Thursday, September 6, 2012

Hagerstown Suns:Stadium Talk,Playoffs and Attendance...

On a night that saw the Hagerstown Suns lose the first game of the Northern Division finals to the visiting Greensboro Grasshoppers on what could be the last night of baseball of the year,the news still was good for local fans..

A "mystery donor" has stepped up and pledged 15 million dollars towards a new stadium for the team.
That's 15 MILLION as in HALF of the money needed to build the facility!
I would wager that this commitment brutally ends the opposition to a stadium from the no new taxes crowd as the remaining half should easily be divided between the city,county and state and should set things in place for a commitment in the near future by the Suns and majority owner Bruce Quinn.
The only requests made by this gentleman is that he be given the naming rights to be used as he wished,a statue be built for the person that the field is named for (not himself),have some covered seating areas and that the stadium be built at the planned Baltimore Street location downtown and not near I-81 (as I would prefer).
None of these seem unreasonable to me and could be the end of the stadium questions of funding.
For the expense of the contribution,I can live with the location,although I still think the location is flawed,with this type of donation,I do believe the donor has the right to stipulate the location.
The statue is fine and I love the thought of covered seating areas as that is the one point that the Muni holds over Harry Grove Stadium in Frederick.

Bruce Quinn has played this very well and with the other suitors seeming to be out of the picture,I would think it is in Quinn and the Suns best interest to sew this up as quickly as possible.
Winchester has seemingly faded from the picture and unless a city leaps out of nowhere (Kinston NC?) to get involved,it is in the city's best interest to wrap things up as quickly as possible as well before another candidate waves in and ups the ante' a bit.
Quinn has managed to work around and get a needed new facility built in a community that did not seem overwhelmingly interested in even renovating the Muni,let alone building a new stadium.

However,the news is not all bright as the SAL released their final attendance numbers for the 2012 campaign and who finished last?
Yep,the Hagerstown Suns,who failed reach even 90,000 fans on the season and finished with 30,000 less fans than the 13th place team in attendance,the Savannah Sand Gnats.
Ordinarily,I would be blasting all involved-the fans (not enough of them),the team (promotions and one particular employee),the facility (arguably the worst fan experience in the nation),the city (allowing such a facility to represent their town) etc,but I'll save that for another upcoming day,but to me,one thing stands alone as why these numbers are so dismal-the turmoil involving the franchise.
Hagerstown/Washington County fans were simply not going to consistently support a team that was threatening to move,no matter how legitimate the reason.
The team being in "lame duck" status kept the casual person and their families away from the Muni because not enough fans were going to invest themselves in a franchise that they could not count on to be in their community in a year or so,especially in the early season months,where most teams struggle with bringing fans into the gates.
The Suns have not been setting the world on fire in attendance over the last few years and even in the best of times,Hagerstown is not going to be near the top as the city just does not have the population of many of the cities in the SAL,but I truly believe that the uncertain status of the team kept many casual fans away and that would change next season and with marketing over the next two years (the Goodbye to the Muni tour),attendance will likely improve,in my opinion.
Look for a future post when I look at the Suns on the field with some thoughts on the talent and off the field with some thoughts on how to pop up attendance and a few things that could be addressed for next season.

On the field,the Suns dropped a 3-1 decision to the Greensboro Grasshoppers that saw the Suns run into the Florida Marlins first round draft pick Andrew Heaney,who controlled the Suns for seven innings and kept Hagerstown off the scoreboard.
Greensboro scored one run when a runner could have been tagged out at second to end an inning and instead tried to get the runner scoring,who was safe beating the throw,another on a toss from Cutter Dykstra that was awry and Justin Miller mishandled the ball and the other on a Christian Meza wild pitch right after the Dykstra error.
The defensive mistakes were the main points in the defeat,but one question that I still have is why lefty hitter Brett Newsome was starting against the lefthanded Heaney and if it was so important to have Newsome in the lineup,why was he the designated hitter and not the first baseman,where Newsome is superior defensively to Justin Miller,who was tabbed as the first baseman for the night.
I just cannot figure either of those decisions out at all.
I realize that Brian Daubach did not exactly have power hitting righties on the bench,although the bench was filled with righthanded hitters,but I still might have played the percentages a bit.
Considering the pitching of Blake Schwartz (1 run in five innings),the Suns could have stolen this one despite Heaney's performance with a little defensive help and that one hurts.
The Suns will need to win both games in Greensboro on Friday and Saturday for the Suns to advance to the league championship series.
It will be a tough task,but far from impossible,so that will be the task at hand in order to avoid making last night the final trip of the season.

That wraps up the Suns talk for now,I hope to have my Browns preview ready soon and other things as well as I attempt to get back on a regular posting schedule....


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