Rainouts prompt call to delay openers Maryland Baseball's Kirk suggests late April start

Minor-league notebook

June 05, 1996|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Because of the unusually cold and rainy spring, Peter Kirk is turned off by minor-league baseball's early starting dates.

"We've been saying for years that the minors should open the season later, maybe in the third week of April," said the chairman of Maryland Baseball Limited Partnership Inc., which owns the Bowie Baysox, Frederick Keys and Delmarva Shorebirds.

"You really couldn't do it at the Triple-A level because of the September call-ups, but it's bad for everybody, players and fans, to play in such weather."

Bowie, for instance, has had five rainouts at home and has played in some frigid and misty conditions on other dates.

"The players come from the good weather in Florida or Arizona into a situation where they can't feel the ball or the bat.

"All you have to do is start them in spring training a little later and keep them there a little longer."

Kirk said the proposal often comes up at National Association meetings, but never gets far although it has support of farm directors and minor-league officials.

"In my honest opinion, the lack of a commissioner is why," he said. "But this issue may get some attention this year because of how bad this spring was."

It won't get any better next season. The minors usually open the Thursday after the start of the major-league season. That date in 1997 is April 3.

Red Wings doubling up

Kirk can take some solace in geography.

Farther north, Rochester has had an even more brutal experience with the weather than normal.

The Red Wings had had seven home rainouts (as opposed to three last year), ballooning to 11 the number of doubleheaders on their schedule. Only one was originally carded -- to make an open date for the Oriole exhibition game.

Beginning this week, Rochester was to play rival Syracuse 10 times in seven days, home and away. That kind of closeness can lead to some ugly confrontations if one team dominates the series early.

Shorebirds' success

The honeymoon continues for the Shorebirds, Kirk's South Atlantic League team based in Salisbury.

Through 24 home dates, Delmarva was far in front of the league with an average attendance of 4,790, nearly double that of second-place Hickory. The Shorebirds were fewer than 200 fans a game behind Double-A Bowie's average.

Novelty is one reason. The team's nine-game lead in the league's Northern Division is another.

"I really didn't think we'd do this much," said Keith Lupton, Maryland Baseball's executive vice president of operations who took over the general managership when Bill Davidson resigned.

"I thought we'd draw about 300,000 for the season, but it looks like we'll exceed that."

Lupton has increased billboard sales and the team's print advertising since he took over. He has also added some front-office personnel.

"We plan on a lot more promotions this summer," he said. "The one thing we don't know yet is how the beach traffic is going to respond to baseball here."

A surprise catch?

The Orioles may have a sleeper in High Desert catcher Melvin Rosario, a switch-hitter, who was the organization's player of the month for May.

Rosario hit .347 with eight homers, 28 RBIs, a .628 slugging percentage and .432 on-base average for the month.

"We got him in a trade with San Diego," said player development director Syd Thrift. "He was behind two other catchers at Rancho Cucamonga.

"He's got power from both sides of the plate and a big league arm. [High Desert manager] Joe Ferguson likens him to Mike Piazza who he had in the minors."

Around the horn

Rochester has 33 homers in 48 games, last in the International League, but is first in team batting at .276. . . . OF Jim Wawruck is the hottest Red Wing, raising his average from .170 to .302 in two weeks.

Pub Date: 6/05/96

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