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Hagerstown Pony tale: hairy win

August 18, 1998

BY TOM ROSE / The Washington Observer-Reporter

WASHINGTON, Pa. - Bill Keyes is a young man with a plan for the Hagerstown Pony World Series team.

Keyes gets the credit for the beach look his teammates are sporting this week. Sitting around one night with his friends, Keyes tossed out the idea that if the team could win its East Zone tournament, the players should dye their hair blond. Hagerstown won the zone tourney to get here, hence the surfer dude look for Keyes.

"It's a unity thing," said Doug Fowler, whose son, Dan, is the suddenly blond-haired shortstop for Hagerstown. "Nobody believed they would do it. But one-by-one, they did it."

Keyes didn't give too much credit to the new hair color for his pitching and hitting success Monday night, as he helped Hagerstown to an 11-6 victory over Carolina, Puerto Rico, in the Pony League World Series at Lew Hays Pony Field. But it also didn't hurt.

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"When I watched the College World Series, I saw how those teams were doing crazy things," Keyes said. "They had rally caps, dyed their hair.

"So I just said, 'If we make the World Series, let's do something crazy. Let's dye our hair.'"

The surfer look is just fine with manager Rick Suder, who was looking for a common ingredient to bring this all-star collection together in July. Suder is even willing to dye his hair blond, if. . .

"They win this, I'll dye mine, too," Suder said. "We preached when we put this team together the importance of the kids meshing, and they got caught up in it. They were all spending the night at one of the kid's house, and the next thing I know, they are showing up for practice with yellow hair."

Thanks to Keyes' gutsy pitching, Hagerstown is still very much alive in the Pony Series. Keyes, who will be a sophomore at St. James School, is a tall, talented pitcher with a live fastball. Keyes is such a strong pitcher that he was a starter for his varsity baseball team as a freshman.

But Suder asked Keyes to turn the heat down on his fastball against Puerto Rico and rely on his curveball and slider. It was more than a hunch by Suder. It was World Series experience.

"We were here in 1995 and lost to Puerto Rico in the championship game," Suder said. "They lived on fastballs and found a little late that that they will chase breaking balls that move out of the strike zone. We tried that same philosophy, and Billy has an outstanding slider and curveball, so we were able to use his fastball as an off-speed pitch.

"I think it shows the kind of quality athlete and person Billy Keyes is. He is a power pitcher, but he put the team's needs ahead of himself."

The victory keeps Hagerstown's hopes alive for a spot in the Pony Series championship game. That means Suder could still sport a new look by the end of the week. All of a sudden, blond is starting to look pretty good.

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