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Suns spotlight their 3 millionth fan Friday

August 21, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - The closest thing to a professional sporting event that Heather Murphy had ever attended was a high school football game.

Murphy, 19, set out to change that Friday night by going to a Hagerstown Suns game. She did not know the Suns were expecting their 3 millionth fan, who would be given season tickets next year as part of a $1,400 prize package.

Murphy wasn't the 3 millionth fan. It turned out that Darren Eddy, 38, of Greencastle, Pa., was the 3 millionth Hagerstown Suns fan to walk through the turnstiles.

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Murphy started watching baseball during last year's World Series. She said on Friday that her friend's son had been giving her more background on how the game is played.

The three of them stopped at Burger King in Hagerstown, then drove to the game.

Murphy said if she had known she could have won the prize package, she would have paid more attention driving. She said she lost a few seconds at the light at Dual Highway and Eastern Boulevard by not turning right on red.

She also probably wouldn't have stopped in the parking lot to talk to another friend from work for so long when she got to the ballpark.

It didn't help that she'd never been to a game before. She said it took her a little time to figure out where the ticket booth was.

Ticket in hand, she was in line to go through the turnstiles.

"I was standing behind this man. They were throwing confetti ... I was like, 'What's going on?'" Murphy said.

Eddy, who was with his wife, children and friends, received a prize package with the season tickets, restaurant passes and a free hat. He also tossed out the opening pitch Friday night.

Eddy's children said the prize pushed their father into instant stardom.

"It's soooo cool," said Amanda Eddy, 9.

Murphy, in the next group behind Eddy's, won nothing.

Suns General Manager Kurt Landes said the count began in 1981, which was the first year the Suns played in Hagerstown.

This year, Suns attendance is up nearly 25 percent over this time last year, Landes said.

Garry Shoemaker, 38, of McConnellsburg, Pa., was at the game Friday, and said 3 million people sounded like a lot, even over 20 years.

"It's surprising to be that many people," Shoemaker said.

A few minutes after the celebration for Eddy, Murphy laughed off the fact that she lost something without even knowing she could have won.

"We were next! It could have been me!" Murphy said.

Still, she seemed to be having fun doing what 3 million ticket holders had done before her.

She looked around with the green grass before her as the grounds crew was wetting down the infield dirt under the early evening sky and fans started ambling toward their seats.

For her first baseball game, Murphy said it wasn't bad. And the first pitch hadn't even been tossed.

"I like it so far," Murphy said. "I can't wait 'til the game actually starts. ... It's a cool atmosphere."

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