Those two magic words, "Play ball!"

Those two magic words, "Play ball!"
by Jennifer LB Leese
j.leese@picketnews.com
Staff Writer

Baseball defines American life. It reshapes our schedules and often manipulates our lives. Spring begins baseball; summer depicts the regular season, fall marks the World Series, and winter is a time when baseball fans reminisce about past games and spend the day speculating about what the upcoming season will have to offer. Vacations and holidays do not compare to die-hard fans. To these fans, spring does not begin without their beloved baseball.
Poet, Walt Whitman put it best, "It's our game... that's the chief fact in connection with it: America's game." He went on to explain that "baseball has the snap, go, fling of the American atmosphere - it belongs as much to our institutions, fits into them as significantly, as our constitutions, laws: is just as important in the sum total of our historic life. It is the place where memory gathers".
Baseball in Hagerstown involves the Hagerstown Suns.
"The Hagerstown Suns Municipal Stadium boasts the honor of being one of the three oldest Minor League baseball stadiums in the country.
"From 1915-1929, Hagerstown's minor league teams played at Willow Lane Park, where Bester Elementary School is now located. When the city made the decision to build the school, the need for a new stadium was urgent. The Field and Athletic Association were created to find land and build a stadium. The organization struck a deal with the city, leasing a tract of land for 99 years at $1 per year. Municipal Stadium was quickly built on the land in a mere six weeks, just in time for the first home game on May 8th, 1930. Since then, the stadium has undergone two major renovations.
"The first took place in 1981, when Minor League baseball returned to Hagerstown after a 26-year absence from the city. About $546,000 was put into the stadium overhaul, which included the installation of a public address system, stadium lights, underground electricity, and new seats and bleachers.
"In 1995, $500,000 worth of improvements to the stadium were made, such as the installation of new seats, and upgrading the VIP section to include cup holders. The Sunset Grille and bar area was also added at this time.
The playing surface was renovated following the 2010 season. In addition, seating improvements and the installation of a state-of-the-art video board will enhance fans' experiences in 2011." (HagerstownSuns.com)
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"The Hagerstown Suns era began on a Friday afternoon because the stadium lights were not yet completed. Area schools were dismissed early so young fans could attend the game. In front of 2,463 fans on April 10, 1981, local Dane Anthony led the Suns to a 6-2 victory on Opening Day. That same year they won the league title under manager Grady Little." -Hagerstown Suns
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"Baseball has been a staple in Hagerstown for the better part of the past century. In 1915, the Hagerstown Blues joined the Class D Blue Ridge League, where they remained for the next 16 seasons. Throughout this time, they won five pennants and donned four different names: the Blues, the Terriers, the Champs and the Hubs. One month into the 1931 season, the league disbanded and the Hubs moved to Parkersburg, W.Va.
"Professional baseball returned to Hagerstown in 1941 when Owen Sterling moved his Detroit Tigers affiliate to town. The newly-named Hagerstown Owls (Owen, Win, Luck and Sterling) joined the Class B Interstate League. Gene Raney purchased the team from Sterling in 1950, and the renamed Hagerstown Braves became an affiliate of the Boston Braves.
"The team moved to the Piedmont League in 1953 and once again had a name and affiliation change. The new Washington Senators affiliate, the Hagerstown Packets, competed until the league disbanded after the 1955 season.
Hagerstown was without a professional team until 1981 when Lou Eliopulos began the era of Hagerstown Suns baseball. The Baltimore Orioles affiliate competed in the Class A Carolina League, winning the league championship in its inaugural season.
"The Suns became the Double-A affiliate for the Orioles in 1989 with a move to the Eastern League, where they remained until the team moved to Bowie, Md., in 1992.
"Winston Blenckstone relocated his Myrtle Beach Hurricanes to Hagerstown in shortly after the Suns departure in 1992. This team was a Toronto Blue Jays affiliate and member of the Class A South Atlantic League. With the move, the Hurricanes became the new Hagerstown Suns.
"The Suns remained affiliated with the Blue Jays until 2000 when a four-year partnership with the San Francisco Giants began under the new ownership of Andy Rayburn. Mandalay Entertainment Group purchased the team in 2002. Hagerstown once again changed affiliates in the 2005, having a two-year stint with the New York Mets before becoming a member of the Washington Nationals farm system in 2007.
"A new ownership group with local ties, Hagerstown Baseball, LLC, purchased the Suns in September 2010. The group is led by Florida businessman and general manager of Polo Trace Country Club Bruce Quinn. Tony Dahbura, corporate vice president of Hub Labels in Hagerstown, Dr. Mitesh Kothari of Hagerstown, and Quinn's sister, Sheri, complete the group. Following the announcement of the new ownership, the Nationals renewed their affiliation with the Suns through 2012.
There are 120 teams out there in the whole country that are from low A Class affiliations baseball and above in the minor leagues. There's A, High A, AA and AAA...and there's 30 at each level." (HagerstownSuns.com)
The Hagerstown Suns baseball schedule is listed on their website: www.hagerstownsuns.com.
Contact: The Hagerstown Suns are a Class "A" affiliate of the Washington Nationals and are owned by Los Angeles based Mandalay Baseball Properties. Ticket packages and sponsorships are available by calling the Suns at 301-791-6266.
Regardless of past seasons with your favorite baseball team, Opening Day will always be the number one date to baseball fans around the world.
Thankfully, baseball fans don't have to wait long to take their seats at the ballpark and hear those two magic words, "Play Ball!"