Country concert rocks the ballpark

July 06, 2003|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

Country music star John Michael Montgomery drew more than 2,000 fans to Hagerstown Municipal Stadium on Saturday night to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the minor baseball league that the Hagerstown Suns call home.

The South Atlantic League takes in 16 minor league teams across eight states.

Montgomery was preceded by Possum Holler, a regional band from Hancock, and by rising country star Shannon Lawson.

Other country music stars making the rounds of minor league baseball parks in the Grand Slam Music Tour 2003 in honor of South Atlantic's 100th birthday are the Charlie Daniels Band, Trace Adkins and Andy Griggs.

The Suns are a San Francisco Giants farm team.

Three sisters - Tami Tay, 24, Randi Hovermale, 27, and Tara Barney, 30 - and their friend, Shawn Fearnow, 31, all from the Berkeley Springs, W.Va., area, got to hear Possum Holler, a local band from Hancock, take the stage first.


"They were good tonight," Fearnow said. "I was surprised to see them opening here."

They were sitting in the bleachers, where tickets cost $15, but managed to get free tickets to the concert. Seats in the field in front of the stage cost $20.

Sarah Pillion, 30, of Winchester, Va., and her friend, C.J. Tevalt, 29, of Middletown, Va., sat in the field to be closer to the stage. Tevalt bought a ticket for Pillion, who was celebrating her birthday Saturday.

Both ardent country music fans, the women met two years ago at a Kenny Chesney concert at the Patriot Center in Fairfax, Va. They both like Lawson.

"He's different," C.J. said. "He doesn't have the same cookie cutter Nashville sound."

Shelby Schroyer, 17, of Hagerstown got a special thrill when Lawson signed the front of her bib overall cutoffs.

"Here's a big hee haw, love S.L," was inscribed across her stomach with a black felt-tipped pen.

"He's my favorite country singer," said a beaming Schroyer. "He and John Michael Montgomery are the only actual country music singers I listen to who are men."

Caroline Lefebure of Hagerstown and her friend, Mary Jo Ralls of Smithsburg, both 21, wore black cowboy hats. They came to see Montgomery "because he's hot," Ralls said.

A stuffed rhinoceros sat on Ralls' left shoulder. It's name is Randy, she said. Her boyfriend, Bill Kauffman, gave it to her when he left for Army duty in Iraq.

"I get letters. He says he's doing OK, but he's ready to come home," she said. "He's 20 miles from Baghdad."

She said she'll carry the rhino wherever she goes until Kauffman comes home.

Lefebure is also separated from her boyfriend, Dustin Shafer.

"He left for Korea three weeks ago. He'll be there for a year," she said.

Over in the stands, Robert Creek, his wife, Pattie, and sons Morgan and Matthew were waiting for Montgomery to take the stage.

"This is a family celebration for Matthew," Robert Creek said.

Matthew is in the Navy and spent 5 1/2 months aboard the troop carrier U.S.S. Ashland during the fighting in Iraq. His leave ends this weekend.

"I have to report to the ship in Norfolk (Va.) on Monday," he said.

Saturday's concert ended with a fireworks display.

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