By CHRIS RAMBO
NILES-If the Mahoning Valley Scrappers need a fresh arm out of the bullpen for their home opener Monday against the Jamestown Jammers, 8-year-old Heaven Doss of Columbiana will already be warmed up and ready to go.
Doss, a participant in Big Brothers/Big Sisters of the Mahoning Valley will help kick off the 2013 season when she throws out the first pitch before Monday's 7:05 p.m. game at Eastwood Field.
"It's really exciting," Doss said. "I can't wait for the game to be here."
The experience should prove useful, as Doss is in her first year of organized softball and aspires to one day be a pitcher.
"There couldn't be a better way for Heaven to start pitching," said Theresa Stupka of Canfield who is Doss's 'Big Sister.' "She is very excited for Monday."
Heaven is the third of four siblings being raised by a single father, Brian Doss of Columbiana. She has been with Big Brothers/Big Sisters for a year, with the entire time spent paired with Stupka, a retired special education teacher with the Columbiana County ESC. Stupka and Doss usually spend one day a week together doing various activities such as swimming and trips to the zoo.
"It's been a great experience getting to know Heaven over the past year," Stupka said. "She's a terrific young girl. It's wonderful that she's getting this opportunity."
It's an opportunity that was made possible through a donation from the NECA-IBEW Electricians, a collaboration of union electricians and electrical contractors in the Mahoning Valley. The group originally received the first pitch opportunity through its sponsorship package of the opening night fireworks display, but elected to donate it to Big Brothers/Big Sisters.
"In the past we've had some of our guys throw out the first pitch, but the last couple of years we've wanted the chance for someone else to create a special memory," said Jim Burgham, business manager for IBEW. "This is something I hope she'll enjoy and remember. It's certainly better than having me roll the ball out there."
Once the donation was made, all "bigs" in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters were notified through e-mail. Stupka knew Doss was a big baseball fan and jumped at the chance.
"I knew this was right up Heaven's alley," Stupka said. "She's just started to get into sports and she's very enthusiastic about softball."
On Saturday, Doss prepared for her big night with the kind of afternoon that would be the envy of any young baseball fan. As part of the Scrappers media day, Doss and Stupka were invited onto the field to meet the team. For Doss, the experience was highlighted by a dugout tour and the chance to play catch with Mahoning Valley leftfielder Josh McAdams, a 2012 seventh round pick out of Calhoun High School in Calhoun, Georgia.
"It was a great way to spend the afternoon," McAdams said. "I have two younger sisters back home that I haven't seen for a while and she (Heaven) reminds me a lot of them."
For a half-hour, Doss and McAdams tossed the ball back and forth under the afternoon sun while discussing baseball, softball, and each other's favorite hobbies. McAdams also offered Doss - who was selected to the all-star team in her youth softball league - some pointers, and came away impressed with her arm.
"She has a little cannon," McAdams said. "We might be comfortable putting her on the mound Monday night."
Even if her bullpen services aren't needed, Doss feels more than ready for her big throw to start the season.
"I feel comfortable," Doss said with an affirmative nod. "I'm ready to throw."