Minor-league baseball on the way to Aberdeen

It will compete in Atlantic League

January 22, 2000|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Minor-league baseball is coming to the boyhood home of Cal Ripken Jr.

Maryland Baseball Limited Partnership Inc. will announce Wednesday that its Aberdeen team, which has no name yet, will compete this summer in the Atlantic League as one of two expansion franchises, minor league sources said yesterday.

In its third season, the Atlantic League is for players cut by major-league teams during spring training, six-year minor-league free agents or those unsatisfied with Triple-A contracts they are being offered. It attracts former big leaguers who want to keep sharp while seeking to return to the majors.

Among those who played in the league last summer were Mariano Duncan, Ruben Sierra and former Oriole Craig Worthington.

Made up of eight franchises, the league conducts a 140-game schedule that will begin April 28 and end Sept. 25. Long Island, N.Y., has the other expansion franchise joining teams in Atlantic City, N.J., Newark, N.J., Somerset, N.J., Nashua, N.H., Bridgeport, Conn., and Lehigh Valley, Pa.

The league's executive director is Joe Klein, a Baltimore native who was general manager of the Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers. Jim Frey, one-time Oriole coach and manager of the Kansas City Royals and Chicago Cubs, is an adviser to the Somerset franchise.

There are no affiliations with major-league teams, making the league attractive for the players because their free agency is unencumbered. They can be signed by any team.

Maryland Baseball, which owns the Bowie Baysox, Frederick Keys and Delmarva Shorebirds, has had a franchise reserved for more than a year but has been awaiting progress on plans and funding for stadium construction in Harford County.

Peter Kirk, chief executive officer of Maryland Baseball, said the team will probably play at Harford Community College this season, with temporary lighting and seating to be installed.

If not, it could be forced to move its home games from site to site, as the Baysox did in 1994 while they awaited completion of Prince George's Stadium. The Aberdeen team could rotate games among ballparks in Frederick, Bowie and Delmarva.

The stadium project will cost $18 million for the stadium itself and $7 million for the adjacent Ripken Youth Baseball Academy. Ripken has pledged $9 million toward the complex, and the city of Aberdeen and Harford County have combined to pledge $7 million. Aberdeen is asking for $7 million from the Maryland General Assembly in this session.

Once funding is secured, construction on a 50-acre site west of Interstate 95 will begin early this summer.

Ripken and his brother Billy will have prominent roles in the operation of the Aberdeen team.

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