“I took my son for tryouts for this new 9-under team and Chad Bishop from Big Stone Gap took his son to the same tryouts,” Robbins recalled. “We were asked if we wanted to help with tryouts and we did. A couple of days later, we were coaching.”
Three years later, Robbins — Lee High varsity’s baseball coach — and Bishop are still coaching the travel team known as the Virginia Scrappers.
With coaching assistance from Big Stone Gap’s Cody Pleasant and Norton’s Tony Edwards, the team has found plenty of success over the past three years.
The team features players from Wise, Lee and Dickenson counties: Big Stone Gap’s Kameron Bishop, Jordan Hamilton, Eli Pleasant and Abe Hall, Norton’s Brandon Edwards, Pennington Gap’s Clay Robbins and Rylan Jesse, Rose Hill’s Erick Brooks, Jonesville’s Collyn Neff and Clintwood’s Brant Mullins.
The Big Stone Gap-based Scrappers play in USSSA tournaments in both the spring and fall seasons and have been ranked as the top team in Virginia the last two seasons.
“The rankings are based on a points system,” Robbins said. “We get our points primarily playing in Tennessee, but since we’re a Virginia team, we’re ranked against other Virginia teams.”
The Scrappers primarily compete in tournaments at Kings-port’s Domtar Park and Winged Deer Park in Johnson City, but they’ve also participated in events in Christiansburg, Knoxville and at the Ripken Experience in Pigeon Forge.
“We have fun with it and we focus on the fundamentals,” Robbins said. “It’s focusing on the fundamentals of playing baseball.”
While the team has enjoyed recent success, its beginnings as a 9-under squad were rough.
“The first game we ever played we were playing in a tournament against the Knoxville Stars and we trailed 23-1. Chad looked at me and asked if we were sure we wanted to be doing this,” Robbins said with a laugh.
That team was called the Rampage before becoming the Scrappers.
“That describes us perfectly. We’re a scrappy bunch,” said Robbins, whose team bounced back from that early debacle and finished the fall of 2018 with a 7-10 record.
The following spring, the Scrappers graduated to the 10-under level. They went 17-8-1 and were ranked tops in the state.
During the high school season, Robbins coaches the Generals and Bishop, Pleasant and Edwards take care of the Scrappers’ practices. Robbins then joins the team during its weekend tournaments.
“Then in the fall, we are all together at practice and the games,” Robbins noted. “People have asked me if I get tired of it and my answer is I never get tired of baseball.”
The Scrappers finished last fall ranked No. 1 in Virginia again. They went 16-10 overall but 15-5 in their AAA division.
HOPE FOR THE FUTURE
Robbins said the Scrappers were looking forward to competing at the 11-under level this spring. The team played in one tournament at Winged Deer, finishing second, before the coronavirus pandemic shut down nearly all sporting events.
“We were ready to roll,” Robbins said.
On a positive note, Robbins said he recently received an email regarding the possibility of tournaments beginning in May.
“We usually take off part of July and August, but they may extend it through August this year if it works out,” he said.
For now, the coach said the season for the Scrappers, like most everything else, is in a wait-and-see mode.