Hagerstown’s ‘Shrinking Suns’ in limbo
SHEPHERDSTOWN — Professional baseball is skating along, worried about any playing dates as the coronavirus controls sports, and still posing the question of what will happen to the 42 minor league franchises now scheduled to be shuttered following the 2020 season.
Will the Major League season be completed with a late-November date for the last World Series game? Will franchises like our neighbors, the Class A Hagerstown Suns, be without baseball when the 2021 season comes around?
The Hagerstown Suns have aged Municipal Stadium on Memorial Boulevard as their home grounds. Major League Baseball holds no affection for a stadium built in 1930 and showing its wrinkles and jowls like few other professional ball yards. It is one of the three oldest Minor League stadiums in the country.
The 2020 South Atlantic League schedule was slated to start on April 9. But all that is on hold as the coronavirus pitches shutout after shutout against organized sports.
Even Woolie B., the team’s caterpillar-like mascot, doesn’t know much about this season, or if there will be a season in 2021.
Municipal Stadium has few amenities. There aren’t enough seats with chair-backs. The concession stands are too few and too far between. The professional players assigned to the Washington Nationals Class A team don’t have many up-to-date aspects helping their everyday baseball life. The dugouts are small and the clubhouses are also small in comparison to stadiums built in the last 30 years.
The April 9 beginning to this season has come and gone. The Suns were scheduled to play their home opener on April 16, and that was to be the first of seven straight home dates. Those games won’t be played.
But the world-wide virus might be the least of the Suns’ troubles.
Baseball wants the Suns gone from the minor leagues. And baseball also wants to see the Frederick Keys and mascot Keyote sent to extinction as well.
When the notice was given that the 42 teams were to be sent to oblivion, several elected members now serving in the United States Congress vowed to fight for the lives of both the Suns and Keys. Those elected officials have sought binding legislation to keep the Suns and Keys on the baseball map. So far, no laws have been passed to keep 90-year-old Municipal Stadium tottering on its wobbly legs.
When professional baseball returned to Hagerstown and then ramshackle Municipal Stadium in 1981, the Suns tacked together a co-op team with players from several organizations and actually won the league championship. From 1982 to 2019, the Suns never posted another championship season.
Now just about everything is shrouded in black clouds and in danger of being nothing more than a memory come next April.
Labor Day, Sept. 7, 2020 is the final date on this season’s schedule. What will the baseball landscape look like on that date?
And will the Suns get a reprieve and play another day? Too many unanswered questions for a franchise hoping to keep professional baseball alive in nearby Washington County.