The Bowie Baysox enjoyed a solid 1997 season with better attendance, far better results on the field and a playoff appearance.
But, somehow, it wasn't enough.
Emerging from spring training, the Baysox were loaded with more prospects than any club in the Oriole farm system.
But many of the prospects were injured or flopped, and the club limped into postseason play with a makeshift roster that included a slew of older, soon-to-be free-agent pitchers.
A rash of injuries that limited speedy Eugene Kingsale to 13 games changed the face of the Bowie offense, and top pitching hopefuls Sidney Ponson (elbow problems) and Chris Fussell (demoted after ineffectiveness) went a combined 3-15.
"I thought we had a productive year with some guys making progress," said manager Joe Ferguson. "Sometimes, when you have great expectations, you don't realize them."
Ferguson often had to play short-handed because of player movement and injuries, but several pleasant developments helped offset that.
Dave Dellucci, called up to the Orioles for a month in mid-season, had 20 home runs and a team-record .327 batting average.
"His power production was a surprise," said Ferguson. "Nobody talked about that. And Steve Montgomery was a big surprise."
Least known among the starters, Montgomery emerged as the staff ace in August after the losses of Fussell, Ponson and Alvie Shepherd (arm problems) and finished with a 10-5 record to carry the team into the playoffs.
"Johnny Isom did a wonderful job of producing [91 RBIs, fourth in the league]," said Ferguson, "and our older pitchers were aware of their roles and filled them."
The Baysox had one spurt, winning 26 of 38 games starting July 11, that enabled them to finish second in the league's Southern Division. Otherwise, they hovered around .500 for most of the season.
Dellucci went back to the Orioles for the major-league stretch, and catcher Melvin Rosario, who picked off 19 runners, joined him.
Attendance: 409,285 in 69 dates at Prince George's Stadium, including a record single-game crowd of 14,105.
Record: 75-67 regular season, second in Eastern League Southern Division. Lost in first round of playoffs to Harrisburg, 3 games to 2.
Honors and league leaders: OF Dave Dellucci and P Steve Montgomery, Eastern League all-star team; P Matt Snyder tied EL record for appearances (67).
Top prospects produced: Dellucci and OF Johnny Isom; C Melvin Rosario; IF David Lamb, Montgomery.
Pub Date: 9/21/97