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SAL chief Moss sees reasons for Blenckstone's sale

January 10, 2001

SAL chief Moss sees reasons for Blenckstone's sale



By BOB PARASILITI / Staff Writer


South Atlantic League president John Henry Moss has been around baseball long enough to realize there is a difference between friends and business.

Friends are friends but business is business. The two can meet but rarely do they stay together.

The latest example of friends and business parting ways came Monday when Winston Blenckstone sold his interest in the Hagerstown Suns to Ohio businessman Andrew Rayburn.

Blenckstone has done business and has been friends with Moss for more than a decade. Even with the sale, Blenckstone will still be working with the Suns and will remain first vice president to the league, but it is still a change among the SAL's ranks.

"We don't like to lose owners who have been around for a long time," Moss said Tuesday via telephone from his office in Kings Mountain, N.C. "But baseball is like any other business ... people move on to other interests.

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"Franchises are owned by individuals and groups but the territories they are in belong to the league. And with all respect of Winston and his accomplishments while being an owner in the league, that's just the way it operates."

The "business as usual" tone may sound less about friendship than it is about reality. Baseball, particularly in the minor leagues, is a volatile business with many moves and changes in locations and affiliations.

Blenckstone will remain the Suns' chief operating officer until Sept. 30 and will serve on the SAL board of directors along with Rayburn. It gives Hagerstown a blend of Blenckstone's experience in the league with Rayburn's enthusiasm.

"We think that Andy Rayburn brings a great deal to the league," Moss said. "Winston isn't leaving baseball, but it is one of those things. He has been true in his dedication in operating the Hagerstown Suns and that will continue.

"He's going to be the CEO this year, but there's always be opportunities for him to stay in baseball ... clubs are always making changes."

Blenckstone sold the team after tiring of the five-year struggle to gain support for a publicly funded facility to replace 70-year-old Municipal Stadium.

Blenckstone promised he would never move the team out of Hagerstown if a new stadium wasn't built, but he did say he would sell the team if the issue wasn't settled.

Rayburn, who recently bought the Daytona Cubs in the Florida State League, indicated that a new stadium would be needed to "enhance the experience." Presently, 12 of the 16 teams in the South Atlantic League play in new stadiums.

"I would certainly hope that this is a good signal for the community," Moss said. "I know Andy will provide a new energy and Winston will still be there to help work on the project."

But Moss refused to comment on the stadium issue.

"Obviously, I don't want to get into that," Moss said. "I think (Rayburn and government officials) will take the opportunity to get to know each other. Andy will be a person who will work diligently to build a comprehensive program to build a stadium."

Moss spoke to Blenckstone after the sale was announced.

"Winston is a Marylander and wanted the best for the city," Moss said. "And even after the sale, he still does and will work to help get it."

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