In a nutshell, Callas was a man of Hagerstown

June 29, 2004|by BOB PARASILITI

Roasted peanuts.

From now on, every time I see a small pile of roasted, salted-in-the-shell peanuts, I will think of Mike Callas.

That sounds like a twisted form of word association, but that was the first thought I had when I heard one of the truly nice people of Hagerstown had passed away last month.

This angle comes at the tail end of stories and eulogies of Callas, many spoken so eloquently about the man and his influence on the city of Hagerstown as a building contractor and a philanthropist.

I didn't know Mike well, but he always struck me as a man who knew what he liked and was quietly passionate about supporting it.


One of the things Callas believed in was Hagerstown Suns baseball. I don't know if he was a big baseball fan, but he was a member of the Suns Fan Club and a season-ticket holder. He usually showed up at games like any good guest - fashionably late.

Mike would make his appearance at Municipal Stadium sometime around the fourth inning, after a workout, business meeting or other engagement. He'd quietly blend in with Suns Fan Club members behind the home dugout on the first-base side of the field.

He was always pleasant and soft-spoken, but he pulled for the Suns - not because they were an Orioles, Blue Jays or Giants affiliate, just because the players on the field had Hagerstown written across their chests.

When Mike would arrive, fan club president Gary DeWeerd would disappear for a few moments and come back with a bag or two of roasted peanuts, baseball's version of the high-class hors d'oeuvres for an honored guest. The bags would be ripped opened and spread across the roof of the dugout for everyone to sample, but mostly for Callas, who loved to eat the nuts while watching the game.

Mike would quietly crack open the nuts and eat their contents. He was one of the loyal fans, showing appreciation for great plays but never belittling players for the shoddy ones you see at the Single-A level.

And just as quietly, Mike would usually leave the game after the seventh inning. I believe it wasn't that he didn't want to stay, he just had other things to do. But Mike did what he thought was his duty - show up for the game, use his ticket and show support for the home team - all while having a couple of roasted peanuts.

Most of all, though, Mike had vision. He saw the Suns as an important commodity for Hagerstown. They were one of those quality-of-life elements that provided inexpensive entertainment and relaxation for the citizens in this area. They provided a stress-free place to unwind and eat a couple of roasted peanuts.

Mike was an advocate for most everything he thought was good for Hagerstown. He gave his time, his money, his effort and his charisma and personable influence to help this city progress.

Mike believed that sports are important to this town. He backed efforts to build a new stadium for the city and the Suns and was on the board raising money for a new football facility for North Hagerstown High. Both are unpopular subjects, but they were both things Mike felt would enhance this area in years to come.

Mike Callas was a man of quiet conviction. The everlasting image he left with me is one of a man who lived by the motto, "What was good for everyone was better than what was best for me." There aren't very many people who believe in selflessness and civic pride over personal gain anymore.

In the death of Mike Callas, Hagerstown is forced to find some collective eyeglasses to replace him. The vision the man carried is now blurred.

And roasted peanuts are just a shell of what they used to be without him.

Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Morning Herald. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2310, or by e-mail at

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