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Hagerstown Suns, Frederick Keys become part of history

By Bob Madison - For the Chronicle | Jan 8, 2021

A couple of former Hagerstown Suns Minor League Baseball players high five during a game. Courtesy photo

SHEPHERDSTOWN — Fervent fan clubs adored the now-gone Hagerstown Suns and Frederick Keys. The young players who slogged through the rigors of Minor League Baseball had help from those who backed them with their voices, helped in finding the necessary methods to make it through a Minor League summer and add as much morale support as they could.

Many of the players who spent time in both towns were from places like the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Curacao, Central America and Mexico.

But now the fan clubs and fan bases in those two outposts are no more.

Minor League Baseball in both Hagerstown and Frederick is only a thing of the past. When Major League Baseball squeezed out of existence about 42 franchises across the country, both Hagerstown and Frederick were not spared and were unceremoniously dumped by the curb.

The facilities in Hagerstown were mostly faded, old and out-dated. Frederick had a more vibrant ball park — much more modern and fan friendly — but the Keys were erased the same as the often-criticized Suns.

Neither franchise was able to stage any last-season stands that could have influenced the powers-that-be in professional baseball boardrooms. The 2020 season was cancelled.

In December, the Suns posted on a Facebook page they were hosting a going-out-of-business sale, featuring yard sale prices.

On the Saturday of the sale, the team was selling at rock-bottom prices team uniforms, locker room equipment, baseballs, an assortment of souvenirs from the team store, items from the concession stand and even baseball bats (some broken). The Suns’ outgoing management reported that about 250 people visited the sale at Municipal Stadium, some waiting as long as four hours to get inside because of the severely limited number of folks allowed in at one time, because of coronavirus social distancing.

Bobblehead dolls, mementos from significant Major Leaguers who had rehabbed from injuries in Hagerstown and autographed photos were all eventually gone from the sale stockpile.

The gray inside walls of the stadium were left in the gloomy aftermath. The frayed reminders of the place that was once nice enough in 1930 were left to gather more dust and cobwebs from not being used enough even when the place had a team. The vacant scoreboard still loomed tall above the left field fence.

There would be no more “Thirsty Thursdays” or seeing the kids frolic around the bases after a Sunday afternoon game.

The cartoonish Keys mascot, Keyote, would no longer gather children around him like a brooding hen. No summer interns would send T-shirts flying into the stands with their devices that looked like a Rube Goldberg launcher. The Keys were gone from what was once called Harry Grove Stadium, hard by Interstate 70.

Some day fans of the two extinct franchises will hold Alumni Days and laugh about the times Jim Palmer, Mike Musina, Bryce Harper and David “The Bull” Rivera were on display on the dimly lit diamond in front of the orange-colored plastic box seats.

But the laughs will be only bittersweet, because the Suns and Keys are no more.