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Dreams of fielding

Businessman called Suns' 'super shagger'

Businessman called Suns' 'super shagger'

August 19, 2003|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

Hagerstown's most notable baseball diamond might not be built on a cornfield and Kevin Costner has never watched a game in the city, but Municipal Stadium has served as a field of dreams, of sorts, for one local man.

Tony Dahbura can be seen in center field on the afternoon of most Hagerstown Suns home games, shagging balls for Suns players.

Dahbura, best known in Hagerstown for his involvement in the family-owned Hub Labels Inc., and for his work with several community organizations, has been working out with the Suns baseball team this season. Dahbura has shown up a few hours before nearly every home game at Municipal Stadium to catch balls during the team's batting practices.

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Dahbura, 43, said the idea to be a pseudo-member of the Suns came to him in his sleep.

"In February, I had a dream I was catching balls in the outfield," Dahbura said. "When I woke up I thought, 'this is what makes me happy.'"

After talking with his friend Kurt Landes, the Suns General Manager, at a Hagerstown Rotary Club meeting earlier this year, the dream became a reality.

"In the preseason, we kinda joked about him shaggin' balls at batting practice," Landes said. "It didn't take much to convince me."

Landes said the Suns made Dahbura an official employee at the stadium to avoid any liability issues. But even Dahbura is not quite sure what his title is.

Suns Manager Mike Ramsey simply called Dahbura the "super shagger."

Dahbura is not exactly green on the baseball field. He was a member of the under-18 El Salvador national team when he lived there as a teenager. He played second base and outfield in college while attending Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. After graduation, he stayed on with the team as a coach while attending graduate school.

Locally, Dahbura has served on boards of Hagerstown Community College, Hagerstown Chamber of Commerce, Hagerstown Regional Airport Commission, the YMCA and the Maryland Symphony Orchestra, among others.

Part of his reason for his field-time with the Suns, Dahbura said, is to support a part of the Hagerstown community.

And it beats sitting at a board meeting on a sunny summer day, he said.

Dahbura has been serving the team well by all accounts.

"As much as it's fun for Tony, he has the ability to get along with the players and coaching staff - so it's not just him having fun but actually, helping out the team," Landes said.

Catcher Brian Munhall said the players have enjoyed having Dahbura around this season.

"He's been great to us - Tony brings a lot of excitement," Munhall said. "Shaggin' batting practice isn't the most exciting thing in the world, but he loves it."

Munhall, like Dahbura, admitted the arrangement raised a few eyebrows initially.

"It was weird at first," Munhall said. "It's definitely been a unique experience. But everyone really likes him. He's about as nice a guy to us as someone can be."

Dahbura said one of the great things about his "summer adventure" with the Suns is the camaraderie.

"The players and coaches have been incredibly welcoming," Dahbura said. "If I miss one I should have gotten, they let me know and if I get to one I shouldn't have, they cheer."

Dahbura said it is the tough plays at practice that have provided his fondest memories of the season.

"I've gone up for a few (at the center field wall), and it's such a great feeling when you come down with one in your mitt," Dahbura said. "It's what I live for."

During a game in July, the team surprised him with the unexpected, occasional job as first-base coach.

"That was a mind explosion," said Dahbura. "I had coached while I was in graduate school, but never at this (professional) level."

The Suns are 8-4 with him serving as first-base coach, Dahbura said.

However, coaches did not give Dahbura the assignment Monday because a Giants' director of player development was in town for part of the final home-stretch of the season.

The Suns are a Class A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants.

Playing center field during practices not only has fulfilled a dream for Dahbura, he said it is the most productive workout routine he has had in years. Dahbura said he lost 15 pounds during the season.

"I go to the gym, but I don't enjoy it," he said. "Here, I can chase fly balls for two hours and come off the field laughing. Sometimes, I'm completely drenched like I was in a swimming pool and I could go out and do another two hours."

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