Baysox, Keys should feel little impact from strike

August 14, 1994|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Sun Staff Writer

There have been a few immediate adjustments in player personnel. Maybe attendance will rise slightly. And they will see more of the Orioles' front-office staff and the area media.

But the strike by the major-league baseball players is expected to have only minimal impact on the Maryland-based minor-league Orioles affiliates, the Bowie Baysox and the Frederick Keys.

With three weeks remaining in the Eastern League and Carolina League regular seasons, the Baysox and Keys will continue their drives toward postseason play largely unaffected by the labor dispute at the top of the game.

Peter Kirk, whose Maryland Baseball Limited Partnership Inc. owns both farm teams, said the major difference is that "because of the strike, the front office and coaches will spend a little extra time with us.

"But we're so close to the end of our season and we're doing so well at the gate in both Bowie and Frederick, I don't see us getting a lot more fans."

The Double-A Baysox are in the middle of a 10-game road trip. They return Thursday for the first of their final 11 home dates before the playoffs.

The Single-A Keys begin a three-game series in Wilmington, Del., Tuesday, then return home Friday for the first of their 10 remaining regular home dates.

Six of the Keys' and five of the Baysox' home dates are on weekends, when they play to near-capacity crowds under normal conditions.

"We might get a few extra people," said Bowie general manager Keith Lupton. "And we're expecting more media coverage, which is good. But the thing that always affects us most is weather."

Baysox players believe they could reap some benefits in the long term if the new major-league agreement includes a raise in the minimum salary.

Mostly, though, the stretch run will involve taking care of normal business.

"Life will go on. We're going to keep playing," said Bowie pitcher Rick Forney. "In the future, if the [majors'] minimum salaries are raised like they're saying they might be, it will be a lot more money for new players.

"Other than that, I can't see any change for us. We are getting good crowds already."

Said Baysox outfielder Alex Ochoa: "The players up there are doing some thing that will help us in the long run. It's important that we understand that.

"But right now, we're going to go along with our season and hopefully win the playoffs."

Jack Voigt has seen the game from both vantage points. He has almost two years in the majors, but has been at Bowie for the last three weeks after being optioned from the Orioles.

He will continue to draw a paycheck and playing time while his former teammates strike.

"If there is an impact, hopefully it comes in a way that more people come to see these kids," he said. "This club has a lot of prospects on it and it's a pleasure to play with them."

Voigt said the benefits of his demotion are that "I am staying in shape. I guess I was a so-called victim of the strike before it ever happened."

Baysox manager Pete Mackanin was not expecting a massive influx of new players from above. He was correct, receiving only pitcher Armando Benitez, who has opened some eyes in Baltimore.

The other personnel movement sent left-hander Arthur Rhodes to Rochester, a shift he had requested.

"There just weren't a lot of people they could send down [because of options]," said Mackanin. "I'm not sure that it isn't better to have younger guys going through the strike right from the start anyway. They can learn from it."

Mackanin said he would have welcomed anyone sent down since his club is in a position to win the Eastern League title.

"Hopefully, the strike will be short-lived, Voigt will be recalled and everybody will be happy," he said. "But if it goes long, there might be some effect."

Kirk said there have been no discussions about the Baysox playing at Camden Yards and practically ruled out the possibility.

"Our fans have been so loyal through all our running around early this year," he said. "We're just happy to be in our own [Prince George's County] stadium. There's no talk about Camden Yards."

Frederick general manager Larry Martin agreed with the majority.

"Assigning [major-league] coaches to the minor-league teams might be a nice touch," he said. "And we might get some fan overflow, but I don't think the strike will do all that much.

"Sadly, we'll be down to only a few games, so I don't see it affecting us a lot."

Said Keys manager Mike O'Berry: "I don't like to think about it, but if it goes into next year, something might happen with the minors. Now, I don't see the strike making a lot of difference to us."

Orioles assistant general manager Doug Melvin said that since the organization no longer has an Instructional League team, the strike will not have an impact on this fall's plans.

"It might have an effect on clubs still in the Instructional League if there is an extended strike," said Melvin. "For us, it's business as usual. The first thing that could affect us is our early camp [for minor leaguers] in February."

So far, the major-league coaches have not been told to join minor-league affiliates.

"They've been told to keep a close eye on what's happening," said Melvin. "But this late I don't anticipate any major adjustments in that area."

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