Minor-league Hagerstown gets major stadium face lift

December 20, 1992|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Staff Writer

While other cities struggle with stadium refurbishing and construction problems, Hagerstown is plowing forward with vigor.

By the opening of next season, the Single-A Suns will havrenovated home and visiting clubhouses and offices, upgraded restroom facilities, a redesigned outfield and various other improvements.

More than $500,000 has been committed by the city and the cluto bring Municipal Stadium in compliance with the standards set by Major League Baseball.

"We've been real happy to see the approach of the city," said owner Winston Blenckstone, the Baltimore native who moved his Myrtle Beach (S.C.) franchise in the South Atlantic League to Hagerstown last fall.

"We're having the dirty work done right away. This makes ours one of the nicest facilities in our league. Once this work is done, we'll be in tiptop shape."

The Suns are affiliated with the Toronto Blue Jays after a 12-year relationship with the Orioles. The prohibitive cost of renovating ancient Municipal Stadium for the Double-A Eastern League led to the severing of the alliance.

Plans also include a picnic area down the left-field line, some seats upgraded to reserved from general admission and minor improvements on the field itself.

Blenckstone said he expects to sign a 10-year lease with Hagerstown shortly.

"Obviously the clubhouses and offices were old and small and needed a lot of work," said the owner, who attended St. Paul's School in Baltimore.

"And we're going to have that big gap in right-center done awawith by putting up an 8-foot chain-link fence. It won't exactly be a hitter's park, but it will be more attractive to them than it has been."

The home bullpen, which has been adjacent to the offices, wilbe moved into the outfield behind the new fence.

"We have had excellent dealings with the city and we're happy to be here," said Blenckstone. "We're really glad to be able to save baseball for this community."

Much of the old Suns staff has been retained, including generamanager Bob Miller, but Blenckstone is putting his personal stamp on the new look.

"I was my own general manager in Myrtle Beach," he said. "Here I'm heavily involved in the league and the National Association. But I'm still an owner-operator. There aren't too many of us left."

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