The boys of Bowie light up 33rd Street Baysox bring back the past tonight for a summer of baseball at the stadium

April 16, 1993|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,Staff Writer

For one more summer, and maybe never again, there will be baseball at Memorial Stadium.

It starts tonight, will last for 70 games through early September and, said Waverly resident Patty Spilker: "It's going to be a fine time."

A fine time with the minor league Bowie Baysox at the old ball yard on 33rd Street.

Two years after the Orioles abandoned Memorial Stadium for Camden Yards, the Baysox have dropped from the sky like a high fly and it appears as if all of Baltimore is ready to catch them.

It doesn't seem to matter that it will be only for a year, only until a new Baysox stadium is built in Bowie.

"We love it," said Ms. Spilker, one of 90 regulars at the Stadium Lounge on Greenmount Avenue who bought tickets together for tonight's home opener. "We hated it when the Colts left and there was quite a few tears shed in here when the Orioles played their last game."

This will be a season in which any kid who shows up in full Little League uniform will get in for free.

In which parking on the stadium lot won't cost a dime.

In which fans will be able to walk up to a ticket window at game time and get a family of five inside the ballpark for $20.

In which, on a weekend with good weather, 10,000 or more people might show up to watch Double A team baseball.

"I bet a lot of people from the neighborhood are going to go to these games," said K. C. Docie, president of the Waverly Improvement Association. "People will say to each other: 'Hey, its a beautiful summer evening, let's go catch the ballgame.' That's one thing we've missed. We used to do that a lot."

Win or lose, a lot of folks believe that what happens on 33rd Street over the summer of '93 will be a thing of wonder.

Ghosts and legends

Add in all the ghosts and legends from nearly four decades of big-time sports at Memorial Stadium -- from Don Larsen's 3-and-21 record in the Orioles' inaugural season in 1954 to Mike Flanagan delivering the last pitch thrown by a Bird in 1991 -- and you've got a hot ticket for a hot summer.

Just a week ago, the old place drew a thousand people in the rain just to walk around for a look.

"People who want to see real baseball in a real baseball atmosphere are going to flock to see this team," said Dave Fielder, 32, who manages an adult baseball team in Anne Arundel County.

"Blue-collar Baltimore is going to go out to watch young players that are hungry. You might not see the level of talent you do in the majors, but you're going to see guys who play hard and that's what true baseball fans like."

Larry Benicewicz and his Waverly neighbors are glad to see life return to the stadium, where, Mr. Benicewicz said, the police don't even hang out on the parking lot anymore to write reports and shoot the breeze with each other.

Stadium spruced up

"The stadium was getting tawdry looking and now it's spruced up a little bit," said Mr. Benicewicz, who lives on 33rd Street.

"We're happy that it's going to be used for something productive. You're going to be surprised how many people show up, all the people who get shut out of Camden Yards. Double A brings baseball back to the people, not the high rollers. It should be like it was in the old days where you could sit pretty much anywhere you wanted."

Anywhere but the upper deck, which will be closed unless crowds exceed 25,000.

Marshall Commodari will be there tonight, celebrating his 28th birthday with 37 of his closest friends in Section 5; 37 of the best seats in the house for $7 each.

"It just started building," said Mr. Commodari. "I bought a bunch of tickets and then people started saying, 'I want to go! I want to go!' so I came back and bought more.

"Hey, I understand why the Orioles moved," he said. "I like Camden Yards, but I love Memorial Stadium." And he might get a happy birthday out of Pat Walker.

Known to Orioles fans from the '70s as "Pat the Bugler," Mr. Walker is a retired soldier known for blowing the "CHARGE!" call from the bleachers with a vintage Army bugle. He had to quit his bugle calls when his teeth fell out, but he now sports a new set of choppers, courtesy of the University of Maryland Dental School.

"I'm ready," said Mr. Walker, who hopes to move up to Camden Yards the way a lot of Baysox rookies hope to play for the Orioles one day. "You'll be able to find me wandering around the stands in my Orioles uniform."

The Baysox are a team with only two groundskeepers, one of them a volunteer. Yesterday , they used a crew of city prison inmates to help roll back the infield tarp.

They will be paying the City of Baltimore $23 an hour for a dozen-and-a-half police on overtime duty to direct traffic on 33rd Street, handle crowd control and lock up any troublemakers.

They are a team that is giving away a lot of tickets -- like the freebies passed out to people who live around the stadium -- but needs to draw at least 350,000 paying customers to break even.

Last year, when the Baysox played as the Hagerstown Suns, the team's biggest one-game attendance was about 6,000 people.

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