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Sale of Suns 'imminent'

September 17, 2010|By BOB PARASILITI
  • Dr. Mitesh Kothari,left, Tony Dahbura and Bruce Quinn head a group that is planning to purchase the Hagerstown Suns franchise from Mandalay Entertainment for $6.7 million.
Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

The Hagerstown Suns are being sold to a group of investors that includes two Hagerstown men, returning the 30-year-old franchise to local ownership.

Los Angeles-based Mandalay Entertainment Group, which bought the Suns in December 2002, is selling the team for $6.7 million to a group headed by Bruce Quinn, a Florida businessman and general manager of Polo Trace Country Club in Delray Beach, Fla., and Tony Dahbura, a corporate vice president of Hub Labels in Hagerstown.

Dr. Mitesh Kothari of Hagerstown and Quinn's sister, Sheri, are part of the ownership group, which also has some minor investors, Bruce Quinn said.

"The franchise has come full circle," Quinn said. "If I've heard it once, I have heard it 100 times. Local ownership is important in Hagerstown. I'm starting to get that."

A Mandalay official said Friday that the sale had not been officially completed. Quinn said Friday the finalization of the deal was "imminent."

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The Suns franchise last had local ownership in 1992 when the team was an Eastern League Double-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles. That team left Hagerstown for Bowie, Md., and became the Baysox.

The Suns, a Single-A team in the South Atlantic League, are affiliated with the Washington Nationals.

"This is tremendous for me. I love baseball and have been involved with the team for several years in a fun capacity," said Dahbura, who has caught fly balls during team batting practices for the last few years. "Now, this gives me the chance to keep the team here and maintain, and hopefully increase, its value in the community. We are doing this to help keep baseball in Hagerstown."

The group was identified as a possible buyer in June, and the sale was projected to be finalized by the end of August. But it was delayed while awaiting votes of approval from the South Atlantic League, Minor League Baseball and Major League Baseball.

"They all have a canned set of documents to run checks to make sure everything is right about the group buying a team," Quinn said. "This is like a business fraternity, and at the end of the day they are trying to make sure they are keeping the integrity of the game intact. Baseball is a game, but it has a lot of people in it who understand business."

Quinn said he heard of the opportunity to buy the team through his connections with the Nationals. At the same time, Dahbura was assembling a local group hoping to buy the team.

The Nationals helped broker the combination of the two, Quinn said.

"That was critical, and I told the Nationals that we wouldn't buy this team without them," Quinn said. "They are the right people and have the right business experiences.

"I'm the entrepreneur and the marketing guy. I have been doing this for most of my life. I have a lot of ideas that I throw around. They bring an important part to this because they know how everything works and the people in this town. We have an obligation to the Nationals and to the city and the county here to make this thing work."

For Kothari, the Suns were a local business that needed to stay in Hagerstown.

"I'm excited to be involved in this," he said. "The team has been here all my life and I wanted to make sure the Suns remained in Hagerstown and remained a major part of the community."

The new ownership group plans to make Municipal Stadium a family entertainment center at all times, even when the Suns are out of town. Quinn said the team will be looking for ways to enhance the fan experience for families and baseball purists.

And to do it with a local touch.

"I think that is extremely important," Dahbura said. "We have seen it in the past. There was too much of an outside corporation involvement. It takes something away. Locally owned businesses make a difference in the community. Minor league baseball allows for that because it is fun and quirky."

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