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Suns faithful bundle up for home opener

April 11, 2003|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

Baseball lover Glen Price was among thousands of Hagerstown Suns fans who didn't let Thursday's cool temperatures keep them from their team's home opener against the Lexington Legends.

They just dressed for the occasion.

"I've been waiting seven months for baseball," said Price, of Martinsburg, W.Va., who donned wool mittens, a cowboy hat and blanket to watch the baseball game. "I don't care how cold it is."

The Suns sold more than 3,000 tickets for Thursday night's game, but only about 2,000 people were on hand for the game at Municipal Stadium, Suns General Manager Kurt Landes said.

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Hagerstown Suns season ticket-holder Richard McPherson, of Smithsburg, wouldn't have missed it, he said.

"Is there any other sport?" asked McPherson, who wore a bright orange toboggan under his well-worn Suns cap.

Veteran stadium server Jaime Mason expected to take more orders for hot chocolate and coffee than cold beer, she said. Julie Byer stood shivering behind her ice cream cart, doubtful she'd get much business Thursday.

Hagerstown resident Gary Jones hauled a pile of blankets into the stadium to keep him and his two sons, Matthew, 13, and Blake, 9, warm during the game.

Marcia Howell, of Hagerstown, wore earmuffs and fuzzy gloves. Nine-year-old Kris Burdick, of Hagerstown, wore a glove more traditional at baseball games. The youngster hoped to catch a souvenir on opening night, he said.

Denny Fiery, of Hedgesville, W.Va., simply pulled up his hood to keep warm.

"If it's warm enough to play baseball, it's warm enough to watch it," Fiery said.

After a moment of silence in honor of U.S. troops in Iraq, members of the Williamsport High School Blue Band started Thursday's game-opening festivities by playing the national anthem.

Arthur Claybon warmed up enough to throw the game's first pitch. But back in the stands, Claybon - who recently was named the state's Youth of the Year by the Maryland Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs - rubbed his hands together to generate a little heat.

"I'm freezing," said Claybon, 18.

Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner threw the game's fourth opening pitch before taking a seat on the visiting team's side of the stadium - the warmer side, he said. Del. Bob McKee, R-Washington, sat nearby with his granddaughter, Tiffany Childers.

"The Suns are good for the community," McKee said. "And I think it's important for our elected officials to support the team."

Hagerstown residents Bryan Kenworthy and his 6-year-old son, Morgan, shouted their support for the Suns. The pair yelled loud enough to earn the stadium's most comfortable seat for the night - a leather sofa atop the home team's dugout.

Hagerstown residents Brian and Julie Davis and their children, Brandon, 13, and Ashley, 11, huddled together behind the third base line to watch the action on the field. Brandon said the fireworks slated for after the game were worth braving the cold. His softball player sister was willing to shiver if it meant she'd pick up a few tips about playing first base.

Landes expected the opener to kick off a strong season for the home team.

"Our pitching has been incredibly dominant. From a team standpoint, we're pretty pumped up that we're going to have a successful season," he said.

Bundled up in the stands behind home plate, Suns pitcher Glen Woolard aimed a radar gun at the mound to clock pitches. Fellow pitcher Merkin Valdez holds the team's record so far this season with throws up to 98 mph, Woolard said.

"We've been pitching real solid," he said. "If we keep it up, we'll have a real good season."

The Legends beat the Suns 9-1.

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