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Hagerstown Suns fans brighten up home opener

April 11, 2013|By HOLLY SHOK | holly.shok@herald-mail.com
  • Hagerstown Suns mascot Woolie greets Federal Little League team members during the Hagerstown Suns home opener Thursday at Municipal Stadium in Hagerstown.
By Colleen McGrath, Staff Photographer

The Hagerstown Suns took the field for their minor league baseball home opener Thursday, an unseasonably warm spring night, sporting new red, white and blue uniforms mirroring their parent team, the Washington Nationals.

Mayor David S. Gysberts ceremoniously tossed out the first pitch before the Suns took on the Delmarva Shorebirds.

“It was exhilarating,” said Gysberts, who is in his first term as mayor. “To think I used to sit in this dugout as a bat boy ... I never thought I would be here, as the mayor, throwing out the first pitch.”

Chris Preisler, 65, of Chambersburg, Pa., said she has been attending Suns’ games for the past 20 years. 

Preisler said on Thursday, however, she expected a larger opening day turnout, before calling out to another longtime fan, 49-year-old Glenn Reynolds, jokingly chastising him for nearly being late.

“This is my spot. If anybody’s in it, I kick them out,” joked Reynolds, of Hagerstown.

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“It’s our local team. Hopefully they’re going to be here for a long time,” Reynolds said of the reason he attends Suns’ games before acknowledging the potential problem that could eliminate the local minor league team. “Need a new stadium, need it badly. I don’t care if they build it here, that’s fine by me, but they need a new stadium.”

At the middle of the fourth inning, Suns officials said the Municipal Stadium was just shy of 2,000 people.

But Ken Allen, of Thurmont, Md., recalls his first Suns game on a hot, Friday night in 1987.

“This place was packed,” said Allen, sporting a Hagerstown Suns uniform from the early 1990s, when the team was an affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Allen said he has enjoyed attending Suns games because of the close proximity to the field the stadium affords a fan.

“Plus knowing all these people —they’re like family for the last 20 years,” said Allen, 63.

Jamie Szaflarski, who was at Thursday’s opener with his two sons, said he and his wife are hosting two infielders — Khayyan Norfolk and Stephen Perez — for the season.

“I don’t care where they play as long as they stay,” said Szaflarski, 41, of Greencastle, Pa.

The Suns, a low-level Class A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, kicked off the 2013 campaign on the road last week.

The home opener comes on the heels of news that the findings of the second Ripken Design report, which studied economic feasibility of alternative stadium sites in the city, are soon slated to be discussed at a public meeting.

Suns majority owner Bruce Quinn earlier this week told The Herald-Mail that team officials “anxiously await” both the report and the Hagerstown City Council’s corresponding interpretation and decision.

The second report, costing the city $11,250, examined the former Washington County Hospital property in addition to the current Municipal Stadium site and other surrounding properties in the city’s East End.

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