it's good to finally get into the games."
It was also a day of firsts for Scrappers hitting coach Tony Mansolino, beginning a new career after retiring as a player following the 2010 season. The 28-year-old joked that his transition to coaching was the result of "being a bad player," but obviously there's more to it than that.
"I always wanted to be a coach my whole life. Even when I was a player, I saw myself as an extra coach on the field," said Mansolino, whose last season in affiliated ball was 2008 with the Double-A Reading Phillies. "The time came when I wasn't getting the job done as a player. ... It became time to move on and I'm fortunate to stay in the game with what in my opinion is the best organization in baseball."
Myles, Nixon, and Mansolino were three of many individuals at Eastwood Field embarking on new chapters in their careers, a storyline that permeated both clubhouses as well as the front office. Amid the escalating hoopla on the concourse, Jordan Taylor took the time to speak about his first Opening Day as the Scrappers' general manager. He has been with the club for 11 seasons, the last six as an assistant GM.
"This [Opening Day] is a little different," Taylor admitted. "Making sure from top to bottom that everything is organized and ready to go adds extra pressure but also a little more excitement as well. There's always something you have to deal with, it's just a matter of taking care of it the best that you can."