Sunday, June 24, 2012

America's (My) Favorite Pastime

I've been a baseball fan my entire life. When I was a kid I memorized Baltimore Orioles statistics. Brooks Robinson was my favorite player. Of course, those were the hey-days when the O's were in the World Series almost ever year. In recent decades, it's been tough to be a Bird's fan.

While the Orioles are doing well this year (for a change), over .500 and in second place in the AL East, I'm thinking that I might become a Washington Nationals fan.  After all, that's where the boys from the Hagerstown Suns are heading, unless they get traded (or wash up!).

My family and I have become Hagerstown Suns fans. We try to attend a game during every home stand. Last year, we had the pleasure of watching Bryce Harper in his first year of professional baseball. The 18-year old phenom played the first half of the season with the Suns before being moved up to double A ball (in Harrisburg, PA). Bryce racked up some good stats in Hagerstown. We saw him hit his first grand slam and learn to play the outfield (previously he was a catcher).

Bryce Harper, future hall-of-famer

Of course, Bryce is now starting for the Washington Nationals. He's doing pretty good, too, batting .280, last time I looked at his statistics. He's made some good catches in the outfield. The Nationals are one better than the Orioles, currently atop the Eastern Division in the National League.  The two beltway rivals recently met in inter-league play. The O's took two out of three games.

One of Bryce's teammates (and another former Sun) is Steve Lombardozzi, who plays part-time at second base. Lombardozzi's  hitting a respectable .263.  I didn't learn until recently that he graduated from Atholton High School, my alma mater. He's from Fulton. I'll be rooting for him, too.

Another Suns alumni (that we saw play) has made it to the big leagues. Derrick Norris is a rookie with the Oakland Athletics. Norris was a hard-hitting catcher that racked up some good statistics in Hagerstown in 2009. He was traded to the A's at the end of last year, along with Brad Peacock and another player.

Former Sun Derrick Norris, now an Oakland A

I plan to follow the progress of Suns players as they strive to reach the Major Leagues -- from Hagerstown (A), to Potomac (A+), to Harrisburg (AA), to Syracuse (AAA) to the Nationals. Most of last year's players are currently playing for the Potomac Nationals. The Sun's shortstop, Jason Martinson, was recently sent to Potomac. He led the South Atlantic League in RBI's the first half.

Now that Martinson has moved up, the players to watch (IMO) are Matt Skole and Alex Meyer. Skole is a third baseman who leads the league in home runs and walks. Meyer is a 6'9" pitcher with a lot of power. He was selected to represent the Suns in the All-Star Futures Game.

Unfortunately, our days of being Suns fans may be numbered. The Nationals have not signed a contract with the Suns for next year. The team may be moved to Winchester, Virginia. The Suns (and Nationals) want Hagerstown (or Winchester) to build them a new stadium. 

In today's tough economic times, it's hard to justify building a new stadium. Plus, we love the current stadium, the oldest in the league. It is quaint, comfortable, and easy to get to. I wonder how many other stadiums still have a manual scoreboard.

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