I had the pleasure of attending a Frederick Keys game this past Thursday afternoon with my daughter. Yes, a noon start time, at a minor league park, during the work week. The way baseball should be experienced, more often than not. The Keys are playing the The Salem (VA) Red Sox. The Single A affiliate of the team, I believe should be the new dreaded and hated team of an Orioles fan – the Boston Red Sux. The Keys are kicking butt this year (24 -11 2nd half, and they won the first half in their division). Guess what – an Orioles team will be in the playoffs. It’s 95 degrees, partly cloudy, little to no wind and a local Frederick native is going to sing the National Anthem. Oh yeah, did I mention it’s also Summer Camp Day at the ballpark?
A couple hundred kids have been let lose in Harry Grove Stadium. It was interesting to observe the camp counselors that have their act together and had obviously prepared for such a field trip. As opposed to the ones who had seized the day as a source of freedom from their sentence of watching young hoodlums run wild. The ballpark was definitely not quite. And actually that was a good thing. General Admission seating took care of any “rambunctious” campers that had strayed from their group. We just simply picked up and moved. There were garden hoses hanging up misting water just outside the restrooms. They were handing out cups of ice. You could smell the grills smokin’ and fries cooking up. All I knew was, I was right where I was supposed to be.
They had the starting pitcher for the Keys listed as 6′-2″. He was 5′-8″ in cleats, if that. In fact, I think they had all the players listed as 5′-11″ or 6′-2″. I also noticed that all of the players had been born after the date I had started at my current place of employment. How about that one for a reality check? I have been working for the same company longer than those young men have been ALIVE! Just then, Steve Bumbry, the son of The Bee – Al Bumbry, steps up to the plate. Oh joy, another “in your 50′s moment.” My daughter gets to hear another of my many stories – “I remember back in the day – watching that young mans father, with his 5′-6″ frame run down just about any ball hit his way in Center Field at Memorial Stadium.” “Those Were the Days (my friend)” – (Mary Hopkin). In addition, I got to throw in a few stories of the Keys field coach, Mike Devereaux.
The Keys did not get a hit until the 6th inning. The game was fairly lifeless, 2 – 0 at that point in favor of the opponents. Except for between innings – now there’s entertainment. Small children riding huge blown-up sheep, water ballons being burst with baseball bats, hot dogs being thrown into the stands, put your head on a bat spin around 5 times, try to run and hit a ball into a basket and then of course a Frederick Keys tradition of – “Shake Your Keys”. There was always some activity going on somewhere in that ballpark. Which is fairly common place at many Minor League parks.
Ok, the players: no one really caught my eye on this particular day. Except for the big kid on 1B for the Keys, who just so happened to have the same last name as the starting QB for the Ravens, Mike Flacco. The spittin’ image of his older brother – you could not deny those two are siblings. The younger Flacco did park one in left center to tie the game up 2-2 in the 7th. The highly touted SS, Manny Machado, did not impress. He did make one nice play in the field. But that young lad needs a talking to – he did not run out ground balls, lackadaisical approach at the plate, projected the attitude of a spoiled kid. The Keys ended up winning 3 -2. With their closer/fireballer Sean Gleason (a Kevin Gregg impersonator), coming in to get the save in the 9th.
Go to a Minor league game. Sooner than later. It can rekindle memories of the game at it’s purest. A weekday afternoon baseball game with family/friend/daughter - yeah, life is good!