Mr. Flexible: Baysox GM Lupton

March 30, 1994|By John Steadman

BOWIE -- That "new house" being erected for the Bowie Baysox on a spacious and accessible lot near the intersection of highway routes 197 and 301 at a cost of $9 million isn't going to be ready. Bad weather backed up construction. It's a delaying condition other types of homebuyers can easily relate to -- which means the team is, in a way, going to be moving in with relatives and friends on a temporary basis.

In the season of 1994, after studying options, the club will play home games in four different locations, which means a nomadic existence that may be without precedent in the more than 150-year history of baseball.

The Baysox will utilize Grove Stadium in Frederick, Judy Johnson Field in Wilmington, Del., Shipley Field in College Park and, finally, Prince George's County Stadium, where the contractors and equipment have been stalled in the mud.

For Keith Lupton, general manager of the Baysox, the Orioles' Double-A affiliate, it's a situation he accepts. There's no alternative, except to move the show elsewhere. Lupton doesn't look to the skies while shaking a fist at Mother Nature. He merely realizes it's beyond control and, of course, experiences have taught him to be tolerant and not give in to frustration by punching holes in the office walls.

"We were scheduled to open the Eastern League season April 12 in Bowie, but the goal now is May 20 and I hope we make it," he said. "The best we can expect is to have two-thirds of our home dates in Bowie. It's going to feel to the players as if it's one non-stop road trip."

Bowie ticket buyers will be reimbursed for the home games they miss. At last count, the preseason sale, with money in the bank, represents a total of 215,000 seats, which gives the Baysox a running start for their first season in a park being paid for by Prince George's County, the state of Maryland and what is known as the Maryland Baseball Limited Partnership, headed by Peter Kirk.

In an attempt to work out of the dilemma, efforts were made to utilize Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore or RFK Stadium in Washington but neither facility is available.

Lupton and his staff, including assistant general manager John Danos, promotions director Walter "Bud" Freeman and public relations director Dave Collins, are now involved with plans to use three different locations before they get around to the grand debut in Bowie.

At College Park, if they play at night, it will be necessary to install a lighting system, costing $165,000. All the seating there will be unreserved.

What has happened to Lupton in previous seasons readied him for current problems. In Frederick, 1989, they had to utilize and rehabilitate McCurdy Field, while awaiting the new park to be built. Last year, after making the announcement of the transfer to Bowie, it was necessary to alter the move and instead go to Memorial Stadium, where the infield had to be cut in and outfield fences erected.

On the positive side for the new Baysox is they have signed an agreement with Annapolis radio station WNAV to broadcast their games, regardless of where they might be. WNAV also carries the Orioles so, when there's a conflict, the Baysox play-by-play by Collins and color by Rick Furr will be tape-delayed.

Meanwhile, promotions have been put off until the team is operating in Bowie. Still, Lupton perseveres.

Appearances by The Famous Chicken; Morganna, the kissing bandit; the "Dynamite Lady"; Max Patkin, who will be engaging in his 18th annual farewell tour; and the new women's baseball team sponsored by Coors, the Silver Bullets, will be inserted into the Bowie part of the schedule.

"Those early games in Frederick, College Park and Wilmington will mean, unfortunately, that our players will be staying in other areas, spending money on rooms, meals and other things that otherwise would be helping businesses in Bowie," Lupton said.

While stadium crews try to play catch-up, there's a chance Lupton will be opening another park this time next year for Kirk. Plans are to establish a South Atlantic League team in Salisbury so a similar scenario may be unfolding, competing against the weather to get a park completed.

Lupton will be fully prepared.

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