Welcome to the Hagerstown Braves (Maryland) Semi-Professional Baseball Website. The 2018 Season marks the Teams 41st Year. Over the past 40 years, the Braves have collected 1,198 wins and 539 loses. This season will be the Braves fifth season in the West Shore Twilight Baseball League. The Braves have won 12 League Titles and numerous Tournaments around the Four State Region. We would like to thank you for visiting our site and please check back with us throughout the season.
HALL OF FAME NOD GIVES CUNNINGHAM PROOF HE PLAYED BASEBALL
by Bob Parasiliti (The Herald-Mail)
Dan Cunningham finally has proof of what has become a trivia question.
Most everyone knows him as North Hagerstown’s football coach. He’s had a measure of success in that gig.
But he also was a baseball player — a catcher — during the spring after quarterbacking the Hubs football team as a student.
“A lot of people look at me and say, ‘You played baseball?’” Cunningham said.
Baseball was a bigger part of his life than most people remember, since he spent 14 years as a member of the Hagerstown Braves.
And now, the baseball people helped him prove it.
Cunningham will be a member of the largest induction class ever to the National Semi-Pro Baseball Association Hall of Fame in Evansville, Ind., in November. He will follow the late Reno Powell to become the second straight Braves member to be inducted into the newly built shrine.
Powell was the founder and longtime manager for the Braves. Cunningham, who calls Powell his mentor, took over the duties in Powell’s later years after playing for him.
“It was funny,” Cunningham said. “I haven’t played baseball since 2005. I got this email and letter saying I was going to be inducted to the Hall of Fame. I started telling everyone about it and that’s when they started asking if I had played baseball.”
Cunningham spent 1 1/2 decades — including nine years as a player-manager — in the Blue Ridge Adult League. He stopped playing because of an injured shoulder and his football coaching duties, which have become a year-round responsibility.
It’s all been a huge part of Cunningham’s life. In some ways, it has defined his family.
“My daughter was born during a football game,” he said with a smile. “My son was born during a Braves game. They were both wins.”
Through it all, Cunningham balanced both duties. The reason for football is obvious. The reason for the Braves is more traditional.
“Hagerstown is known as a baseball town,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham reminisced about how the Braves were considered one of the classiest teams over the years. They were a team that got invites to various tournaments and had out-of-area teams waiting in line to play in Hagerstown because of Municipal Stadium.
Times have changed. Now the Braves play on high school fields and the team has moved from the Blue Ridge League into the West Shore Twilight Baseball League.
“A lot of people have forgotten about the Braves,” Cunningham said. “With the economy taking a turn and a number of players heading down the road to play, it was tough to get games. The Braves weren’t getting enough games to help the young players keep their skills sharp.”
Cunningham’s trip with the Braves and to the Hall of Fame was all because of Powell. He saw something in Cunningham and current Braves manager Mike Kipe to keep the Braves spirit alive.
“Reno was so passionate. You couldn’t help but to learn the game from him,” Cunningham said. “The biggest thing was loyalty. He instilled loyalty. We did things the Reno way. That was the right way. Some of my best memories come from playing with the Braves.”
The Braves were a brotherhood filled with special relationships. Cunningham said he looked up a couple of years ago and realized that every public school head baseball coach in the county had played with or for him with the Braves.
“It was kind of weird. It kind of dated me a bit,” Cunningham said. “But all of us played together.
“I was passionate about what I did. Sometimes I was too aggressive, but it was because I wanted to win. I didn’t want to let Reno down. We did it right for Reno and because of Hagerstown’s reputation as a baseball town.”
Brunswick coach Roger Dawson recognized it all and nominated Cunningham for the Hall of Fame.
The honor is the culmination of special times for Cunningham.
“My dad raised me saying if I played sports I’d never get in trouble,” he said. “As long as I was active, I wouldn’t get in trouble. He’d show up to see me play for the Braves.
“When I was a kid, my dad spent hours with me. Now he is doing the same thing with my kids.”
From there, Cunningham was on the right path to meet the right people en route to going to the Hall of Fame.
“I guess I did something nice along the way,” Cunningham said. “I spent time and worked with (former North coach) Dave Warrenfeltz and (late North coach) Chuck Zonis. It just gets to you. They all taught me the drive and desire to play. But the best part is that I’ll be in the same place with Reno. That means a lot to me.”
