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Can we afford a baseball accord?

July 19, 2000

Can we afford a baseball accord?



A couple of weeks ago a nice reporter from CBS "Sportsline" called up to ask how Hagerstown's plans for a new minor league baseball stadium were progressing.

He said he'd researched the story about a year ago, and wanted to see what had changed since then.

After I stopped laughing I said "Not much. In fact, you could have researched this story five years ago and it would still be just as salient today as it would have been in 1995. Nobody knew then and nobody knows now."

I went on a bit and must have said something hideously inappropriate, because there was a long pause and he asked tentatively, "Can I quote you on that?"

"Can I quote you on that?" is journalistspeak for "You really want to make that big of an idiot of yourself in public?" But the reporter doesn't live here so he didn't realize that's what I do for a living. I said, "Sure, who cares?"

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Of course I will be a typical "informed source," because it turns out I got it all wrong.

I thought Mayor Bob Bruchey did not favor a referendum on stadium construction and Councilman Wally McClure did. Now I pick up the paper and find it's the other way around.

The mayor says support is there among the public for the stadium, and therefore supporters have nothing to fear by taking it to a vote.

The councilman, meanwhile, said he would not press for a referendum if his "list of demands" is met. He even published a hotline where citizens can suggest their own lists of demands.

I called up and demanded two large pizzas, a flight to Kuala Lumpur, release of Carlos the Jackal and no funny business.

Given what's been going on at Camp David this week, I'm fearing there could be complications. I mean, I hope the demands hotlines don't get mixed up.

Instead of a stadium, Washington County might end up with autonomous statehood, self-rule, 3,000 camels and water rights to the West Bank, whereas other Sally League teams may be racking up the frequent flier miles with all those trips overseas to play the Palestine Suns.

Who knows whose differences will be ironed out first, the Palestinians and the Israelis or the Suns and Wally. Already I can envision hundreds of fans in the Suns' conservative Likud section lining up outside City Hall to protest the concessions. "Tell Wally we will not settle for smaller hot dogs!" they will say.

(I can assure you that the avenue for filing a grievance over that last joke is long, entangled and subject to a lengthy appeals process, so if I were you I wouldn't even bother starting the paperwork).

Both duos have always been pretty far apart. I'm sort of surprised that Wally even agreed to sit down and meet with the Suns' owners last week. Almost as surprised as I am that Arafat didn't insist that the name of Camp David be changed to Camp Goliath.

After the meeting, Wally softened his hard line against the stadium. At least I think he did, it's a little hard to tell. Apparently he's agreed to support the project so long as it meets a number of simple criteria, including constructing the stadium so that it hovers 5 feet above the ground at all times.

Meanwhile, I have an idea that may solve the stadium financing problem. We just raised our hotel-motel tax to fund the stadium, so the next logical question is: Would the room tax apply to Camp David?

I know, technically, it's in Frederick County, but the way things have been going I expect the City of Hagerstown to annex it at any time.

And I read where the peace talks are costing millions of dollars, which - when you take 6 percent off the top - ought to be plenty. I don't want to be the one to try to explain to Yasser Arafat why there's a 6 percent surcharge on his tab ("See, here in America we have this game called baseball, and to pay for it we charge people every time they go to sleep").

But hey, if he can noodle that one through, something as simple as peace ought to be a breeze.

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Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist

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