Vacation means a little of this and some of that

July 27, 2004|by BOB PARASILITI

The engine is warming up.

I just finished packing.

We're not even out of the driveway yet, and my stepdaughter Brianna already asks, "Are we there yet?"

Yep. It's vacation time. And as far as this column goes, my train of thought is two stations ahead of my caboose.

So, there is only time to say this and that about this and that.

Part of the beauty of covering sports is the chance to see two different sides of an athlete.

Athletes own the competitive and focused side that reacts by instinct and training in games. Then most have the human side, with which the same person reacts by common sense and upbringing for the game of life.

Both sides can be interesting, especially if the athlete can leave his macho persona on the field and be engaging off it.


Ed Hartwell proved himself to be a master of both of his worlds on Wednesday.

Hartwell is a linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens, where walking the walk and talking the talk are nearly as important as playing the play. He has done well to complement Ray Lewis and Peter Boulware to make up the most lethal part of the Ravens' defense.

But when he took the time to come from Owings Mills, Md., to speak to the Hagerstown Police Athletic League summer football camp at Hagerstown Fairgrounds Park, he became larger than any football player.

He became role-model material.

Hartwell talked to the 22 campers from the heart. He gave them stories to remember and advice to hold on to. And then, this million-dollar pro football player did maybe the most memorable thing of all.

He played touch football with the campers.

"I'm just a kid at heart," he said. "I didn't get to meet a pro football player until I was drafted. I want to be able to give these kids a chance to do that."

Most of the time, speeches by athletes seem hollow. Hartwell's words were very solid when he told the campers to "work to make your life easy. Get good grades because it will help you down the road. After all, you might as well use the time you spend there well. They aren't going to cut it short."

His talk made an impression, but his schoolyard passing made memories.

And that is the side most people don't seem to see from today's attention-starved athletes.

The Hagerstown Suns have been saddled with much grief for trying to create positive experiences.

It's amazing how people and businesses that try to make things better and more enjoyable in this area get ridiculed.

While the Suns have been hammered with a controversy over their fireworks shows and other promotions and by people who can't seem to see the entertainment value of having a minor league team in town, the franchise has persevered.

The Suns' attendance is up by 20 percent despite eight rainouts, thanks to the massive effort by general manager Kurt Landes and his youthful staff to offer inexpensive entertainment with diversity.

In most cases, such ill will would have chased off others long ago, but the Suns continue efforts to establish themselves as a community leader with their efforts to bring Willie Mays back to the town where he began his professional career and a fall festival to benefit a charitable organization.

The Suns want to do something unheard of ... stay in Hagerstown. That's novel, especially if you look at the number of empty buildings and "For Sale" signs around town.

Speaking of the Suns, here's an interesting question.

If the Montreal Expos move to the Washington area, will the Suns attempt to become their Single-A affiliate?

For years, the lack of an Oriole identity has been used as the excuse for fans to stay away. Not only would Washington have a team that is equidistant from Hagerstown, the current Expos farm system is far more productive than that of the Orioles. Suddenly the affiliation excuse would become extinct.

Finally, North Hagerstown's decision to name its football stadium project after the late Mike Callas should be applauded.

All who knew him and others who have read about him should realize Callas was an unselfish man who had the betterment of his community at heart.

Let's hope that if and when North's stadium is completed, this dedication is something more than placing the man's name over the front door.

If it is at all possible, a plaque or memorial area telling Callas' story should be added to keep his memory and attitude alive for years to come so future generations will be introduced to his beliefs.

Everyone hopes to be remembered for how he or she contributed during their lifetime. Mike was a huge contributor to what was good in Hagerstown.

This is one time when everyone should aspire to "Be Like Mike."

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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