POWELL'S BRAVE WORK EARNS HALL INDUCTION
by Bob Parasiliti (The Herald-Mail)
Reno Powell was baseball’s version of Francis Scott Key. His main anthem in life was to have a home for the Braves. The Hagerstown Braves, that is. Baseball was Powell’s life, especially when it came to providing a team to give young players in the area a life after American Legion baseball. That led to the birth of the Braves, a semi-pro baseball team which has lasted more than three decades.
Many have Powell to thank for the chance to play ball in their adulthood. A thank you came as Powell was posthumously inducted as a member of the 2013 class to the National American Semi-Pro Baseball Association Hall of Fame for being the founder, president, coach and general manager of one of the teams that helped define Hagerstown as a baseball town. “He was the starter for it all,” said Dan Cunningham, who assumed the organizational reins from Powell in the mid-1990s and remains its president. “Long story short, he created the team because there was no place for guys to play after they outgrew American Legion ball.
“We had some great players in Hagerstown and he was tired of seeing them go to Baltimore to keep playing. He offered them a chance to ‘sleep in their own bed’ and to play in front of their families. It is only fitting that he gets the recognition because he was the owner, president, general manager and sold concessions for the team. He could sell ice to an Eskimo.” Selling was a major part of Powell’s life, especially when it came to his love for baseball. Powell, who died in 2002, was a strong advocate of having success in the game. “All Reno wanted to do was win,” said Mike Kipe, who played for and now manages the Braves. “That was everything. We are trying to bring that attitude back to the team.”
Kipe and Cunningham decided to nominate Powell for consideration after the Braves became part of the NASPB. Until 2011, the Braves spent their entire existence playing in the Franklin County and Blue Ridge Adult Leagues, but the league membership has waned, which warranted searching for other alternatives. “It started when (Brunswick Orioles manager) Roger Dawson got us to go national,” Kipe said. “We had to come up with a paragraph about Reno and why he should be inducted.” Kipe and Cunningham teamed up to write Powell’s nomination letter, outlining the many hats he wore and his devotion to do every little task the team needed to thrive. They summed it all up with one final paragraph. “Reno was a baseball visionary in the Hagerstown community. His insight and determination has led to the success of many area ballplayers.”
Powell’s induction is rather informal, only appearing on the NASPB’s website for now. The organization is constructing a Hall of Fame building in Evansville, Ind., which is scheduled to open in the spring. Kipe and Cunningham reminisced about how Powell knew about everyone — from pro baseball scouts to fans to backers of the team. He knew how to recruit players and taught them his philosophy for constructing a winning team. “Reno went out and would go all over to find the best players possible,” Kipe said. “He would always talk to me about playing players at certain positions,” Cunningham said. “He would always say we needed two deep at each position and need three good starting pitchers, but not from the local area. He didn’t believe in rotations either.”
Powell’s attention to detail didn’t end with setting up the team. In the later years, after he became ill, he would wait to get updates of the Braves’ games. “Before he would talk about anything else, he wanted to know all about the games,” Kipe said. “He wanted to know every pitch, every situation.” Next to the Hall of Fame induction, the best testament to Powell’s efforts are the Braves themselves. In 35 years of play, Hagerstown has 1,070 wins and a .728 winning percentage. The Braves have won 12 league titles, one state championship and many more tournaments. And in the middle of all the success, 35 former Braves players signed professional baseball contracts. “Eighty-five percent of the teams the Braves used to play don’t exist anymore,” Kipe said. “Reno started this and it’s a big deal to keep it going.”
“When the Braves reached 1,000 wins, it didn’t mean much of anything,” Cunningham said. “But in this economy, this is a testament to Hagerstown as a baseball town. Reno would go to all the PONY League and Colt League games. It was a testament to what baseball meant to him. A thousand wins ... he would be happy.”
In order to do that, like Reno, the Braves have gone national, playing against other NASPB teams, which are mainly in the Northeast and the Midwest. The travel has made it difficult to keep the roster filled. This year, the National Amateur Baseball Federation (NABF) will be coming to Maryland for a tournament that will be played at McCurdy Field in Frederick. And when it comes down to it, Reno Powell would be probably more concerned about the Braves’ march to 2,000 wins than his spot in the Hall of Fame. “He’d probably say, ‘Aw, who do we play next?’” Cunningham said. “He would think it would be nice, but he’d be more worried about who’s next on the schedule. Reno put everyone else first, but the Braves were always first though.”