The Double-A All-Star Game will be played in Bowie this season; by then, the host Baysox should be jelling as a force in the Eastern League.
"As the year goes on, we'll get better and better," new manager Andy Etchebarren said of his fledgling team that will accent speed. "I've got the feeling that a lot of these kids will be maturing."
The Baysox begin their seventh year at Prince George's Stadium tomorrow with 1997 first-round draftees Jayson Werth and Darnell McDonald heading an array of prospects that form their nucleus.
It may be several weeks before Etchebarren has assembled his entire arsenal, however. Pitcher Chad Paronto and third baseman Carlos Casimiro remained in Florida to heal shoulder injuries, and flashy center fielder Luis Matos will start in Rochester while Eugene Kingsale recovers from a quadriceps problem.
Once together, Etchebarren will have a team that's "going to run. We're going to try to apply a lot of pressure." The roster includes enough old heads to provide a settling influence. Popular Howie Clark, back for a record fifth tour with Bowie, and Rick Short, a .314 hitter for the Baysox, should steady the everyday players, and Etchebarren has Matt Snyder, 6-6 at Rochester last season, to anchor a young pitching rotation.
First baseman David Gibralter (24 home runs, 97 RBIs at Trenton) should be the primary power source.
Highly touted Sean Douglass -- who does not turn 21 until the end of this month -- will get the Opening Day start tomorrow night. Etchebarren will carry 12 pitchers (five of them left-handers) on a 24-man roster and follow Douglass with Snyder, John Parrish, Rick Bauer and Rule 5 pickup Jeff Wilson.
Juan Aracena, acquired in the Harold Baines trade with Cleveland last year, will be the closer. "He isn't afraid and wastes no time," Etchebarren said. "He throws 93, 94 miles an hour and has a good slider."
General manager John Danos is expecting "a sellout" for the All-Star Game on July 12, one of 27 dates on which the Baysox will highlight post-game fireworks.
A favorable schedule that features top-heavy home games in June and August, brisk preseason ticket sales (with the flexible Fan Pack the most attractive buy) and some renovations on the top deck to accommodate corporate outings bode for another solid season at the gate.
The Baysox will give customers "an opportunity to win $100 every game" via the Fan Card swipe and offer a number of new promotion nights.
League: Double-A Eastern
General manager: John Danos
Manager: Andy Etchebarren
Stadium: Prince George's
Directions to stadium: Take Interstate 97 south to U.S. 3. Cross U.S. 50 to second stoplight. Turn to stadium is on the left.
Game times: 7: 05 p.m. Monday through Saturday except 6: 35 p.m. Thursdays and July 4; 1: 05 p.m. Sundays
Ticket prices: Reserved box, $12; adult general admission, $8; children 6 to 12, senior citizens and military personnel, $5; children 5 and under, free.