Stadium is in the swing for Baysox Memorial in tune for tonight's opener

April 16, 1993|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Staff Writer

Nineteen months ago, when the final major-league game was played at Memorial Stadium, the Orioles and their fans bid a tearful farewell to the ballpark on 33rd Street.

Tonight, the Double-A Bowie Baysox and their fans get to prove that you can go home again.

After two months of frenzied preparations, the stadium has a new infield and minor-league banners to complement the trappings that became so familiar during 38 Orioles seasons.

Except for the absence of the DiamondVision board in right-center field and some sections of box seats that were removed for an NFL exhibition game last August, the stadium has barely changed.

When Mike Flanagan throws out the first ball before the 7:05 game, it will be just like old times, thanks to the efforts of the Baysox and the city, which owns the stadium.

Pressed into action because construction of their new facility in Bowie was delayed by political problems, Baysox personnel have hurdled the major obstacles and expect only minor glitches come game time.

The field looks immaculate, although groundskeeper Jimmy Juergens has only one volunteer assistant. Baysox players had to assist him in covering it with the tarpaulin after their workout yesterday.

"The big thing was it was set up as a football field," Juergens said. "So we had to cut out the sod and make a new infield and build a pitcher's mound [of solid gumbo clay] in about two weeks."

Winter weather hampered the operation, but with cooperation from the city's turf management division and Oriole groundskeeper Paul Zwaska, Juergens has surmounted the problems.

"There were some holes in the outfield between the two 40s where football cleats had dug in and it rained that day," Juergens said. "After the game the turf should have been rolled, but they didn't think anything else was going to happen, so it wasn't done."

Now, Juergens' biggest problem is finding people to move the tarp, a major-league piece of equipment that is much heavier than those used in the minors.

Prisoners from Baltimore City Jail on work-release are used during the day, but during games, the Baysox will be "looking for volunteers who will trade free admission for their services."

One new addition is the right-field foul pole; the original went to Camden Yards. The outfield fence had to be re-erected, the pads re-installed and the body fitted with advertising signs that are a signature of the minors.

"We had to make sure the stadium was clean and ready for occupancy, too," stadium director Jack Boehmer said. "We painted some railings to pretty up the old girl. I haven't had lunch for 12 days."

The upper deck is blocked off, and Boehmer said that building those blockades and making sure that the stadium met all fire and police codes were uppermost among his many duties.

"There were a lot of leaks in the bathrooms," Boehmer said, "and the electricity wasn't working in several sections."

In addition, there is an electrical problem with the message center on the old scoreboard, and it probably won't be working in time for tonight's game.

"All the city's electricians were on vacation," Boehmer said. "But if the stadium had sat here for three or four years, it would have been a lot more difficult."

Overlea Caterers, the concessionaire, "had a lot to do to get the stands to pass [health] inspection," Baysox general manager Keith Lupton said.

"When we open the gates at 6 p.m., we're ready to put in a professional performance," Boehmer said. "Under the circumstances, I don't think we could have done any better."

A FANS' GUIDE TO THE BAYSOX

Gates to enter: W2, W4 and E2, all on 33rd Street side of stadium

Parking: Free on any lot on stadium property

Container rule: No containers allowed

Concessions: By Overlea Caterers. Available are hot dogs ($1 at kids stand, $1.25 for adults), kosher dogs, hamburgers, Italian sausage, pizza, chicken sandwich, popcorn, peanuts, fat-free soft ice cream, sodas, beer and Mexican food at Tippy's Taco Stand. A mixed Mexican meal at $4 is the highest price.

Stands open: Only the lower level of seats. The upper deck is closed except for the press box and selected corporate sky boxes. Upper-deck entrances are blocked by barricades of 2 x 4s and chicken wire.

Gift shops: One on main concourse, one on lower level

Smoking: Allowed. Smoke-free sections will be provided in future

Tickets: Available at the main window facing 33rd Street.

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