Executive Deserves Standing O For Building Ballpark


Lighthizer Gives County A Baseball Showplace

September 16, 1990|By Pat O'Malley

Politicians are often guilty of dealing in rhetoric and not commitments, but don't count outgoing county executive O. James Lighthizer among them.

He's come through in the clutch for county baseball people and truly exudes a favorite saying of mine in sports, one that I believe the major-league baseball skipper Billy "the Kid" Martin coined.

"Losers make promises. Winners make commitments," Martin used to remind his troops.

A couple of years ago while watching one of the Oriolelanders All-Star baseball games with state Sen. Mike Wagner, another straight shooter, at Saw Mill Creek Park in Glen Burnie, the county exec made the comment that a first-class baseball stadium was needed.

It wasn't just political rhetoric. Lighthizer came through in the clutch, just as ol' No. 5 Brooks Robinson used to do, as today we officially will open the Joe Cannon Baseball Stadium at Harmans Park with the 11th annual Anne Arundel County Sun-Oriolelanders All-Star Baseball Game.

A very special dedication ceremony will kick things off at 2 p.m. and every county baseball coach, player and parents of those who play should do their best to be there and show their appreciation.

When Rec and Parks director Joe McCann introduces Lighthizer, thunderous applause would be appropriate. You will agree with me that such an ovation is warranted after you see this $3.9-million state-of-the-art facility.

The new stadium has got everything a guy who wears a uniform, cap and stirrups could want: locker rooms on both sides, showers and rest rooms, tunnels to the dugouts, chain-link fence, a canopy over the stands, an overhang press box, concession area, bullpen areas, huge parking lot and a 19-feet-by-45-feet electronic scoreboard.

The grass infield was cut out and put in upon consultation and hands-on help by America's No. 1 groundskeeper, Pat Santarone of the Orioles. The lights, according to Suns' coach Bill Nevin, "are better than Memorial Stadium."

The stadium's completion is right on schedule, thanks to the unsung efforts of county parks administrator Bill Rinehart, who chaired the stadium committee and worked closely with Mike Phennicie and general contractor Greenman-Pederson.

It was Lighthizer's commitment to seeing this project through that has made it a reality. Such a baseball stadium is long overdue, and while many others during the last 10 years talked about it, Lighthizer made it happen.

Anne Arundel County has become a hotbed for high school and amateur baseball talent. The dedication of all the baseball coaches from youth programs to the high schools has given the county an incomparable reputation.

It's safe to say that with the number of kids who have gone on to professional and Division I collegiate baseball, not to mention junior colleges and the number of regional and national titles won by county kids, that Anne Arundel County is truly the Maryland capital of amateur baseball.

Now with the new baseball-only stadium that takes second to no other in the state (except for Memorial Stadium and the new one under construction at Baltimore's Camden Yards), the baseball capital has its mansion.

This stadium should become the county's calling card for national, regional and state tournaments, including the high school postseason title games. Local high schools, colleges and summer sandlot teams all will have opportunities to play in the stadium.

Old Mill baseball coach Mel Montgomery, who was a member of the committee that helped design the complex, has suggested an Anne Arundel County high school game of the week in the spring. That idea will be pursued by Cannon Stadium supervisor Don Brooks in a meeting with high school coaches later.

It's pretty certain all the county schools would welcome the chance to play a home game there, with possibly the exception of Arundel. The Wildcats already have the best high school facility in the metro area and may not want to give up a home game.

Also, look for the Baltimore Orioles to use it from time to time to show off minor-league prospects. An occasional exhibition with the Hagerstown Suns or Frederick Keys is likely.

The proximity of Cannon Stadium is ideal for any and all of what we have mentioned. In Harmans, it's practically in the middle of Baltimore, Annapolis and D.C. with the airport and motels in the neighborhood. In my opinion, it's the best thing that has ever happened to county baseball.

This stadium is as good as it gets for boosting baseball.

The two games that will christen it today will begin at 3 and 7 p.m. In the first one, the Oriolelanders will go after their seventh consecutive win over the local Arundel Suns in what will be the 11th annual Anne Arundel County Sun All Star Baseball Game.

Primarily high school seniors from a four-state area -- Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and New Jersey -- will make up the Oriolelanders. The Suns are all Anne Arundel County high school and community college players.

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