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County Sports Hall adds five

July 17, 2005|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

The tradition of baseball in Hagerstown is a long and storied one. Steve Cline, Gary Fahrney and Mick Billmeyer each are a part of that tradition, and on Saturday all three became part of the Washington County Sports Hall of Fame tradition as well.

Cline, Fahrney and Billmeyer, along with Harry Parks and Dennis Reeder, were honored at the induction banquet at Hagerstown Elks Lodge No. 378.

Billmeyer, the Philadelphia Phillies' catching instructor, and Cline, a minor-league instructor for the Milwaukee Brewers, were not in attendance due to their duties. Fahrney - who followed in Cline's footsteps from Hagerstown Colt League, through North Hagerstown High School and all the way to Clemson University - was.

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"Steve was an idol of mine," Fahrney said. "He was two years ahead of me, so I never got to play with him. But I watched him play, and boy, what a pitcher he was. ... Then 10 years later, Mick followed our path."

Fahrney - also part of North Hagerstown's 1972 boys basketball state championship team - reached the College World Series with Clemson in 1976. He also pitched for Hagerstown Colt League in its run to the 1971 World Series championship.

He traces his start in baseball back to the 1960s, when his dad and uncle played fast-pitch softball.

Back then, pick-up baseball games were the highlight of summer.

"When we grew up, come summertime, it was baseball, that's what we did," Fahrney said. "It's still a passion for me today."

Billmeyer played football and baseball at North Hagerstown and Hagerstown Community College in the early 1980s. He was selected in the 30th round by the Minnesota Twins in the 1984 amateur baseball draft (he did not sign), then taken by the Baltimore Orioles the next year, when he did sign.

Billmeyer played in the farm systems of the Orioles, Texas Rangers and California Angels, peaking in Triple-A with the Angels. He was hired as the Angels' bullpen coordinator in 1994, became the Philadelphia Phillies' roving catching instructor in 2000 and was promoted to major league catching instructor in 2004.

Cline played baseball and football at North Hagerstown and went on to star for Clemson, earning ACC Player of the Year honors in 1974. He played in the San Francisco Giants' farm system from 1974 to 1980, then was hired by the team as a minor-league instructor in 1981. He accepted the same position with Milwaukee in 1996.

Parks was a four-sport letter-winner in baseball, basketball, football and track at South Hagerstown, where he graduated in 1953. As a senior, he earned All-Maryland state football honors and won the state pole vault title. He credited his coaches for allowing him to play as many sports as he did.

"You have to have coaches who cooperate," Parks said. "I'd have a baseball game and a track meet in one day. Of course, the baseball game was early and the track meet was later, but that can't happen without coaches who understand."

Parks accepted a scholarship to play at Western Maryland College, and later joined the U.S. Army, where he excelled in basketball and football while playing in Germany. He also picked up the game of golf and has the 1992 Senior Open title at Beaver Creek Country Club and two hole-in-ones to his credit.

"It never entered my mind (that I would be inducted)," Parks said. "It probably never would have occurred if Roger (Kisiel, a 1989 inductee who played lacrosse) hadn't approached me at the American Legion and asked about it. ... It means someone finally recognized what I accomplished. I really didn't think I accomplished much to be in the Hall of Fame."

Reeder, who was made an honorary member of the Hall in 2001 before he died in September of that year, signed a professional baseball contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1946 and was later drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1949. He was invited to the Cardinals' spring training camp in 1953, the closest he came to the big leagues. He later coached Babe Ruth baseball for two decades.

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