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Suns return home today

April 16, 1999|By BOB PARASILITI

First game in town still seems like a road contest

Another day, another town.

That's the way it's been for the Hagerstown Suns for the first week of the baseball season. Start in Dunedin, Fla., head over to Columbus, Ga., before a trip north to Hickory, N.C.

Day Nine is today. The site du jour is again new. It's called Hagerstown.

[cont. from sports page]

The Suns see Municipal Stadium for the first time tonight at 7:05 when they host the Greensboro Bats in the seventh South Atlantic League home opener as a Toronto Blue Jays affiliate. This will be the place they call home, but for now, it's like another road game for the Suns.

"I haven't seen the park yet," said Hagerstown manager Rolando Pino. "I've heard it has a short right field wall. It's going to take a couple of days to get used to playing there, but I don't see playing the first game there as any problem."

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That's because the Suns seem to be used to playing on the road. They finished their annual, season-opening southern swing with a 5-3 record, tying the the best-ever mark for the first road trip set last season.

"It's going to be a relief to get home," Pino said before Thursday's 10-2 over Hickory. "I'd rather start the season at home, but we didn't. I always tell everyone I'd like to play .500 on the road. We are 4-3 but could be easily 6-1 if we got a couple breaks."

The Suns have been pretty good about making their own breaks for the most part.

Hagerstown has shown power - led by first baseman-designated hitter Jay Gibbons with three home runs - speed and starting pitching for formidable early showings. The Suns have scored early and often, but if they have had any weakness to date, it has been some shaky showings from the bullpen.

"We have five or six guys who have hit home runs so far, and we have some good speed," Pino said. "I really like our starting pitching, but I'm just hoping the bullpen comes around. They have been getting the ball up and getting behind in the count."

Scott Cassidy will draw the home opening start and could score early points with Suns fans with his fast work in what will probably be a cool night. Cassidy, who is 1-0 with a 4.50 ERA, faces Greensboro's Jeremy Blevins.

"Cassidy is always around the plate and, with the way he pitches, we could get a quick game," Pino said.

Greensboro brings some added interest to the game. The Yankees' affiliate has Clear Spring product Brad Elwood on the roster as a catcher.

But if there is any question which is the home team, Hagerstown will be wearing white for the first time this season.

"When we get back, most of the guys have to find places to live," Pino said. "Most of them have something set up, so it shouldn't be so bad. It's good the start the season at home to get that out of the way. But we are ready and looking forward to have the fans come see us."

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