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Ah Suns, I'd miss ye

April 16, 2002|BY AL DITZEL

A little over three years ago, I moved from the Jersey Shore to Hagerstown.

Sure, the job is nice, but one of the selling points to this town was the Hagerstown Suns. You see, I love watching baseball. I used to love playing but I got old quickly, so watching it became more of a passion for me.

Most every year I plan out a journey to four or five major league ballparks in a specific area during a short period of time. Last year, I re-visited Milwaukee and Detroit because of the new ballparks. I also mixed in Cincinati, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Now, they weren't close.

Those trips are fun, and I continue to go, but it's not the same as having professional baseball in your backyard.

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Having baseball is the town that I live is beyond enjoyable. Anytime I can, I make it out to the ballpark. I like Municipal Stadium. It's what minor league baseball used to be like.

The key words are "used to be."

About 12 years ago, I visited South Carolina. Friends asked if I went to play golf. No, I wanted to see some of the minor league parks. There used to be this one ballpark that had a cutout of Elvis' head down the right field line. Yeah, that Elvis. Hunka, Hunka burning love Elvis.

Well, this cutout was cute. It had Elvis eating a doughnut. It was a regular doughnut, with the doughnut hole. Now, I cannot confirm it, but a friend told me if someone hit a homer through the doughnut, he'd get a bonus.

That's what he told me and I'm sticking to it. That cracked me up.

The ballpark, like many in 1990s, is gone.

The Hagerstown Suns do many promotions. Many are a bit interesting. Not the doughnut-hole-homer interesting, but interesting.

Still, you get the feeling that the Suns won't be here much longer. The issue is the stadium.

It seems that Municipal Stadium is out of date. No sky boxes, no refreshment stands with a view of the game, no backs on seats, etc.

I have to agree.

Last year, during one of my frequent trips back to New Jersey, I caught a Lakewood Blueclaws game.

Lakewood is just like Hagerstown - a Single-A team in the Northern Division of the South Atlantic League. Both teams are one of the first steps for players on their way, possibly, to the major leagues.

Last year, Hagerstown dominated Lakewood (won 11 of 16 games) - on the field. Because of the stadium, the Blueclaws had it much bette at the turnstiles.

Lakewood has a home with all the fine things that now go with a new stadium - sky boxes, outstanding picnic areas, comfortable seats, as well as a grass hill where fans can sit and kids can play. Oh yeah, there's a playground, too. Didn't visit that. The old thing, you know.

You can see the game while getting refreshments, either by eye or on television. You can go to the bathroom and still keep track of the game.

Yeah, you can hear the game in Municipal Stadium's bathrooms, but, you don't know what's happening.

New ownership says it wants to make a go of Hagerstown. You have to wonder, though, if there's another Lakewood out there for the team like the Suns.

Some folks say go. Others say nothing. I say, I'll miss you if you leave.

Al Ditzel is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2310, or by e-mail at alfredd@herald-mail.com.

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