Minor-league Baysox had major fun Fans', city's support praised by team

September 12, 1993|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Staff Writer

They came to Memorial Stadium by necessity, but will leave fulfilled with fond memories.

Although the Bowie Baysox bowed out of the Eastern League playoffs Friday night and were not a major drawing card during the season, they enjoyed themselves immensely.

"This sure beat the heck out of Hagerstown or any place else we could have been," said pitcher Chuck Ricci. "The guys realize how spoiled we were playing here. I think farther down the road we're going to realize how special it was."

The Canton-Akron Indians eliminated the Baysox with a 7-2 victory to take their best-of-five semifinal series, 3-2. The Indians opened the best-of-five championship round last night in Harrisburg, Pa.

Bowie will go home -- literally. By the end of this month the team's offices will shift from Memorial Stadium to temporary quarters in "an old schoolhouse" near Bowie, according to owner Peter Kirk.

During the off season, the front office will devote itself to preparing a promotional campaign for 1994. Last winter, the team was forced to search for a temporary home because of delays in stadium construction at Bowie.

As a result, there was precious little time to advertise or sell season tickets to the Baltimore market, and Bowie finished third in the league in attendance, averaging slightly more than 4,100 per game.

"We weren't disappointed at all," said Kirk. "Sure, there were times we sat and wished 40,000 were here but we finished respectably compared to other Double-A teams and we were operating in the shadow of Camden Yards.

"You have to remember we didn't sell a single ticket before we got here, so on balance we did well."

The two largest crowds -- both bigger than 12,000 -- arrived when Mike Mussina pitched on rehabilitation assignment. June through August weekends did particularly well, but there were times early in the season, and weeknights throughout the season when barely more than 500 watched the team play.

The Baysox also improved on the field. After finishing seventh as the Hagerstown Suns in 1992, they advanced to third and returned to post-season play for the first time since 1991.

"This club came a long way, considering the number of injuries and movement to Triple-A," said manager Don Buford. "And the players we did send up, Jeffrey Hammonds, Gregg Zaun and Jason Satre to name a few, made tremendous contributions to the organization."

Satre, fellow pitcher Joe Borowksi and outfielder Jim Wawruck are joining the Rochester Red Wings for their Governor's Cup series against Charlotte starting this weekend.

The Baysox had to play Canton-Akron without their only legitimate slugger, Stanton Cameron, who had an ankle injury, and had their starting rotation stripped by the promotions of Rick Krivda, Brian DuBois and Jim Dedrick in August.

Buford, for one, was discouraged by the skimpy fan support.

"I really thought there would be more because we were so close andwe were giving them future Orioles to see," he said. "And it was a relaxing place for the fans.

"But not knowing where we were going to play for so long hurt. The good things were we played with major-league lighting and on a playing surface just as good as anywhere. I can't remember more than one or two bad hops all year."

Nine rain-outs -- including one when the team had an 8,000 advance sale for the appearance of The Famous Chicken -- also undermined attendance.

At least two games were postponed because of problems with the tarpaulin, once because of an insufficient crew to pull on the 2,000-pound tarp and another when strong winds blew off its 900-pound replacement before the game.

Still, it was a memorable season, and now Baysox infielder Edgar Alfonzo can boast to his grandchildren about making the final professional out at Memorial Stadium.

"We think everybody who came had a lot of fun with Morganna, the Chicken and us trying to give away a million dollars," said Kirk. "We involved the community and introduced minor-league baseball to a lot of people.

"We're very grateful to the city of Baltimore which went well beyond the lease agreement in helping us. We wouldn't mind taking a foul pole with us, too."

Kirk will not discount a future game or two on 33rd Street, and said he will not hesitate to play there again if he needs a temporary home for the Triple-A team he hopes to acquire.

"Depending on how the winter goes, we might even be back here next year for a couple of early homestands with Bowie," he said. "It's not inconceivable.

"And there is always the possibility of an exhibition game. I'm intrigued by the Maryland Baseball Marathon idea with the Orioles playing Rochester and Bowie playing Frederick in a doubleheader."

If baseball at Memorial Stadium has truly ended, Ricci and his teammates have been the beneficiaries.

"This year, you really looked forward to coming to the ballpark," he said. "It was a great one to come to."

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