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Suns sign deal with Giants

September 12, 2000

Suns sign deal with Giants



By BOB PARASILITI / Staff Writer

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer

Suns - Giants dealThe owner of the Hagerstown Suns said Tuesday he has signed a two-year player development agreement with the San Francisco Giants organization, effective with the 2001 baseball season.

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Suns owner Winston Blenckstone said he cut the deal late Monday, ending his 14-year affiliation with the Tornoto Blue Jays organization.

With the new contract, the San Francisco Giants, a National League affiliate, will move to the South Atlantic League and will play in Municipal Stadium.

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Blenckstone signed with Toronto when he acquired the minor league franchise in Myrtle Beach, S.C., in 1986. He brought the affiliation with him when he moved the team to Hagerstown in 1993.

"This has been an exhausting week with a lot of choices in front of us," Blenckstone said. "We are extremely happy to sign with San Francisco and the Giants are extremely happy to be in the South Atlantic League and in Hagerstown."

For the Giants, Municipal Stadium is a long way from home, considering that most of San Francisco's affiliations are west of the Mississippi River.

"It will be cross country for us, but Major League Baseball's new rules dictated we needed to do it," said Bobby Evans, San Francisco's director of minor league administration, who was in Hagerstown Tuesday to meet with the Suns. "We are excited to be part of this league. Hagerstown provides the best of all worlds and the best situation for us."

The Toronto organization told Hagerstown's front office last week that it considering changing its affiliation, Blenckstone said. The move forced him to shop for a replacement for the Blue Jays, he said.

Toronto and Hagerstown each submitted letters to the Major League and Minor League central offices, declaring their intentions. Blenckstone said when it became known that Hagerstown was a free agent he was contacted by at least four other franchises considering making moves.

The Suns selected San Francisco.

"We had several goals when we were looking for a new affiliate," Blenckstone said. "We were looking for a National League affiliate, one with a long-standing tradition, a club with stable ownership and a winning tradition and one dedicated to player development. We feel like we matched all of them well with the Giants."

Blenckstone said the Suns will keep their nickname and will play in Municipal Stadium, with the hope that a new stadium will be built.

Blenckstone had been interested in Baltimore and Pittsburgh affiliations because of their regional draw, but they elected to re-sign, Baltimore with Salisbury, Md., and Pittsburgh with Hickory, N.C.

San Francisco was seeking a Single-A affiliate because of new Major League Baseball rules intended to make uniform all 30 teams' farm systems.

Under the new rules, each team is required to have a low, or developmental, Single-A team and a high, or advanced, Single-A team.

The Giants had two advanced Single-A teams - Bakersfield and San Jose, both of which played in the California League. They ended their agreement with Bakersfield to come to Hagerstown.

Other than Hagerstown and Bakersfield, the rest of San Francisco minor league system includes Double-A in Shreveport, La., and Triple-A in Fresno, Calif.

"Hagerstown's location is strategic for the league," Evans said. "This is an area which has a lot of exciting things on the horizon. We want to play in a venue where there is some excitement."

The South Atlantic League has mainly been aligned with East Coast affiliations. League expansion will add Los Angeles and Houston affiliations to the mix.

With the Giants, a small-scale rivalry could be brewing between Hagerstown and Wilmington, N.C., the new home of the Dodgers.

"We like to teach them that rivalry while they're young," Evans said. "It will be interesting to see the Giants-Dodgers rivalry. I know I have read all the old books when those teams played in Brooklyn. It should be exciting."

For some team members, playing in Hagerstown could provide a personal benefit.

"We draft players from all over, including the East Coast," Evans said. "This will give those players the opportunity to play close to home and give their families the chance to come and see them play."

Blenckstone said the Giants will have an economic impact to the area, with families coming to watch their sons play here.

"This is a bittersweet day," Blenckstone said. "We will cherish our years with Toronto but this was a time for change. They wanted to do the same."

He said "There will be no competition factor with the American League East anymore. The only time the Orioles will meet San Francisco is in the World Series and we would really like to see that happen sometime."

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