Suns hero Evans was the last to know it

May 02, 2006|By BOB PARASILITI

Legends don't happen by accident.

And yet, there is no real plan to becoming immortal, either.

Still, you have to wonder how a legend gets his start. Do you apply for the gig? If so, where?

I mean, how big was Paul Bunyan before he got the blue ox? The same might be said about Tom Cruise before he met Nicole Kidman and Katie Holmes, though.

Did Babe Ruth actually eat all those hot dogs at once or is 714 his Hormel record instead of his homer mark?

It seems legends are built off two factors. First, the "right place, right time" exposure, even if it's just for an instant. Second ? and maybe even more important ? is gossip.


Legends are like fish stories. Everything is exaggerated while numbers and dimensions grow with each telling. That probably explains why five million people were at Woodstock when the actual count was like 69,000.

He may not know it, but Nick Evans became an instant cult hero last Tuesday.

Sure, Evans is just your average 20-year-old minor league first baseman for the Hagerstown Suns. In that disguise, he seems to be just toiling for a chance to play major league baseball.

But hey, for at least 10 minutes, he was as big as Red Bull or cappuccino the other day.

Evans stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and the Suns down 6-2 to the Lake County Captains in the ninth inning of last Tuesday's Education Day matinee game.

Things were looking bleak for Hagerstown, until he walked to the plate.

Suddenly, Evans became the poster child for willpower. He didn't point to the fence with his bat and call his shot or anything. Still, fingers were crossed and fans around Municipal Stadium were rubbing a huge imaginary rabbit's foot hoping for the best possible scenario.

It worked. Evans connected with a 2-1 pitch off of Lake County's Matt Davis and sent it over the right-field fence to tie the game.

The impact was immediate ... not only in the game but on Evans' place in a very small circle of local history. He's a player the fans at this particular game will remember. And his stature grew with every fleeting moment and every foot nearer to the Suns clubhouse.

Not that I started it, but I remember standing behind the Suns dugout and thinking the conditions and situation were perfectly coming together for Evans. The wind was blowing out, the pitcher was struggling ... and the Suns just seem to have a knack to find runs in the ninth inning.

I was just one part of the collective lean of body English that "helped" propel the ball out of the yard.

Next to me were some students from one of the schools attending the matinee. One kid just pleaded with Evans to come through.

"Please .... Pleazzzzzzze. Hit a home run. We want to see you guys win before we leave. Do it now, so we know if you guys won or not. Pleazzzze."

Then, once the game was tied ... "I knew he was going to do it."

While the students were gathering getting ready to leave for their bus, one of their teachers came up and said, "I called that home run. I was sitting there talking to (the teacher next to me) and said, 'This guy is going to hit a grand slam.' Then when he did, (the teacher) looked at me and said, 'How did you know.'"

Later in the inning, by the way, the Suns won the game, scoring the final run on a throwing error. That was only an anticlimactic afterthought.

On the walkway underneath the bleachers along the right-field line, a couple was heading for the gate. One said, "I just knew he was going to hit that home run. The minute he came up, I knew the ball was going out. I could just feel it."

The response: "How did you know?"

I never found out because they got out of earshot.

By the time I got to the clubhouse door, starting pitcher Sal Aguilar was greeting his teammates after the win.

"I came out of the clubhouse when the bases were loaded," he told one teammate. "I saw (Evans) up at the plate and said he was going to hit it out."

Of course, Evans' homer got Aguilar ? whose record would have had an 'L' added to it ? off the hook. I wondered if that had any bearing on Aguilar's confidence in his teammate.

Maybe the person least impressed with Evans' instant celebrity was Evans himself. There was no "I had it all the way" attitude.

"I had to keep the same approach. I was just looking for something to drive," he said. "I knew it would carry in that direction. ... It just happened."

That isn't exactly the legendary Lou Gehrig's "I'm the luckiest man on the face of the earth" quote, but ...

Give Evans a break though. He didn't wake up anticipating such a lofty status, even if it was only for a day.

Even 'legends' have to get used to the job.

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

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