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Landes leaving Suns

September 22, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

HAGERSTOWN - After five seasons of prize-winning promotions and a funeral, Hagerstown Suns General Manager Kurt Landes is taking a walk.

Landes, who brought attention to the team through quirky promotions and community involvement, announced Thursday that he is leaving the club next week to take a new job with a different team.

"I'm definitely moving into another executive position - actually a general manager's position - within minor league baseball," said Landes, who refused to disclose where he is headed.

In five years with the Suns, Landes was visible both inside and outside the fences at Municipal Stadium.

In 2004, he was the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce's "Business Person of the Year." The Suns received the Chamber's "At Your Service" award in February earlier this year.

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In 2003, the Suns gave away a pre-planned funeral. This year, inspired by fans who said the team had given away everything but the kitchen sink, Landes woke in the night to prepare a new promotion: "They even gave away the kitchen sink, kitchen sink giveaway."

Diehard Suns' fan Dan Spedden of Hagerstown said he was both excited and disappointed Thursday, one day after the Suns announced they will start next season as an affiliate of the Washington Nationals.

"We're sorry to see Mr. Landes go, but he's going on to bigger and better things ..." said Spedden, who estimated he has gone to every game for five or six years.

Assistant General Manager Will Smith will succeed Landes, the Suns said. Landes said he will start his new job Oct. 2, and he and his team will make a formal announcement two days later.

"Kurt Landes is an excellent promoter, and on top of all of that, he is a genuinely nice gentleman," said Tom Riford, president and chief executive officer of Hagerstown-Washington County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Landes, who rooted for the Cleveland Indians as a child growing up in Wooster, Ohio, worked in Daytona Beach, Fla., before coming to Hagerstown. His first day with the Suns was Sept. 11, 2001.

According to the Suns, attendance increased more than 50 percent with Landes at the helm.

Landes cited the funeral giveaway as one of his favorite promotions.

As a staff member for another team, Landes developed a curriculum for students that is now used by the Suns. He said he still enjoys watching children walk into the stadium for the first time.

He also said he is especially proud of Willie Mays' visit to the ballfield in 2004.

"The day you stop thinking that the team can't improve is the day you get out of the business," Landes said.

From rolling out the tarp on the field in the morning to brainstorming promotions in the offseason, the duties of a minor league general manager require a tireless "inside fire and drive" Landes said.

"I'm very passionate about minor league baseball, and I think you've hit the nail on the head: I love my job," Landes said.

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