From outfield to scout field

Kids' groups pull all-nighters at Baysox's, Keys' stadiums

June 22, 2006|By CANDUS THOMSON | CANDUS THOMSON,SUN REPORTER

BOWIE — Bowie-- --After the game, after the fireworks, after a Harry Potter movie, it was time for a little shut-eye.

Or maybe not.

Let's face it, when a professional baseball team invites kids to pitch a tent in the outfield with several hundred of their fellow scouts, why would they make it a field of dreams?

Imagine spending hours racing foul line to foul line, sliding on your belly on the dewy, close-cropped grass and leaping high on the warning track at the 405-foot mark to pull in a blast headed for downtown.

Sleep? That's for old folks. Parents with earplugs. Parents with sleep masks. Parents with their heads buried under mountains of quilts and pillows.

For the eighth season, the Bowie Baysox - the Orioles' Double-A franchise - invited scouts and their families June 9 to turn the space beyond the infield into a one-night jamboree. The Frederick Keys are hosting a sleepover for scouts - boys and girls - Saturday night.

"We live in such a baseball-saturated market that you have to try different things," said Baysox spokesman Ryan Roberts. "We've had some stuff that worked and some stuff that didn't work. This was one of the ones that worked. It sells out quickly."

Scout Sleepover Night has been so successful that the team added a night for Brownies and Girl Scouts (tomorrow) and one for families (Aug. 11). Eleven dollars gets you a general admission seat to the game and access to the outfield.

"We did it last year, and it was a blast," said Alexander Gibson Jr., leader of Silver Spring's Pack 432. "Some may fall out, but we'll be partying all night long."

The fun began long before the Binghamton Mets beat the Baysox, as the kids stoked their internal combustion engines with Dippin' Dots, cotton candy and soda. Prince George's Stadium, built to hold 10,000, could barely contain the perpetually moving, sucrose-infused organism.

Attempts at moderation were futile.

Andy Russell, leader of Pack 731 from Crofton, put bottled water in his cooler rather than Mountain Dew. As if that would have made a difference.

With youngsters whizzing past them like ricocheting bullets, Russell and his band of adult supervisors organized an overnight compound under the Direct Energy billboard in left-center field big enough to qualify for its own ZIP code: seven tents, coolers, camp chairs, battery-powered lanterns and toys.

"The kids are definitely excited," Russell said. "The parents aren't so sure."

Don Basilio sat nearby with a laptop. Catching up on a little work? Preparing a merit badge for online poker?

"More Potter movies," he said, barely looking up.

At 30 minutes past the witching hour, a full moon played peek-a-boo from behind the clouds, Hogwarts flickered on the giant screen above the outfield fence and a nylon city took shape. Tiny pup tents struggled to hold their ground between massive, multi-roomed structures befitting a Bedouin ruler.

"No stakes. You'll puncture the irrigation system," warned Matt McLaughlin of the Baysox.

Foot pumps wheezed life into air mattresses while horrified mothers watched youngsters paint a year's worth of grass stains on their T-shirts.

"I'll never get that out," wailed a voice from the darkness.

At 3 a.m., with Potter still battling the forces of evil, fathers played catch with sons on the warning track. Boys running and jumping at the wall provided a bass rhythm. Digital cameras flashed over and over.

Thump. "Do it again." Thump. "Do it again." Thump.

A comforting window of silence descended at 4:48 a.m. It lasted until 4:49.

"At some point, they'll need to re-sugar," Baysox staff member Tom Jones had counseled earlier in the evening.

Sure enough, the scouts roared back briefly before flaming out for good.

Revenge of the adults came an hour later.

"Brian, wake up. I want you out of that tent. Come on, Grandpa," hollered Phileasher Tanner of Fort Washington.

All over the outfield, small heads poked out of tent flaps and squinted into an unfriendly light. They sleepwalked through packing up camp and staggered out to the parking lot.

Parents called out, "See you next year."

Waiting on the concourse for the rest of Pack 731 to decamp, Basilio sat with his laptop and other gear. The sleepover, he said, felt a lot like any other Friday night.

"Like we do at home," he said, smiling, "we fell asleep with the movie on."

candy.thomson@baltsun.com

Scout nights

Game: New Britain at Bowie

When: Tomorrow, 7:05 p.m.

Admission/sleepover for Girl Scouts/Brownies and leaders: $11. Pre-register by noon tomorrow

Also: Post-game fireworks, movie

To register: Call 301-464-4890

Game: Potomac at Frederick

When: Saturday, 6:30 p.m.

Admission/sleepover for scouts (boys and girls) and leaders: $3. Pre-register before Saturday.

Also: Pre-game parade for scouts and leaders, post-game movie.

To register: Call 301-815-9900

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