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All the comforts of home

April 17, 1999|By BOB PARASILITI

Ex-Blazer Ellwood returns to Stadium - on the visitors side

As far as Brad Elwood is concerned, he still hasn't played a road game yet this season.

The Greensboro catcher started with his first eight games at the Bats' War Memorial Stadium - his home away from home. And this weekend, he's home on the road, here at Municipal Stadium - his home when he is at home.

That's because Elwood kind of has a soft spot for Hagerstown's old ballpark. It's a place that helped round him into a professional baseball player while playing for Clear Spring High School and area American Legion teams.

"I always love playing here," Elwood said Friday before the Hagerstown Suns home opener. "I think it's a great field. It's great to be able to come and play in your hometown in front of all your family and friends."

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Elwood has an unfair advantage in this series. After all, he's seen Municipal Stadium a few times. Before Friday, the Suns had never set foot in it.

"I told the team about it," Elwood said. "The grass is thick and the infield is slow."

Knowing ballparks and getting a feel for the professional game has become Elwood's full-time job.

Since becoming the Yankees' 19th round draft selection last season - which was a surprise - Elwood has had a constant stream of knowledge to soak in.

First it was learning to hit with a wooden bat, which is much different than the aluminum ones he was allowed to use at Clear Spring, Allegany College and West Virginia University.

"I don't think you ever really get used to (using one)," Elwood said. "You just get in there and keep swinging."

Elwood has played in three of the Bats' first nine games, hitting .167 with a hit, one RBI and three walks. He didn't start on Friday, but batted ninth in Saturday night's lineup and went 1-for-4.

"Catching, I've never had any problems," Elwood said. "But in hitting, since (I didn't play) the first few games, I'm a little behind, but I'll get back into it."

Elwood has been forced to get back into it since being drafted in the 19th round in last year's draft. A leg injury prevented the 6-foot-1, 195-pound catcher from immediately reporting to camp. The wait may have been the best thing for Elwood.

"After I got back, I played high Class A in Tampa after I rehabbed," Elwood said. "I filled in for the last four weeks and got a lot of at bats."

The biggest advantage of the late start, though, came in the form of his instructor.

"I got to play with Tim Cousins," Elwood said. "He's Crash Davis. He's been around for a long time, but he showed me the ropes of being a pro ... I learned a lot being around him."

The main lesson was to take the game as it comes.

"It's a relaxed atmosphere," Elwood said. "It can become a grind, but if you get your mind in the right frame, everything flows."

Elwood would like the chance to show how much it all flows, especially this weekend before his personal pocket of fans.

"It's nice to get back home after being on the road for six months," Elwood said. "I'd like to get in to a game, throw a couple of guys out, get a couple of base knocks and have some fun."

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