What Good Is Cannon Stadium If It's Priced Beyond Amateurs?

SIDELINES

November 30, 1990|By PAT O'MALLEY

It may be near December, but it's always baseball season, sports fans.

No, the boys of summer aren't out there taking "BP" but rather it's that time of year when the fires of the Hot Stove League are being stoked.

Let's hope the county's amateur baseball fire, which is flaming brighter than ever thanks to the new Joe Cannon Baseball Stadium, is not going to be snuffed out by the bureaucracy.

Let me explain.

I'm getting bad vibes that we can almost forget Lew Holmes' idea of bringing a Continental Amateur Baseball Association 18 and Under World Series to the county and its spanking new stadium in Harmons.

Holmes had hoped to go out and raise about $25,000 and put on the CABA Series that would have attracted teams from all over the United States and possibly Japan. With the state-of-the-art Cannon Stadium as the centerpiece, certainly we baseball nuts in this great county could have beat our chests proudly in late July.

However, Holmes is worried that costs to rent the stadium for a national tournament might be prohibitive. He's concerned that attempts to bring a national tournament to the county might be squelched because of the proposed rental fees and the fact that there will be no opportunity to offset the fees by gate receipts.

Such a national tournament would help the economy because the stadium is in close proximity to the airport, motels, restaurants, shopping malls and the capital city of Annapolis.

"At this time, I can't say what I've heard, but I do understand that the county will get the gate receipts and not the teams and those running a tournament," said Holmes, who is president of the Anne Arundel Amateur Baseball Association.

Don Brooks, the supervisor of Cannon Stadium, said, "The fees for the stadium have not been finalized but should be by the middle of next week."

Brooks said the county Recreation and Parks Department, headed by Joe McCann, has been "kicking around" what should be charged for about a month now.

"I can't reveal any figures, but I can tell you that the fees will be nominal except for the higher age groups," said Brooks, referring to the 18-and-under baseball teams and those in the college and unlimited ages.

"We have to offset operating costs, and that's why it will be necessary to rent out the stadium."

Brooks would not confirm the report of a good source who has told me that as many as five Rec and Parks people will staff the stadium each night. I hope it's not true, because unless a big tournament is in there, that's too many employees to be paid.

My experiences with amateur baseball tell me that five staffers on most nights would be grossly extravagant. In two words, it would be bureaucratic waste!

If the county has to worry about paying five guys a night, fees will be high and probably discourage the older teams from using the stadium.

Certain games will draw good crowds, but for the most part, the county can't expect to have crowds of 500 and up. There is no way the fans will turn out to fill the stadium to capacity for a summer night sandlot game as they did when the complex officially opened in September with the Anne Arundel County Sun's 11th annual Oriolelanders All-Star Baseball Game.

Baseball fans will turn out for big games, but it's going to take time to draw good crowds on a consistent basis. If Brooks and his committee think otherwise, they have been misinformed.

This new stadium, which was a long time coming and only happened because of the support it got from outgoing County Executive O. James Lighthizer, was meant to pump up baseball in what always has been a baseball hotbed.

For years, many of us have cried for a first-class facility we could be proud of, one that would help amateur baseball and one in which we could host state, regional and national tournaments.

It was meant to pump up the game for the high school and college-age players. I sat on the committee to design the stadium with a host of good baseball people and understood this stadium was being constructed to help amateur baseball.

That committee included such great baseball people as Holmes, coaches Clayton Jacobson of Anne Arundel Community College, Mel Montgomery of Old Mill and Tom Chisholm, formerly of the Glen Burnie Cardinals and a longtime youth baseball coach and officer.

We all understood that finally we had something first-class for amateur baseball, something to profit the county baseball players, not something to make a profit for the county.

A lot of us are worried, and we hope that amateur baseball is not being counted on to support the new stadium.

I can tell Brooks and Rec and Parks that the fear rumbling through the baseball community is that the county would say amateur baseball is not supporting the stadium, so we are leasing it out to a minor-league baseball team or teams.

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