I spent yesterday talking to people close to the situation with the Hagerstown Suns and it could be a shell game process that will result in the Hagerstown Suns moving to Winchester VA for the 2013 season.
Winchester Virginia will likely be building a new stadium for the Suns,placing it near I-81 (Which will be looked at as one of many local bungles by the Hagerstown/Washington County Government through the years as a spot near BOTH I-70 and I-81 was offered for free and the offer was not acted upon) and could be purchasing a portion of the team as well.
Editors Note-It has been brought to my attention that the above site offer was not free.
I am attempting to research this further and will offer more as I find more information...
The purchase of a minority share of the team is interesting because as far as I know,the Suns would be the first full season minor league team that would have some ownership by the community that they play.
So in this possible scenario,the team is asking for a new stadium and funding from the city of Hagerstown at the same time as they talk to the Winchester area.
Sound familiar to any moves that sports teams have made in the past,sports fan (COUGH MODELL COUGH)?
Please keep in mind that despite the good intentions of Tony Dahbura,who I believe really does want the team to stay in Hagerstown and is operating a desperate effort to pull off a miracle,Dahbura owns less than one percent of the team.
That would mean that IF the Washington County Commissioners decided today to pull their fair share of the weight that the Hagerstown City Council have decided to pay for,the majority owner of the Suns would be under zero obligation to to accept an offer that Dahbura has been attempting to expedite.
Only Tony Dahbura and Dr. Mitesh Kothari ,the other local owner, has strong interest in making sure baseball stays in Hagerstown.
The remainder of the the ownership group has no ties to the Hub City,which shows the downside to non-resident ownership,although it certainly is not a reason to never sell to someone that is not residing in the area.
Now lets also be be fair-this could be an elaborate negotiating tactic,it happens all the time in these things.
A new/renovated stadium is a must for any team in Hagerstown-ANY,whether it be the Suns,a short season team or independent baseball-NO team is going to want to play at Municipal Stadium under the current property situation.
I would have little blame to place on team ownership,if they did decide to leave.
This area has listened to four owners cry wolf about the current status of Municipal Stadium and in all cases,but the current owners,the answer has been to sell the team and not leave town.
The local government does not take these threats seriously.
Looking at the bottom line-I do.
The end game to all this?
If I were a betting man and on occasion I have been known to be one-I would toss a dime or two on the end of baseball in Hagerstown for at least a few years,having to build/renovate the Muni anyway for the reasons above,having to settle for either independent baseball or a New York/Penn league team that the city.county.new organization will have to pay off the Frederick Keys (who will be the ultimate huge winner in this scenario) in order to get into that league and by the time it's all over,the fans that have left have found other things to do.
You see,anytime that things leave town or go for while,they lose a chunk of what they had when they return.
Some people quickly return for their fix,but many find things to fill the gap and do so quite successfully.
Baseball in Hagerstown never truly recovered from the drop from AA to the Low A level,I would wager that a drop to short season or Indy ball would drop interest further.
I doubt that independent baseball would be a huge hit here and short season baseball is really a little over two months season,people will fill the time and move on.
The die hard fan will still be there,but if there were tons of those around,this would not even be an issue,would it?
Is there hope for the Hagerstown Suns to stay just that?
Sure,but not unless the politicians put the heat on the team to stay by calling their bluff-give them what they asked and see what happens then.
If they leave anyway,they become the bad guy,not the local government and the city/county can honestly claim that they did all that they could do and instead of just posturing.
If the deal goes down after that,then the move was sealed far before any of the attempts for local funding had started.
As I wrote in another recent post-put the heat on the Washington County Commissioners to spend the hotel tax on what it was intended for here.....
Make the team HAVE to make the hard decision,not one that was an easy call to decide.
When contacted,Hagerstown Suns General Manager Bill Farley had no official comment for this article.
One final thought-in Aesop's Fable,The Boy Who Cried Wolf,in the end,the flock was destroyed......