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Champion Colt teams back in the spotlight

July 21, 2007|By BOB PARASILITI

To some, playing Colt League baseball was the time of their life.

But for members of Hagerstown's 1967 and 1971 World Series championship teams, it was the time to shape a lifetime.

Just the event of winning a national championship did its part in enhancing the lives and adding direction to the group of 30 players who played for the two teams. And even though it all happened 36 and 40 years ago, the memories were as fresh as yesterday as the two teams gathered to receive a weekend's worth of honors.

"This makes us feel like there is some appreciation for what we did when we were 15 and 16," Terry Brown, a member of the 1971 team, stated simply.

But it meant so much more. For many of the Colt champion alums, this was a chance to relive some memories and try to give a little encouragement back to the league that gave them their start.

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Consider that Ed Hose and Donnie Beard, two members of the 1967 team, went on play professional ball - Beard in the Pittsburgh organization, Hose in the Washington Senators'. Both played on the 1966 team which also went to the Series and had five players sign to play professionally.

Then there was Gary Fahrney, who went on to play in three World Series situations. The first was with the 1971 Hagerstown team, the second with a Class AAABA team, and finally in the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., with Clemson.

"Of the three, this was the only one we won," Fahrney said.

There was a brotherly link between the two Colt teams, thanks to the Lowery brothers - Doug, who played on the 1967 team, and Mike, who played in 1971.

For Brown, the experience gave him the foundation for the life he lives now.

"I'm a teacher at a school for institutionalized kids," said Brown, who lives near Shepherdstown, W.Va. "I think playing for the Colts gave me discipline of an organized sport and taught me to play by the rules. It has given me a lot of good guidance that I could relate to the kids that could help get them back and give them a sense of accomplishment."

On the surface, this weekend of festivities brings back the feeling of being a champion.

It started on Friday, as 15 of the players showed for a Municipal Stadium picnic and to be honored by the Hagerstown Suns. Today, they will compete in a home run-hitting contest at Hagerstown's Extra Innings complex, before more honors at the Washington County Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. Finally, they will receive their last round of honors at the Colt League regional tournament at Hellane Park.

The weekend is about fun and memories.

"This is great," said Beard, a dairy farmer living in Boonsboro. "It's great to see everyone again and to talk about old memories."

Fahrney remembered the benefits the players received for playing on a championship team.

"For a lot of us, it was the only time we traveled," said Fahrney, who works for a defense contracting firm in Clearwater, Fla. "Back then, family vacations weren't a thing to do. When it was vacation time, it was all-star trips. Today, what I appreciate the most is the parents. My dad helped out with the team and I remember him doing the laundry."

"When we were kids we didn't have a clue," said Hose, a banker who lives in Sharpsburg. "The thing I appreciate now is our coaches. They gave up their vacations and probably used some of their own money to allow us to play. Now, I really appreciate it."

The final thing on the agenda of the two teams this weekend is to give back to the Colt League that helped them out. The Colt League has suffered through lean times lately, with a drop in participation.

The members of the two teams said they would like to prove that youth league baseball produces success stories.

They are the proof.

"The big thing now is that kids have so many different things to do," Hose said. "As kids, all we did was play ball all day and then go play at Colt League. I hope we can show them that you can play and win titles if you try. The game is losing interest right now. I hope it's like most things - everything goes in a big circle and it will come back."

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