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Suns GM Landes to speak at national convention

December 12, 2003|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

To Kurt Landes, winning is all in how you look at it.

When it comes to the Hagerstown Suns, winning and losing is a matter of record. But in Landes' world as the team's general manager, everybody wins every day.

That's the bottom line in the Suns' "Total Fan Participation" concept, a frame of mind Landes and his staff have adapted for the 70 home games - if the fan shows up, the fan wins.

The Suns' way of business will be showcased and honored on Saturday as Landes will be the featured speaker at baseball's national convention during the 102nd Winter Meetings in New Orleans. Landes will give an hour-long presentation on the concept to kick off the convention today.

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"It's exciting," Landes said. "Minor League Baseball is taking notice on the things we have done with the Suns and honoring us."

A couple of Hagerstown's quirky promotions have placed the franchise on the map in minor league circles. The Suns recieved a "Veeckie Award" from ESPN The Magazine for the promotion of the year when they teamed with Gerald N. Minnich Funeral Home to give away a free service, complete with casket.

The award is placed alongside the 2002 Veeckie for giving 10-year-old Zach Spedden play-by-play duties to become the youngest person ever to broadcast a nine-inning professional game.

Those promotions fall into the spotlight end of the Suns' philosophy.

"(Minor League Baseball is) showing an appreciation for the day-to-day things we have been doing at games," Landes said. "Most of these things might not go noticed by the fan who is there every day. It's a philosophy that our staff has adapted. Every part of the organization, we get an idea and we look at it saying, 'How can we take this and get more fans involved?'"

The basic belief is everyone loves to win, with the following promotions.

  • Strikeout batter of the game - An opposing hitter is chosen before the game. If he strikes out, everyone in the stadium gets a coupon for a free sandwich.

  • Cow tipping contest - If a random blindfolded contestant can find a cow mascot within 30 seconds, everyone in the stadium gets a coupon for a free sandwich.

  • Fans announce the players - A microphone is taken into the crowd for a half-inning, allowing random fans to announce the players as they come to bat, like a public-address announcer.

  • Fans join the radio broadcast - Every Saturday, the Suns' broadcast team calls the game from Municipal Stadium's Better Beer Garden. Fans are invited to get on the air to call part of the game.

  • Program cover - The Suns' front office has a yearly contest, asking school children to design the cover of the game program.


"This is a combination of a lot of little things working together to give a great presentation of the game," Landes said. "It all goes to the focus we give to it, considering the resources and size of staff we have. Some of the teams do parts of them, but most teams don't do it."

Landes' presentation will give minor league baseball an idea of the groundwork the Suns have laid to remain a viable member of this area.

"With this, our attendance has enjoyed small increases, but from the business aspect, it has given us more standing in the community," Landes said. "This is an honor for myself but it's also an honor for our area businesses and fans. Baseball is coming around in Hagerstown."

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