Sometimes prophecy can be found in stupid statements.
About 20 years ago, a former Hagerstown Suns player was blindsided by a hometown newspaper friend. They were chit-chatting before an interview, but unbeknownst to the player, that sneaky journalist had a tape recorder running the entire time.
A few days later, his off-the-cuff statement made it to print.
“We have a saying around here,” the player said. “We say ‘If you find a girl in Hagerstown with a full set of teeth, marry her.’”
Not too bright. Even though it was a joke about Hagerstown’s small-town persona, it raised more than a few local eyebrows. In some circles, it caused a firestorm of reaction.
Granted, the quote wasn’t in good taste. Nor would it ever become the city’s motto. The fact is, though, that perception haunts this area to this day.
For years, Hagerstown has had a full set of teeth. They may be stained, off-colored and crooked, but they are all there. They have been just good enough to stay married to professional baseball.
It hasn’t always been wedded bliss, but they seem to stay together for appearances and for the kids (fans and/or citizens). There are benefits, but each can’t help but wonder what’s out there on the other side of the fence.
And yes, there is a diamond involved.
In the beginning, Hagerstown was excited about having baseball. Let’s call it the honeymoon phase.
But, like it sometimes happens, this marriage has made Hagerstown complacent.
It has taken baseball’s presence for granted. It has let itself go and become old and run down. It has tried to create some of that old spark with coats of paint as makeup and new clubhouses as a facelift to erase the wrinkles of 80-year-old Municipal Stadium.
And for whatever reason, neither side has been listening to what the other one has to say.
Hagerstown keeps saying it’s working hard but not making any money. It’s hard to make ends meet.
The Suns say they need to be treated better. They have given the best years of their life and they need pretty new things — like another diamond — to remain young and vibrant.
Now the Suns are accused of cheating. There are whispers that they are courting a sexy new girl named Winchester.
The Virginia city is younger and excited about having a first date with pro baseball. It is enthusiastic to please.
Winchester listens attentively. It says all the right things, claiming a team would add a “quality of life” commodity to the area by adding “economic impact.” Baseball will help it become “a cutting edge destination for business and families.”
“If you are not trying to progress, you are taking a step back,” one economic development official said.
Those were things Hagerstown used to say.
The reality is Hagerstown is one of the smallest cities in the country to have professional baseball. It was that way when the Suns were a Double-A team and it still is as a low Single-A team.
Now, South Atlantic League teams play in state capitals and bustling cities. It’s hard to remain competitive.
Winchester is smaller than Hagerstown, but has dreams of becoming a bustling city. It is willing to take a shot for a chance at a huge payoff.
Meanwhile in Hagerstown, businesses continue to leave. The downtown continues to decay.
It has stepped back because of a lack of progress.
Now, in the 11th hour, Hagerstown is starting to listen again.
It has tossed out ideas that have been out there for years. There is talk of building a multipurpose facility to keep baseball and sharpen that cutting edge to bring bustle back to the city. The Suns are listening and might be interested in staying around for the long term to lend a hand.
If the two had listened to each other over the years, it might not have been as painstaking, drastic or expensive.
It comes down to this. Baseball is like marriage. Some think the union is a privilege. Others claim it’s a curse.
The difference between the two opinions is attitude. It either adds quality and improves life or it is a burden and it drags you down.
In any relationship — romantic or business — there is a certain amount of give and take needed for long-lasting success. It takes two to tango, but it also takes two to tangle.
And now, some 20 years later, that former player has become a prophet because his ill-spoken words are becoming reality.
Hagerstown is scrambling to get needed dental work to prevent the heartache of divorce.
Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-791-7358 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.