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Suns likely to return next year

September 06, 2000

Suns likely to return next year



By DAN KULIN / Staff Writer


The Hagerstown Suns baseball club will probably return to Municipal Stadium next year but could be affiliated with a different major league team, Suns owner Winston Blenckstone said Wednesday.

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"I couldn't say I'm 100 percent sure but I'd say I'm 99 percent sure. In my mind there's no doubt we'll be back next year," Blenckstone said.

Whether the team remains an affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays remains to be seen.

As of Wednesday, Blenckstone could look for a new affiliate to supply his team with players. He expects to have a new affiliation agreement by early next week.

He would not say what team might provide the affiliation, but it could not be the Pittsburgh Pirates or Baltimore Orioles because those teams already have affiliation agreements with minor league teams in the Suns' league.

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Blenckstone said it is possible he will re-sign with the Blue Jays. The Suns have been a Blue Jays affiliate since 1993.

Whatever major league affiliate signs with the Suns, the team would remain a Class A franchise in the South Atlantic League, he said. Blenckstone said the team is guaranteed an affiliation with a major league team.

The Suns finished their 2000 season this week. Although Blenckstone expressed confidence the Suns would remain in Hagerstown for the 2001 season, what will happen after that remains uncertain.

Blenckstone said he was considering relinquishing sole ownership of the franchise.

"There is some definite thoughts for bringing in partners or selling the franchise," Blenckstone said.

Blenckstone has said he wants a new baseball stadium or he'll sell the team. Blenckstone and others have said they believe a new owner would move the team out of Hagerstown.

In response to Blenckstone's call for a new stadium, a task force of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce developed a plan for a $15 million stadium and railroad museum complex.

The plan was endorsed by the Washington County Commissioners and the Hagerstown City Council. Earlier this year, majorities of both bodies voted to help pay for additional studies of the stadium/museum plan and to contribute $3 million each toward construction.

The possibility of extensive renovations at the city-owned Municipal Stadium has been discussed recently as an alternative to a new stadium.

City Councilman Alfred W. Boyer, a member of the Chamber task force, said the task force will decide whether to recommend a new stadium or extensive renovations to Municipal Stadium before the end of the year.

Boyer said there are no cost estimates for the renovations, but that renovations could cost as much as a new stadium.

Boyer said the task force is waiting for the completion of additional studies and preliminary design work being overseen by the Maryland Stadium Authority.

"Everything is in limbo right now," Boyer said.

Blenckstone said he would need to see a renovation plan before commenting on whether it would be acceptable to him.

Blenckstone's lease agreement for Municipal Stadium expires at the end of the year. He expects to renew the lease for another year under similar terms, which state that Blenckstone pays no rent for the stadium but is responsible for day-to-day maintenance at the ballpark.

Some opponents of a new stadium have said they would like to take the matter to referendum. Blenckstone has said he would sell the team rather than let the matter go to referendum.

Blenckstone said Wednesday that the Suns will play at Municipal Stadium for at least next season even if there is a referendum on public funding for a new stadium.

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