Keys expect to be crowd-pleasers Tickets hot item for Single-A team

April 08, 1993|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Staff Writer

A major minor-league success story enters its fifth season tonight when the Frederick Keys begin their 1993 Carolina League schedule at Grove Stadium.

The past two summers, the Single-A affiliate of the Orioles has drawn nearly 750,000 fans to its 5,000-seat park, ranking in the top 20 among all minor-league teams both years.

More of the same can be expected from the Keys this season, starting with the opener against the Prince William Cannons.

"It [high attendance] figures to continue," said new general manager Larry Martin. "Preseason sales are above last year's and interest is high."

Frederick led all Single-A clubs by attracting 329,592 customers last summer despite rain or threatening weather conditions for much of the season. It is now a firmly established draw.

Little has changed for this season. Ticket prices rose slightly ($7 for box seats, $5 for general admission) to help compensate for increasing the size of the women's restroom facilities, installing backs on all the grandstand seats and taking care of the 5 percent take on admissions imposed by the majors.

The other additions are some new food items, including a "big grill" modeled after the Hagerstown Suns' operation, which will produce hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken sandwiches and Italian sausages.

The promotion schedule has added five giveaways for the kids, the Blues Brothers and two laser shows to the usual attractions.

On the field, the Keys will be seeking to improve upon a 69-71 record under new manager and former major-league infielder Pete Mackanin.

His roster will include 10 players who spent all or portions of last season with the Keys, as well as two former major-league pitchers, Stacy Jones (Orioles, 1991) and Brian Dubois (Detroit, 1989 and 1990).

Both Jones and Dubois are attempting to rebound from arm problems.

"Our biggest asset is our pitching staff," said Mackanin. "We got excellent results from them this spring. It's a good combination of experience and youth."

The outfield figures to be exciting with newcomers Alex Ochoa and Curtis Goodwin. They are highly regarded by the Orioles.

"Ochoa has as good an arm as anybody I've ever seen," said Mackanin. "He's fun to watch."

They both played at Single-A Kane County last season. Ochoa tied for the Midwest League lead with 17 assists and hit .295. Goodwin hit .280 with 51 stolen bases.

Another player to watch is Feliciano Mercedes, a switch-hitting shortstop with great potential.

"The pitching and defense is so solid we're going to be competitive and in quite a few close games," said the manager.

"Now it's a matter of finding the right combination in the middle of the order. Our biggest question mark is run production."

Mackanin will hit and run and steal often because he doesn't appear to have a lot of power in the lineup.

"Hopefully, our offense comes around," he said. "That will be a key to our season."

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