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It's tough trying to keep score on the Suns' scoreboard

May 20, 2003|by BOB PARASILITI

Sports fans are a bottom line kind of crowd.

Today, fans have computers producing every stat to the Nth power and get enough analysis to put Freud on his own couch. Even with all that information at their fingertips, fans inevitably ask one question.

What was the score?

Face it. Games are nothing but ballet until the two numbers separate winners from losers.

So here's a tip for those who like that natural order of sports. The next time you go to Municipal Stadium for a Hagerstown Suns, a Hagerstown Braves or a high school baseball game, take along a magic 8-ball, a crystal ball or an Ouija board. You need help from the Great Beyond to figure out the score at the "venerable" (or vulnerable) old ballpark.

Municipal Stadium doesn't have a scoreboard anymore. Now it's a s-r-bo-rd.

Fans need "how to" directions to read the broken-down street sign. Runs are posted in the 10th inning because the traditional 'R' slot is out of order. The same goes for errors, balls, strikes and outs slots, leaving the game to creative interpretation.

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Does anyone realize that people who go to really watch baseball games count on the scoreboard for vital information ... little things, like who's ahead in the ninth inning?

It's easier to win the sixth-inning homer Hyundai than to know the score of the game.

If that's not enough, two electronic hieroglyphics shows usually start in the fifth and eighth innings. That's when the scoreboard lights twitch, sparkle and flicker like the Jerry Lewis Telethon toteboard.

If you close your eyes - and most people do to prevent double vision - it almost reminds you of the one scene in "Field of Dreams" when Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones are at a ballpark when the scoreboard starts doing the visual Watusi before posting the message "Build it and they will come."

Let's not imply building anything in Hagerstown. If the same scene were acted out here, the message would read "Fix it so we know what the heck is going on."

That's about as unlikely as seeing how many runs were scored in the fifth inning.

Any chance for fans to see the lights comes down to a game of political football, not baseball. These are the facts.

The city - the stadium's landlord - is uneasy about investing money in the stadium because it doesn't know if the Suns - the park's primary tenant - will stay around to use it.

Meanwhile, the Suns ownership is leery of kicking funds into a project, especially if a new stadium - or a move elsewhere - is on the horizon.

Just to make it more interesting, the parts to repair the scoreboard are no longer produced. That's what happens when something built when T-Rex walked the earth needs parts from an Edsel to be repaired.

Maybe the parts can be made by Peugeot when Hagerstown gets that new sister city.

This isn't a case for a new stadium, a notion that makes local watchdogs howl.

The days of pro baseball in Hagerstown may be numbered, but you couldn't confirm that by looking at the scoreboard.

So, instead of fixing that board - or at least putting up a giant chalkboard to draw stick numbers - it's more dramatic to sit around waiting for it to explode some late Friday night as part of the fireworks display.

You'd think someone might consider that fixing the historic scoreboard would not only cure an eyesore, but give Hagerstown a nice, efficient facility for its high schools, the Braves, and its community college to use, even if the Suns decide to set elsewhere.

Then maybe Municipal Stadium could be used as a carrot to entice the Class 1A baseball semifinals to move here from Frederick's McCurdy Field or the four state finals to relocate from Severn, Md.

For now, the tug-of-war over digits leaves fans counting on their fingers while the political game of landlord-tenant Risk continues.

Who's winning? It's tough to see who's ahead on points without a scoreboard.




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 bobp@herald-mail.com

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