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Mike's work continues without Mike

February 22, 2005|by BOB PARASILITI

Somewhere, in a place far better than this one, you get the feeling Mike Callas is watching us.

It's been nearly a year since the well-liked local businessman and philanthropist was taken from us in death. But even in his absence, some of the good works he stood firmly behind are taking steps to reality.

Those who knew Callas can probably imagine his wry smile of approval with the news of Citicorp's $100,000 donation to the building fund for a new athletic facility at North Hagerstown High School.

The smile might break into a toothy grin when the final results of a study for a proposed East End development project are announced. The study was to determine the feasability of a convention center and a new minor league baseball stadium in the Washington County Hospital area.

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Callas, who owned a local construction firm, believed both projects were needed to keep Hagerstown moving forward in the 21st century. He put time and effort behind both projects because of those strong beliefs.

Many question the need about both projects, mostly concerning the use of tax money, the ruining of neighborhoods and any foolish investments that would only add to unruly growth in this area.

Callas was often conscious and sensitive of all those concerns. Although he was a builder by trade, he was a Hagerstonian and Washington Countian by choice and seemed adamant against hurting the area he was so fond of.

But yet, Callas had vision, too.

He realized that, like it or not, this area is growing and this town needed to stay ahead of the game by preparing for the rush. It is much easier to get ahead than it is to catch up after it's too late.

Callas knew the North Hagerstown facility was sorely needed.

As a school, North's football team never enjoyed a true home game. The lack of a facility - and the lack of lighting - forced the Hubs to travel to play at home at School Stadium. Other North outdoor teams are also forced to make bus treks to play at home for any game scheduled past dusk.

About 70 band and athletic events take place every fall at School Stadium, on the campus of South Hagerstown High. While a new facility at North is expensive, most people don't realize the hidden expenses and health issues the city and county faces for the upkeep of an overused facility like School Stadium.

Add to the scenario Hagerstown's impending growth. A new facility will be needed and could be used for other events besides football, events which become very important in a growing community.

Callas knew that. In fact, he had just been named honorary chairman to help make such a facility a reality right before his death. His presence remains because that facility will now be named in his honor when it is finally built.

Across town, the Suns are getting ready to play their 25th season in Hagerstown in a stadium which is ready to celebrate its 75th anniversary. Municipal Stadium is the second oldest facility in minor league baseball.

Again, Callas had the vision to see that - like it or not - the Suns are an important part and partner to the Hagerstown area. The tradition of baseball has been rooted here for years and the Single A baseball team is a link to the area's growth through its commercial identity and economic impact.

Callas frequented Suns games, if for nothing more than to support something which was part of the city. He quietly worked behind the scenes to help find a way to create a new modern and fan-friendly park for this area.

Only time, and the impending study, will tell if Callas was playing for the winning team.

When it comes down to it, in life and death Callas believed the inherent need for these new facilities. They represent a need to maintain a high quality of life in Hagerstown.

Smile, Hagerstown and remember Callas fondly. Maybe you will be able to see the need for these two major projects through his eyes.

Mike Callas always wanted the best for us and his hometown.

Maybe we should take the time to follow all the way through in his memory, just for the chance to be like Mike.




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

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