Carroll County Times
Carroll County Lifestyles

Kevin Dayhoff: Spring is for sunshine, flowers and baseball

For those with a bad case of Chionophobia — a fear of snow, do not despair, for spring is near. January is statistically the coldest month in Carroll County, but February is mercifully the shortest month — and usually the most miserable. Which brings us to March.

Now that March is here, spring will come again. Many folks find March to be the happiest month. Perhaps folks are fond of March because the warmer and longer days bring the first days of spring. This year the first day of spring is March 20. However the real purpose of the month of March is baseball.


This year Orioles spring training began with pitchers and catchers reporting to the Ed Smith Stadium complex in Sarasota, Florida, on Feb. 15. The other positions trickled in just in time for the first full-squad workout on Feb. 21. The final spring training game is March 27. The home opener at Camden Yards in Baltimore is April 6, when the Birds host the New York Yankees.

In February 2010, the Baltimore Orioles catchers took to the field at their new training facilities in Sarasota, Florida, at the 20-year-old, 9,000-seat Ed Smith Stadium after spending the preseason the last 14 years in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Photo by Kevin Dayhoff

Attending spring training was a tradition for my family for several years — a number of years ago. I used to write about the ‘Grapefruit League” and spring training for several publications in Florida and Maryland. It was fun. Some of this discussion has been published before — many years ago.


According to a Florida publication, Spring Training Online, “Spring training is almost as old as baseball itself. The best evidence points to spring training first taking place in 1870. … Other baseball historians argue that the Washington Capitals of the National League pioneered spring training in 1888, holding a four-day camp in Jacksonville.” The Florida Grapefruit League Association says, “In Central Florida the tradition began in October 1908 … and resumed in February 1913.”

For context, one of the earliest references to baseball in Carroll County was the “Olympian Base Ball Club,” which was founded on April 14, 1866, according to Richard Hershberger, in an article for the Historical Society of Carroll County:

It was probably the railroad that made the Grapefruit League successful. In Carroll, Hershberger says, “The railroad made possible such connections. In the 1880s Westminster had a semi-pro club which received national attention. In 1885 they toured western Maryland, Washington and Pennsylvania. They beat both the Washington Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles.”

Baseball has a rich history in Maryland and remains a summertime favorite for many — from all walks of life. In 1895 local newspapers, “carried a baseball column every week in the spring editions,” according to research by historian and Maryland Judge Joe Getty. Getty wrote about his research in the early 1990s for the Historical Society of Carroll County. “Following the Civil War, the sport of baseball became increasingly popular in Carroll County. Large groups of spectators would gather at the local ballfields to watch their friends and neighbors take on the baseball clubs from nearby communities. The games not only provided entertainment but also competitive outlets for rivalries between Carroll County’s towns and villages.”

In February 2010, the Baltimore Orioles pitchers took to the field at their new training facilities in Sarasota, Florida, at the 20-year-old, 9,000-seat Ed Smith Stadium after spending the preseason the last 14 years in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Photo by Kevin Dayhoff

On July 28, 2005, Baltimore Sun staff writer Candus Thomson wrote a lengthy article that was full of statistics that illustrated Maryland’s powerhouse status in the world of baseball: “Two hundred sixty-seven major leaguers were born in Maryland — better than 34 other states — and 184 died here — ahead of 39 other states, according to the website of the Society for American Baseball Research.”

According to Hershberger, bat-and-ball games had been played since time immemorial, but modern baseball is descended from the game as played in New York City in the 1840s. “In the late 1850s it began to spread beyond the New York region.”

In an article written by Carroll County Times staff writer Carrie Ann Knauer on April 13, 2006, she recounted a presentation by New Windsor historian Dan Hartzler on a book he wrote on the local history of baseball, “Carroll County, Maryland Baseball.”

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“American baseball was a spin-off of the English game called Rounders, and became popularized during the Civil War. Soldiers who went into the war not knowing baseball came home experienced in it, he said, and started up teams in their hometowns,” Knauer wrote.


According to Knauer’s article, “The rules were not very set in the early days. The number of players on a team was not standard, nor was the distance between bases or even the type of ball,” Hartzler said .

“Throughout early baseball, it was common for teams to bring in ‘ringers,’ or paid players, from an outside area to help increase their chances of winning.

“Taneytown was particularly known for bringing in ringers,” Hartzler said, “so much so that after a game against Emmitsburg, the Emmitsburg newspaper had an article about it.”

“About four or five of the names of the men on your team are either fictitious or never seen in our neighboring town until ‘very recently.’ We have no objections to Taneytown increasing her population, but ‘how come’ they are all baseball players?”

Meanwhile, as the fans in the Maryland area are looking forward to warmer weather and the upcoming baseball season, the fans at spring training, the coaches and the players all share our collective enthusiasm that maybe, just maybe, this is the year for the Birds.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. His Time Flies column appears every Sunday. Email him at