Diamonds in the Rough | Page 2 of 3

Diamonds in the Rough

Minor League Baseball may not have the big names you'll find in the Majors -but it does have stars-in-the-making, great views and a lot of old-fashioned fun

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Map and Illustrations by Ellen Byrne Frederick Keys

Class A Advanced affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles
Harry Grove Stadium
21 Stadium Drive, Frederick
301-662-0013, www.frederickkeys.com
Tickets: $9 to $12
Distance from Bethesda: 35 miles  

The Frederick Keys are the reigning Carolina League Champions. The team has captured this honor four times in its 23-year history, with three of those championships in the past seven years. To date, the Keys have sent 122 players to the majors, including current all-star Matt Wieters and Gold Glove-award winner Nick Markakis.

Harry Grove Stadium is equally impressive. Built in 1990, it was one of the first minor league parks to feature luxury suites (with carpeting, furniture and cable TV) that overlook the game.

Still, a Keys game offers something for everyone. In addition to its picnic pavilion and a Fun Zone with inflatable toys and playground equipment for kids, the stadium has one of the largest selections of food you’ll see at a minor league ballpark. Vendors include the Keys Creamery (for all things ice cream-related), Hot Corner Grill (serving up Philly cheese-?steaks, grilled chicken sandwiches and Italian sausage with peppers and onions) and Fiesta Crab Shack, among others.

The team keeps fans entertained between innings with games such as the Taco Bell Sauce Race (think Washington Nationals Presidents’ Race, but with mascots instead dressed as sauce packets). Zoo Night features visiting animals from the nearby Catoctin Zoo. The famous Cowboy-Monkey rodeo show- cases monkeys riding on the backs of dogs.

Fireworks cap off most weekend home games, and youth teams are frequently invited to run out onto the field with the Keys players before the opening pitch.

If you plan to make a weekend of it, there are nine hotels within a one-mile radius and 28 within a five-mile radius (the official team hotel is the Best Western Historic Frederick). You’ll also find 112 restaurants within a mile of the park, with options ranging from Top Chef finalist Bryan Voltaggio’s nationally acclaimed Volt, to the more casual and popular Brewer’s Alley Restaurant.

Players to watch: Pitcher Clayton Schrader, first baseman Aaron Baker and outfielder Trent Mummey.

Bowie Baysox

Double-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles
Prince George’s Stadium
4101 Crain Highway, Bowie
301-805-6000, www.baysox.com
Tickets: $7 to $17
Distance from Bethesda: 26 miles

Although Prince George’s Stadium holds 10,000 people—making it the largest park in the Eastern League—its vibe is intimate, thanks to a relatively narrow foul territory, which makes the players and the action on the field seem close.

The venue has many options for the young and the young at heart, including a kids’ park with a carousel and inflatable playground equipment, and plenty of stunts between innings with ?? chanc?es? to win money or prizes. These include the occasional T-shirt toss, hula-hoop contest or Jalapeño Hop race, in which kids race each other on jalapeño-shaped pillows. Special events include Mutt Mondays (bring your dog to the game), Tailgate Tuesdays, Double Dog Deal Days (offering two free hot dogs and Cracker Jacks with the purchase of a regular-price box-seat ticket), bobblehead giveaways and fireworks.

If you want to eat at the park, the concession stand carries the usual fare, such as the Bubba Burger, chicken ? sandwiches, Italian sausages and nachos. For big appetites, the Black Angus Grille offers specialties like the famous Bowie Big Dog, a ?-pound, all-beef hot dog, or the ½-pound Black Angus Burger. Nearby strip malls and the Bowie Town Center also offer a variety of chain restaurants, including Noodles & Com- pany, Uno Chicago Grill and On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina.

Players to watch: Shortstop Manny Machado and third baseman Jonathan Schoop.

Potomac Nationals

Class A Advanced affiliate of the Washington Nationals
G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium
7 County Complex Court,
Woodbridge, Va.
703-590-2311,
www.potomacnationals.com
Tickets: $6 to $15 (Monday games are $1)
Distance from Bethesda: 38 miles

Barry Bonds played here. So did Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte, Bobby Bonilla and Albert Pujols. Enough said.

Potomac has been known by many names over the years, including the Alexandria Dukes, the Prince William Pirates, the Prince William Yankees, the Prince William Cannons and Potomac Cannons. The team is now affiliated with the Washington Nationals.

The “Pfitz,” as the G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium is affectionately known, seats about 6,000, but its large foul territory makes it feel bigger than most minor league parks.

Even with a new video board, the stadium is fairly bare-bones, but fans come more for the game than the ambience. Food choices are pretty straightforward, including the requisite hot dogs, hamburgers and popcorn. Skip the pizza and get the chicken tender basket.

What the Pfitz lacks in luxury, it makes up for in character. Home games feature promotional stunts such as Wing Fling, a contest to see which restaurants, bars or individuals have the best wings in Northern Virginia; Battle of the Sexes, in which men and women compete against each other in events such as tug-of-war; Star Wars Night, when costumed actors roam the stadium; and Mustache Night, during which the team honors the most distinctive mustaches in baseball history and offers half-off tickets for anyone who has a mustache. T-shirt and bobblehead giveaways are also customary, as are fireworks. Kids get to run the bases on weekends.

Players to watch: Center fielder Michael Taylor (very fast), left fielder Kevin Keyes (huge bat) and pitcher Robbie Ray.

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