Humble beginning for Aberdeen's Arsenal

Independent team opens inaugural season tonight

April 28, 2000|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Against the backdrop of a makeshift community college field, the Aberdeen Arsenal makes history tonight when it becomes the first minor-league independent team to play in Maryland.

Aberdeen launches its Atlantic League season against the Lehigh Valley Black Diamonds at Harford Community College with lofty expectations tempered by reality. Game time is 7: 05 p.m.

Response to Maryland Baseball Limited's new venture has been lukewarm so far while fans await the construction of the nearby $26 million complex that will house state-of-the-art Ripken Stadium.

"A lot of people are saying they'll be interested when we move into the new park, that there's nothing there where we're playing," said Arsenal general manager Keith Lupton. "The response has not been as good yet as in our other locations [Frederick, Bowie and Delmarva]. Once the season opens, we hope it'll get better."

But the organization has been through this experience several times, playing a year at McCurdy Field while Grove Stadium was being built in Frederick and in a half-completed Prince George's Stadium for half a summer at Bowie.

For now, the Arsenal will have to cope with about 3,200 temporary seats that have been installed, limited parking, questionable lighting and a field without a clubhouse.

"It's a big drawback not having a clubhouse, an inconvenience," said manager Darrell Evans, the former major-league slugger with the Atlanta Braves and Detroit Tigers. "We'll try to get a tent or something set up where the players can relax after batting practice. But the field was a pleasant surprise. We've all played on a lot worse."

Independent teams are composed of players without an organization who are minor-league veterans or have gotten a taste of the big leagues. Some are wannabes. Some are want-to-get-backs. Aberdeen has its share of experience and expects to be competitive.

Included on the roster are four with major-league credits (tonight's starter Angel Miranda, catcher Alex Andreopoulous, infielder Victor Rosario and outfielder Danny Perez), four ex-Oriole minor-leaguer (T.R. Lewis, Mike Wolff, Maleke Fowler and Johnny Isom) and three native Marylanders (Andy Bair of Calvert Hall, John Poss and Liam Healy).

"They love the game and want to get another chance," said Evans.

Miranda, Miguel Garcia, Zac Stark, Patrick Dunham and Bair will form the pitching rotation with Jose Alberro as the closer. The lineup will include Andreopoulos, Lewis, Yuri Sanchez, Rosario, David Steed, Gil Martinez, Isom and Perez with Wolff and Fowler also playing extensively.

"We had a draft that was pretty amazing and we have a lot of versatility," said Evans. "We've got some guys who can run and although we won't have a 40-homer guy, everybody is capable of hitting it out. Most of them were ready to play when they got to spring training. That's a real good sign."

Arsenal at a glance

League: Atlantic

Affiliation: Independent

General manager: Keith Lupton

Manager: Darrell Evans

Stadium: Thomas Run Field at Harford Community College

Directions to stadium: Take I-95 north to exit 80 (Route 543). Go six miles north toward Churchville. At Route 22 intersection, take right. Go to light at Thomas Run Road, make a left.

Game times: Weekdays, 7: 05 p.m; Sundays, 1: 05 p.m.

Ticket prices: Children under 5 and children 12 and under in athletic uniform, free; Adult general admission, $8; Children 6 through 12, senior citizens and active military personnel, $5; Reserved box, $12.

Radio: WHFC (91.1 FM)

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