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Maybe Suns can win one for Stufft

September 01, 1999

I wonder what Scott Stufft would have thought if he knew I viewed him as one of Hagerstown's pop culture icons. That I never really felt at home at a Suns game until I'd located his profile across the way from my habitual third-base-line seats where he sat, or often stood, high up in the bleachers about as far up and as far out as he could get.

Scottie suffered through some bumps in his day, none more significant than the one that took his life this week when his car hit a tree while he was on his way to work in Bardane, W.Va.

Once, he told me, he'd been booted out of Municipal Stadium on his ear and told never to return - the result of a little too much beer that led to a little too much rambunctiousness. A rather common occurrence in those days, I was led to believe.

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Certainly he'd come a long way since then. He often spoke fondly of his family, not-so-fondly about the rigors of full-time employment and, of course, with great joy and detail about his passion, the Hagerstown Suns.

It's funny how death can back you into ridiculous rationalizations, like if the Suns do move to another town, at least Scottie will be spared a broken heart.

Never has anyone, I'm sure, been so passionate about a Class A baseball team. It trivializes him to say he knew the names of every Sun. He knew just about every player that ever came through the South Atlantic League, be they Sun, Boll Weevil, RiverDog or Sand Gnat. He planned his vacations around Suns games, and had just returned from a swing into the South, where he had followed the Suns on the road to Charleston, S.C., and Augusta, Ga.

Scottie also ran a rotisserie baseball league, which he was ending this year after a decade as its number-crunching commissioner, because he couldn't understand why everyone in the league was not always as absorbed in the baseball world as he.

Once a game, I'd usually meander over to see him and the cadre of regulars that hung out in what we called "Scott's Sky Suite," to get his take on the game and sports in general.

He had a crooked smile and an endearing speech pattern that turned names like the Suns' Felipe Lopez into something like Feweepay W'opez. His powers of recollection were twice mine. I never bought a program because I didn't need to; I had Scott.

He told me which players to watch, which teams to keep an eye on and where past Suns had ended up in baseball's organizational food chain. I think he read every word in the paper and could discuss just about any local issue in detail, but he preferred sports. I was looking forward to seeing him when the Suns returned from their current road trip, because I wanted to ask his opinion about the "alleged contact" between Dale Earnhardt and Terry Labonte at Bristol last weekend.

He'd be fully aware that I was yanking his chain, but he never met a sporting controversy that he wouldn't join with gusto and I know he would have launched into a suitable tirade in spite of himself.

I can see him clearly standing in the left field bleachers, wearing a threadbare T-shirt (which he is apologizing for, because his good T's are packed away in his suitcase awaiting the Suns' upcoming road trip) a pair of pastel shorts to his knees, his hands jammed in his pockets and sporting the wry, jaunty half-smile he always wore.

Sometimes, when the crowd was small and there was rain in the air, you could hear him dressing down the umps ("Ya bums") from across the field. Yet he was the first with "Good game, blue" if he approved of their night's work.

Scott wasn't a modern-day poster boy fan with rally cap and button-downs. He just loved the team, is all. Pity, he won't get to see the Suns finish out this great season. But maybe the players can go out and win a playoff game or two with their No. 1 fan in mind.




Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist

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