Those Two Magic Words, "Play Ball!"

Those Two Magic Words, "Play Ball!"
by Jennifer LB Leese

"For over a century, baseball has been hailed above all other sports as America's National Pastime. And no other game during the regular one-hundred sixty-two game season has been as eagerly anticipated as Opening Day." (Baseball Almanac)
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 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. Opening Day is a day where every team hopes for the best and every player begins with a clean slate. It's a day that may mark the first appearance of a Hall of Famer or begin an unforgettable season. There's definitely something special about the first game.
Baseball in Hagerstown involves the Hagerstown Suns. Their Opening Day is scheduled for Thursday, April 5th against the Hickory Crawdads at Municipal Stadium.
The Stadium, built in 1931, is a relic from the past where the Suns get to play modern baseball in an old ballpark atmosphere. "The Municipal Stadium is the 4th or 5th oldest [stadium] in minor league baseball," said Will Smith, Suns general manager.
Willie Mays, the Say Hey Kid, one of baseball's greatest legends ever, made his professional baseball debut at the Municipal Stadium many years ago. He was a member of the visiting Trenton (NY Giants) team in 1950 at the time.
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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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As the Suns prepare for their upcoming season, Smith says, "We'll start getting new billboards up, cleaning up the ballpark, and getting the concessions ready. We're having a lot of sales and promotions." During the winter break they kept busy tasting several hot dogs - signing up with a new one this year called Red Hot Chicago; came up with unique games one being the "Six Pack" where the Suns play the same team for six consecutive games, signed for a 2-year radio deal, and came up with a new logo.
With the 2-year radio deal, WICL Cool 95.9FM will serve as the new flagship station for Suns' radio broadcasts. The two-year deal covers all baseball games during the Suns 2007 and 2008 seasons. All 140 games each season will air live on Cool 95.9FM, marking the club's first foray into FM radio in the tri-state community.
"Our new partnership with Cool 95.9 allows the Suns broadcasts to reach Suns fans regionally and not just locally," said Will Smith. "I was amazed to receive the signal at Dulles International Airport this past weekend while traveling. I felt proud that Nationals fans throughout the region will be able to tune in and listen to our Suns, and their Nationals of tomorrow."
A few weeks ago, The Hagerstown Suns told the Picket News about their new alternate logo for the 2007 season. The logo encompasses red, white and blue colors to embrace the Suns' new Major League Baseball parent club, the Washington Nationals. The alternate character to the Suns classic logo is called "The General". (see photo)
To accentuate the new affiliation with the Nationals, the Suns have added the new logo to a blue hat with matching blue jersey. The jersey also features a new logo on the left-chest. Blue belts and socks along with white pants will complete the new look.
(BOLD)A New Face for an Old Team
Will Smith was hired in 2003 for the position of director of picket operations and merchandise sales. Later he had an opportunity to move up to assistant general manager, and now holds the general manager title.
"It's a tremendous experience and a wonderful opportunity for me. I'm thankful for Mandalay for giving me a chance. I think we're doing a pretty decent job, but it really is night and day from being an assistant general manager to being the one ultimate one responsible.
"You know there's only a 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, there's High A, there's AA and there's AAA...and there's 30 at each level. So there's really only a 120 people that have my job. That's pretty special."
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!"