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Someday I'll get to watch the Suns play

April 13, 2006|by TIM ROWLAND

They play in Hagerstown. Their parent team is in New York City. They wear the colors of San Francisco. Their name and their roots come from Florida. And their mascot is a bug.

Ah well, why should anything in Washington County make sense?

Forget the calendar, it's not officially spring until the Hagerstown Suns take the field in early April, giving the savvy sports fan the chance to roast in the first inning and be frozen solid by the seventh.

Immediately, two things looked different this year. First, to the credit of the Suns, the City of Hagerstown and Hagerstown Trust, there is a beautiful new plaza that gives you the feel of a real ballpark and does its best to distract from the aging old steel bones of Municipal Stadium.

This was horrible. Included in the complex is a big new souvenir shop with clothes and stuff, so naturally, by instinct, the Mystery Shopper in High Heels suddenly got a glazed look in her eyes, her arms raised forward in front of her and she was pulled trance-like by some unseen force into the Retail Zone, where we proceeded to miss the first two innings of the game.

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Then she had to meet her friends. That took another inning. Then because she knows everyone (bad) and likes to stop and talk to everyone (worse), more formalities had to take place. Time passed. We visited the concession stand. Somewhere, there might have been a game going on, but you couldn't have proved it by me.

The Suns attract an interesting cross-section. Some, including my friend Jeanne - who has to go to Westminster to find scorecards that are satisfactory - take the game very seriously, while others, well, never mind.

Andrea is willing to learn, though, so occasionally I feel encouraged as the game goes on to dispense some of my baseball wisdom.

"This pitcher, see, has too many of what they call 'moving parts.' Notice the way his windup is all over the place..."

"Oooh, that guy just made a great catch."

"...You want to have one standard 'release point,' but when your arms and elbows are coming from all different angles it's hard to control your throw..."

"Wow, that was a good catch, too."

"...And notice the way his shoulder is flying open toward first base, that's never..."

"Nice catch."

"Well - that is his job, you know."

"What?"

"That's why they call him a 'catcher.'"

The other major change this year is the team bug. The orange-and-black caterpillar Woolie B. used to have a shy smile and was an entirely nonthreatening mascot, but apparently his ratings were down and the team saw a need to ratchet up interest.

Whatever the case, someone saw fit to provide sort of a sci-fi makeover of the insect, giving him a half-harmless caterpillar, half- angry space mutant effect that is certainly more interesting than the last version. It's kind of like if you had turned the old Woolie B. inside out. Or maybe he's just coming out of his shell, and next year the Suns mascot will have evolved into a moth.

Our friends Scott and Emily from Harpers Ferry were new to the whole Suns scene, but fortunately I was not called upon to explain how Suns + Mets = Worm, because they were understandably hung up on why a segment of the crowd was chanting "Bur-ger King; Bur-ger King."

Short version, before each game the Suns select an opposing player, and then if that player strikes out at any point in the game, everyone in the crowd gets a coupon for a free cheeseburger.

Tragically, the opposing team, the Lakewood BlueClaws, has a player named Aaron Cheesman, and naturally some chucklehead in the Suns front office thought it would be a lot of yuks to - you see where this was going.

But given the femininity in the crowd, it was poor judgment. The women's adrift minds by that time had washed up on the shoals of fashion (Why do the BlueClaws have red jerseys? Why is Mayor Bob Bruchey wearing a beige linen suit in April?) when the Cheesman/Cheeseburger gag came to their attention. And they started rooting for Aaron to get a hit, which with so much female karma on his side, he did. Andrea provided the spirit of the crowd.

"I'm glad he got a hit; I feel bad for him, he must hear that all the time."

"That's such a woman thing to say."

"Why?"

"Rooting for someone from the other team based on the degree of personal misfortune. A guy would never do that. A guy would revel in it, like a wolf celebrating a wounded caribou."

The next day I noticed an upcoming Suns promotion: "Bode Miller Guaranteed Loss Night."

I rest my case.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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