An open letter to Suns owner Andy Rayburn

July 30, 2002|by BOB PARASILITI


I haven't known you for very long, but you strike me as a pretty nice guy who is genuine and progressive. I hate to see people with ideas get played like one of those unsighted rodents.

I'd like to take this opportunity to save you some time, money and anguish. I'm going to save you the trouble and expense of hiring and paying more experts to work out the feasibility of building a new stadium in Hagerstown for the Suns.

Trust me as I pass on this one word of unsolicited advice.


Pick up and get your assets out of town. End the 22-year stay of professional baseball here in Western Maryland.

As I write this, understand that I'm doing this in good conscience.

I have gone on record as an advocate of a new facility. I can see that, if done correctly with whatever money needed, a new ballpark is worth the risk to stimulate the economy of a stagnating town that has trouble attracting new business and high-paying jobs despite its prime geographic location.


But let's face it, Andy. It's tough to see the writing on the wall when you are busy ramming your head against it.

You took over ownership of this team with the whole-hearted hope of keeping and reviving this market. You brought in a fresh staff that has hustled to try and create a fun atmosphere while establishing a fan base - not knowing you were dealing with an area that makes Mount Rushmore look like a lively bunch.

No matter how much your staff tries, one thing is evident. It's impossible to force people to have fun.

Every excuse known to man has kept people from attending games, starting with the infamous water and sewer issue to - my personal favorite - the fact that the team isn't affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles. I guess it doesn't matter that you can see all of the guys who used to play here almost every night on cable TV.

Truth be told, local officials and their more vocal constituents are treating you as the third member of the 20-mule team, waving the carrot of continuing negotiations in front of your face.

A stadium always stays just out of reach while leading you further down the path of indecision. Mumble and grumble at a few meetings, then table any motions of findings until after this year's impending elections ... or until whenever the topic isn't that hot to handle.

It's time (actually long past time) for local government to make a decision - any decision, yes or no - for a new stadium to end the whole ride. They haven't done it.

It seems obvious they are waiting for you to make the final decision.

You are the third owner in the last 10 years to imply there is a need for a new stadium. The first two owners saw no movement, so what makes you think you will get any better treatment?

Remember those beloved Orioles?

They aren't playing in Hagerstown because of Municipal Stadium. They didn't think the old yard gave a true indication of their players' talents and wanted to take them to safer and more modern facilities.

In fact, the state built a new stadium in Bowie, Md., for them to play in - using the same citizen tax money 10 years ago that everyone is screaming about using here and now.

It is the same tax money that was used by the state to build other facilities - two in Baltimore along with one in Frederick, Salisbury and now Aberdeen.

There was nary a peep of local concern when everyone east of South Mountain got rich off our taxes. They only make noise when the state considers dropping a couple of dimes here this time.

The bottom line, Andy, is the only type of vision that is prevalent in this area is of the tunnel variety. Many decisions are close to the vest and made with blinders on to filter out any possibilities.

For years, Hagerstown had been known as a baseball town. When I first moved to this area, there was a pride about the love of baseball and the young player produced through playing the game.

It's obvious those days have passed. Now the "baseball town" title is as useful as jack-o'-lanterns at Christmas ... strictly out of season.

Now, it's not whether Hagerstown wants baseball anymore.

It has become more whether this town deserves it.

So Andy, take the Suns and head for the hills. Others have jumped off this sinking ship long ago.

In the meantime, you should have a peaceful feeling about it all while keeping two things in mind.

1. Realize that someday baseball might be missed. Once it's gone, it probably will never be back.

2. This will prevent you from having to do some other research. You won't have to call to find out the midnight rates of the Mayflower Moving Van Co., to sneak out of town like another former Maryland-based franchise did.

Bob Parasiliti 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

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