Frederick, Hagerstown provide professional baseball teams
SHEPHERDSTOWN — If it’s professional baseball you want to see this summer, the two closest cities that have minor league teams are Frederick and Hagerstown.
The Frederick Keys are in the Class A Carolina League and are supplied with young players by the Baltimore Orioles.
Harry Grove Stadium, a facility that seats 5,400 in mostly chairback pews, is easily accessible after following Rte. 340 into Maryland and then getting on to I-70 toward Baltimore.
The Keys are lounging around the break-even mark in the standings and are about five games in back of division-leading Wilmington.
The game-day experience at Harry Grove Park is often filled with fan-friendly “nights” including fireworks, Scout Night, Guarantee Win Tuesday, Kids (12 and under) Eat Free Mondays, t-shirt giveaway, Super Splash Day and dozens of other promotions.
Tickets and concessions seem a bit pricey for a Class A-Advanced league. Parking is just a short walk from the ball park and the team’s employees and concessionaires are a friendly group.
The majority of Frederick’s games are against Northern Division rivals Wilmington, Lynchburg, Potomac, and Salem. Potomac is an affiliate of the Washington Nationals.
Harry Grove Stadium is a modern place with seats that feature enough leg room and sight-lines that make watching a minor league game a fun-filled evening.
In Hagerstown, “your Hagerstown Suns” play in a ball yard that was built in 1931, but has been improved on in four different eras.
Parking is just outside the back walls of the first base stands, an uncovered group of rows of hard plastic seats that don’t have any backs.
As one of the oldest minor league facilities in the country, Municipal Stadium often shows its advancing age.
Covered seating directly behind home plate does provide the patron with chairbacks and all the seats are close to the playing field. Box seats have plastic backs and put the patron right next to the action.
Promotions for the Class A South Atlantic League Suns include fireworks, Thirsty Thursday, Antietam Cable Night and post game standards like “kids run the bases for free” afternoons.
Concessions are the same time-honored fare found at many minor league stadiums. Hot dogs, hamburgers, french fries, sodas and favorite candies of school-age children are available and a sort of “beer garden” far down the left-field foul line is a hot spot on most Thursdays.
The stadium has a seating capacity of 4,600 that is never tested.
In the league standings, the Suns aren’t close to the Division lead.
Most of the Hagerstown players are in the 22-to-24 age range, but they do have at least two 19-year-olds and one 18-year-old in uniform.
Both Frederick and Hagerstown play until the first few days of September.
Getting to Municipal Stadium on Memorial Boulevard is easy enough, coming from Shepherdstown to Sharpsburg and then following Rt. 65 until it turns into South Potomac Street at the Hagerstown city limit. Memorial Boulevard can be accessed by turning right from South Potomac Street near the Bester Elementary School.
As is the general rule in all of minor league baseball, very few of the players will have even a five-year career in the big leagues.
It is professional baseball. And as the singing group “Alabama” croons, “Our pitcher . . . old what’s his name . . . we can’t even spell it.” But it’s the national past time and it’s outside on a warm summer night.