For Baysox, talent is there even if home park isn't

April 08, 1994|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Sun Staff Writer

FREDERICK -- Have team. Will travel.

Blame the harsh winter for the predicament that confronts the Bowie Baysox, the Double-A team that seemingly will be playing everywhere in the area except its own home until Prince George's County Stadium is ready for baseball.

Construction delays because of the weather have forced the Baysox to locate their base in Frederick and to schedule early-season games at Grove Stadium here, at Judy Johnson Field in Wilmington, Del., and at the University of Maryland's Shipley Field.

Whether Bowie is in Bowie by the target date of May 20 is debatable. In the meantime, manager Pete Mackanin will try to weather the effects of the elements with a very talented team.

The pluses will be his familiarity with the personnel -- Mackanin managed 14 players on his current 21-man roster at Frederick -- and the fields -- all those players know Grove Stadium and Judy Johnson Field well.

The minus will be the accumulated mileage.

Mackanin said he chose not to believe that the jumping around will be a detriment.

"I'm going to choose to answer that question no," he said. "That's the only way I'm going to look at it and that's the way I want my players to look at it.

"I don't want anybody making excuses, blaming scheduling for a lack of success. It very well might, but we're not going in thinking that."

Mackanin said the Baysox have taken great pains to "make the guys as comfortable as possible. They're going out of their way to show them that they regret the situation."

The Baysox will be headquartered at a Frederick hotel until further notice and will bus to road games from there.

Last summer, the Keys came roaring through the stretch to win the Carolina League's second half and make the playoffs, indicating that many of them were prepared for the jump to the Double-A Eastern League.

Some of the top prospects in the Orioles system will be with Bowie, including the five-man starting rotation of Rick Forney, Jimmy Haynes, Scott Klingenbeck, Brian Sackinsky and Vaughn Eshelman.

Add fireballing reliever Armando Benitez, improving third baseman Scott McClain, fleet center fielder Curtis Goodwin and right fielder Alex Ochoa, an excellent hitter who has the best arm in the organization, and you have a tremendous nucleus.

But Mackanin is being reserved about their chances in the Eastern League.

"I know what I'm going to get from a lot of these guys and I'm anxious to see them compete at this higher level," he said. "But the baseball is better and we have a lot of young people.

"I think they're going to get a reality check at first, especially the pitchers. The higher you go, the fewer mistakes you get away with. I don't look for us to come flying out of the gate."

This franchise is in its second straight season of major adjustment after owner Peter Kirk left Hagerstown following 1992.

Its home last summer was Memorial Stadium, but with little time to promote the move, attendance (254,861) was somewhat disappointing.

Prince George's County and the surrounding areas responded willingly to this off-season's ticket drive, but the Baysox decided to refund on a pro-rated basis the money season-ticket buyers paid for games that will not be played in Bowie.

Kirk said the 10,000-seat stadium will open as soon as the necessities can be used.

"We'll open without offices, with the players in trailers and with portable concessions," he said. "As long as the field, the stands and the lights are usable, we'll play there."

That could be the end of May or later.

Kirk said he has "ordered permanent lights for Shipley Field. They will become the property of Maryland baseball. Tom Bradley [Terrapins coach] said 'Thank you very much.' "

Installation of permanent lights at Maryland may be a hint that the projected May 20 start-up in Bowie is overly optimistic.

"This has turned out longer than we planned by so many setbacks," said Kirk. "We got through the winter and were running hard with all sorts of construction crews when we got hit by a lot of rain and had to shut down."


Fans attending the Frederick Keys or Bowie Baysox games at Frederick's Grove Stadium on April 17 could get two for the price of one.

Bowie general manager Keith Lupton said early birds -- those attending the Keys' 2:05 p.m. start -- will get the break.

"We'll keep the gates open during the Frederick game and anybody who's in there will be allowed to stay," said Lupton. "We won't start charging a separate admission [for the Baysox] until the Keys' game is half over."

The Baysox are scheduled to start at 5:05 p.m. or shortly after the Keys' game.

In an unrelated matter, the Baysox have added WMJS (92.7 FM) in Prince Frederick to their radio network.

Unlike the flagship station, WNAV-AM, which will broadcast 100 Baysox games on a tape-delay basis after the Orioles are aired, all games on WMJS will be carried live.


Manager: Pete Mackanin

Record last year: 72-68. Lost in first round of playoffs to Canton-Akron.

League: Eastern (Double-A)

Affiliation: Orioles

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