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October 24, 2022

Officials show power to all fields while coming to bat for Hagerstown’s new stadium

Credit: Herald-Mail, Bob Parasiliti

The most powerful document in baseball is the lineup card.  

That little 3×5 postcard (more like 4×6 in the Majors) has a lot to say about the strength of a team.  

It lists the starting nine players, in the order that they will hit, as the best a team has to offer — at least in that specific game.  

Managers carefully craft that daily list — using data, instincts and gut feelings — on which players will come through for a win.   

The batting order is symbolic of teamwork. Each player has a job and they put in their slot for a specific purpose. Think of it as a shoestring, tying together efforts to score enough to win.  

Usually, no one hitter wins a game. But if they do get that walk-off hit, it’s because of actions of teammates who hit before them. They may have taken a few extra pitches to tire a pitcher or got on to set up the winning situation.  

Right now, there is a fascination with batting orders. Baseball is heading to the World Series, giving fans, bettors and analysts much to discuss and dissect before, during and after each game.  

Some of that came to Hagerstown on last Tuesday when ground-breaking ceremonies were held to usher in the construction of the new downtown multi-use sports facility, which will house a professional Atlantic League baseball team in 2024.  

On Tuesday, the yet-to-be-formed or named team rolled out its own heavy hitters for the ceremony.  

Leading off (at the podium) was Tom Kelso, Maryland Stadium Authority chairman, followed by Maryland governor Larry Hogan, Frank Boulton, Atlantic League founder and CEO, Howard “Blackie” Bowen, CEO of Ewing Oil and one of the team’s owners, and U.S. Rep. David Trone, D-6th.

The rest of the lineup was made up of state, county and city officials and the Hagerstown-Washington County Industrial Foundation hierarchy, known as CHIEF.   

This group will never be confused with Torres, Judge, Rizzo, Stanton, Donaldson and the rest of the New York Yankees lineup.   

Hagerstown’s group won’t win any games. But, then again, the Yankees players won’t be building any stadiums. They just fill them. 

Still, Hagerstown’s podium lineup had all the same baseball jobs as the top five in the Yankees’ order.  

Kelso batted leadoff. His job was to get Hagerstown the financial backing to get on base.   

Hogan was next and he moved the project to second base because of his interest in advancing Western Maryland. He gave credit to Maryland state senator Paul Corderman, R-2nd, who was unable to attend the ceremony, for his work on getting the project off the ground.  

“This is a once-in-a-generation project,” Hogan said. His goal has been to “change Hagerstown and Washington County for the better.”  

Then Boulton was up to drive in runs. The Atlantic League was adding teams and was interested in Hagerstown, thanks to the interests of his longtime friend Bowen, who was his college roommate.   

Hagerstown will be a central location for the league as it expands.  

Next was Bowen, who heads up Downtown Baseball LLC, as the cleanup hitter. He cleared the bases and put Hagerstown on the board. He was able to accomplish what a number of advocates couldn’t for the last 40 years on this day. A new stadium is becoming a reality.  

Trone stepped in the fifth slot, with the objective to keep the rally going.   

He talked about the stadium being a vital part of Hagerstown’s revitalization process — “Businesses will start popping out of the ground and there will be a lot of good jobs coming. It’s a grand slam.” — and how it will be a place for families to create memories.  

Shortly after, the group joined the rest of the “lineup and bench” by stepping to the plate. Each got into the batter’s box, donning (construction) helmets and wielding shovels with baseball bat handles, to unearth some dirt to signify the start of the construction process.  

The stadium, which will sit on Summit Avenue — next to the former Herald-Mail building — is moving from blueprint drawings to reality.   

Its objective is to bring a higher brand of professional baseball back to town after the Hagerstown Suns were disbanded. Plus, it is earmarked to be a cornerstone of the Cultural Trail and expanding entertainment district.  

Like everything else in today’s world, there are folks standing on both sides on the outfield fence on this project.  

On one side, there’s the question of need, pointing other economic issues and city public safety concerns. Traffic congestion and parking problems are part of that.  

On the other side, there’s the push for quality-of-life locations and tourist and event offerings to entice people and families to come downtown.  

All are major hurdles and incentives needed to be addressed and all will in some form.  

This stadium will be part of an image that Hagerstown used to embrace. This has been known as a baseball town and has a rich history that swirls through the game. Some of that was lost in the 40-year struggle to get a new stadium.  

Other towns, like Baltimore and Cleveland, enjoyed the “ring” effect by building new sports facilities.  

It’s a “pebble in the puddle” theory. Drop a rock in the middle of the water rings travel outwards to the edge.  

Each had businesses build around them, boosting the town. Problem areas seem to diminish or change downtown and relocate outside of the “pretty” area. That should be a concern.  

The success of this project is yet to be seen. First pitch is still some time off.  

One thing for certain, it will be imperative for the team ownership, city and county to continue to work together to make this project a home run. The death of the Suns and their fanbase was partially erased by the inability of those three factions to play together.  

Play for the team — and the project — not the individual glory.  

That’s the power of a good lineup card.