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Fans see Suns shine

September 04, 2004|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - While some Hagerstown Suns fans found comfort in hearing the season's last bat cracks at Municipal Stadium Friday night, at least one family of baseball fans found refuge.

After closing the shutters on her Palm City, Fla., home Thursday morning in preparation for Hurricane Frances, Baltimore Orioles fan Jane Walter found herself at Municipal Stadium Friday night, hoping to shut out fears that her home might not be there when she gets back.

"It's nice to be with family and be safe," she said as her son, Austin, and his cousin, Wyatt Walter, wiggled their bodies giddily beside her.

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The two boys agreed that their minds were on popcorn.

Like-minded lines of people stood with their eyes on the stadium's concession stands' menus as fans weaved through them, spilling small sips of beer and kernels of popcorn. Ashley Harrington was making way for some of them.

Harrington, 17, said that she heads out to the ballpark about three times a season, but said that there's something special about catching the last home game.

"I think everybody plays harder and it's just more exciting," she said.

Bruce Boppe was intent even on the opening ceremonies as the long concessions line in front of him moved faster than he could close the gap.

What's exciting to Boppe is seeing the Suns players "try to make it," he said. Rarely does he miss a Suns game, he said, while placing his finger as a bookmark in his program.

"This is the last time we'll see professional baseball in this area this year unless you want to travel," the Hagerstown man said.

Anne Johnson traveled to Municipal Stadium Friday night just for a little nostalgia. The Haddonfield, N.J.. woman said she grew up in Hagerstown and hasn't been to a Suns game in about three or four years.

"I love this old ballpark," she said. "It's the same as it was when my mom came here to see the Owls play. It reminds me of what Hagerstown used to be like."

She said that that pastime included a "rural atmosphere that's disappearing from this town."

"If they build a new stadium, I probably won't go to it because it will represent a new Hagerstown, not the Hagerstown I grew up in," Johnson said.

But according to Hagerstown Suns' General Manager Kurt Landes, the Suns are growing on Hagerstown.

Attendance for the 2004 season was about 128,000, he said, which averages to about 2,000 people per home game.

He said that last season's attendance averaged out to about 1,600 per game.

"It's much better than in years past," he said.

Landes said that the weather has been better this year and that the team has offered unique promotions to lure people out to the field.

"We have people here now that are less about baseball, but are more about family entertainment," he said.

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