NILES — It’s a warm, sunny afternoon at Eastwood Field and the Mahoning Valley Scrappers are taking batting practice prior to a game against West Virginia. Most players would suggest the conditions are ideal for baseball.
Scrappers infielder Jarrod Belbin shares a differing opinion of the typical mid-June summer day.
“It’s really nice around here and I absolutely love the greenery, but it’s definitely hot and especially humid,” Belbin said. “This isn’t something that I am used to this time of the year.”
Belbin’s critique of the weather might seem a bit peculiar, except for the fact that in Belbin’s world, June is a winter month.
Belbin hails from South Morang, Australia. Granted, Australia’s “winter” temperatures aren’t exactly arctic-like. The average June high temperature in Belbin’s hometown is roughly 54 degrees. However, adapting to Ohio’s climate is just one of the many changes Belbin has endured since arriving in the United States.
“Every day is a learning experience, but I love it, I love the adventure,” Belbin said. “One reason I was excited about getting into baseball was because of the opportunity to travel. I’ve been all around the Australian continent. I’ve been to Japan. Now I’m getting to see a big part of America.”
Belbin’s athletic career began at a very young age when he was introduced to cricket. Though the sport is widely regarded as Australia’s national sport, Belbin found it to be “quite a bit boring.” He gave baseball a try at the age of seven, and instantly fell in love with the game.
“I caught on real quick, and things just took off from there,” Belbin said. “As a teenager, some (American) scouts saw me play back home, and they invited me to come to Arizona to play in an all-star tournament.”
While in the United States, Belbin caught the eye of an Arizona Western College scout. He committed to the Junior College, returned to Arizona and was gearing up for his freshman season in the spring of 2020 when COVID-19 shut down baseball and the world.
“It was crazy, especially being a world away from my family,” Belbin said. “Fortunately, I was able to return home before the entire world shut down. Everything about COVID was awful, but I tried to take a positive from it in that I was able to be with my family.”
Belbin returned to Arizona in early January. This past spring at AWC he batted .339 and was considered one of the top defensive players at his level.
Belbin never hesitated when he was invited to be part of the MLB Draft League.
“This is a great opportunity to play with and against some of the top college players in the country,” he said. “I’m facing elite pitching day in and day out. And I absolutely love the everyday grind and the travel. I could play this game every day of my life so this league is the best thing that could happen for me.
“I even love the travel. For some reason, I really love hearing the different accents all over the country. It’s pretty fascinating.”
Belbin said he is especially thankful to be living in an era where keeping in touch with family is just a click away.
Belbin’s family has the ability to watch Scrappers games — generally at 9 a.m. Australian time — via the internet. He regularly chats with family members by way of video and phone.
“Family means everything to me. Being away is tough, but being able to stay in touch makes it so much easier,” Belbin said.
Belbin will wait out next month’s MLB draft, then have the option to return to AWC, where he still has three years of remaining eligibility.
With the Scrappers, Belbin is batting .274. He is fifth in the league with 18 RBIs.