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Hagerstown Suns sign two-year pact to remain affiliated with Nationals

September 22, 2010|By BOB PARASILITI

The Hagerstown Suns signed a two-year contract Wednesday to remain an affiliate of the Washington Nationals through the 2012 season.

The Player Development Contract (PDC) will allow the Class A South Atlantic League team to field a team of Nationals prospects for the next two seasons.

Nationals President Stan Kasten, Senior Vice President and General Manager Mike Rizzo, Assistant General Manager and Vice President of Player Development Bob Boone and Director of Player Development Doug Harris jointly announced the deal.

"Our partnership between the Nationals and Hagerstown has fit well," Kasten said. "We very much appreciate the proximity and hospitality that Hagerstown and the Suns provide our players. We are pleased to have both town and team as members of our affiliate family."

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The deal comes on the heels of last Friday's announcement that an ownership group -- consisting of Bruce Quinn, a Florida businessman, and Tony Dahbura and Dr. Mitesh Kothari, both of Hagerstown -- had purchased the 30-year-old franchise from Mandalay Baseball Properties.

An e-mail sent to The Associated Press from Mandalay Executive Vice President Larry S. Freedman on Friday confirmed the deal had been completed.

This is the third two-year agreement the Nationals have made with the Suns. Washington signed its first deal with Hagerstown on Sept. 20, 2006.

The PDC generally is a two-year contract between a minor league and a major league team, which will supply players who are working to reach the big leagues. The deals usually are made in even-numbered years and teams are free to move or stay after the contract expires.

There are 34 former Suns currently playing in the major leagues, including outfielder Justin Maxwell and pitcher Drew Storen. Each played for the Suns under the Washington affiliation.

For the Suns, the deal is the next step in the team's revitalization.

The new ownership group has discussed some of its plans for the Suns, including the probable signing of a long-term lease to continue playing at Hagerstown's Municipal Stadium.

The signing of the PDC will allow the team to have connections with the Nationals, one of the two Major League teams closest to Hagerstown. The Suns were affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles from 1982 through 1992.

"We are very fortunate to have another two years with the Washington Nationals," Quinn said. "Through the Lerners, Stan Kasten and Mike Rizzo, the Nationals truly are an up-and-coming team in the National League."

Members of the Lerner family are the principal owners of the Nationals.

Through the 2010 season, there were signs that Hagerstown and the Suns were becoming an important part of the Nationals' system.

Washington sent four of its Major League players -- pitchers Scott Olsen, Jordan Zimmermann and Garrett Mock and outfielder Nyjer Morgan -- to make rehabilitation appearances with the Suns this past season. In 2009, the Nationals sent outfielder Austin Kearns and reliever Matt Chico to Hagerstown for rehabilitation work. Former Major League second baseman Pokey Reese also played for the Suns that season in an attempt to restart his career with the Nationals.

These were the first such assignments to Hagerstown since the Orioles era.

By signing the Suns, the Nationals have PDCs with their top four minor league locations through 2012. The purpose of the system is to develop players so they are available to play in the Major Leagues on demand.

Nationals farm teams in Syracuse, N.Y., and Harrisburg, Pa., were re-signed last month, while an agreement with Potomac (Woodbridge, Va.) was announced last week.

Syracuse, the Class AAA affiliate in the International League, is Washington's top-level minor league team, while Harrisburg (Pa.) plays in the Class AA Eastern League.

Major league teams have two affiliates on the full-season Class A level. Potomac (Va.), the 2010 Carolina League champions, is considered high Single-A and field what is considered the advanced players. A number of players on Potomac's championship team previously played in Hagerstown.

Hagerstown, playing in the Class A South Atlantic League, generally is the starting point for players who are entering their first year of 140-game, full-season baseball.

There are also half-season and rookie league affiliations that play 70-game seasons.

With Harrisburg, Potomac and Hagerstown, the Nationals have three of their top minor league teams within 125 miles of Washington.

The Suns finished with a 65-75 record this season, finishing sixth overall in the South Atlantic League's seven-team Northern Division.

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